The Francis Russell Hart Nautical Collections were created in 1921 by the MIT Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering for the purpose of teaching. Comprised of 18 primary collections, they form one of the most extensive collections related to naval architecture, marine engineering and construction of American vessels in the world. Donated by individuals and other entities, the collections are comprised of approximately 120,000 plans, 200,000 photographic, film, audio-visual and media elements, 75,000 (folder level) business or technical records, 5,000 marine art objects, a 3,000 volume library and 1,500 ship models.

Items date from late nineteenth and twentieth century New England, with the oldest from the sixteenth century. Of note are collections that document iron and steel shipbuilding in metropolitan Boston from 1853 to 1986, the last great chapter in this region's 350-year history of shipbuilding. This includes the largest of three major twentieth century shipbuilding archives documenting the history of Bethlehem Steel's shipbuilding work. (The others are at the Hagley Museum and Library and the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park.) Most of the material in these collections is not duplicated in federal archives or elsewhere.

The Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection, the George Lawley Collection, and the John Alden Collection contain major ship and yacht design archives, forming a uniquely important record of American yacht design and construction.

The collections also include historic materials related to instruction and research in ocean science and engineering that date back to the founding of Course XIII (Naval Architecture) at MIT in 1893. A full list of collections, including those not yet available online, gives more detail on the contents of each.

Featured Items

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Gloriana, sloop, built 1891. Negative number 440.

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Catalog Notes: Changes, "NGH 5/11/1914". Related vessel names: Aria, Bagatelle,…

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A brightly colored map of Iceland from the Italian, 1608/1612…

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Francis Russell Hart and the Nautical Collections

Francis Russell Hart (1868-1938) arrived at MIT in 1885 to study electrical engineering. Hart applied his engineering skills in various ventures across the West Indies and South America. MIT was one of Hart's main outside interests. He was elected to the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation in 1907, serving as treasurer from 1907-1909 and 1913-1921. Hart oversaw construction of the Pratt School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering that included a nautical museum, the Institute's first purpose-built museum facility. In 1940, the Corporation voted to name the nautical museum in Hart's memory.

The Hart Nautical Collections have been a vital part of the MIT Museum since 1981. Museum visitors can still see a small collection of ship models on display in the Building 5 gallery.

Nautical Named Collections

Hart General Collection

Nautical plans, art, books, photographs and models

The Hart Nautical General Collection features a variety of objects and archival materials acquired by individual gifts, bequests, purchases, and Institute transfers over the past 100 years, including a large number of plans and photographs transferred from the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. A comprehensive inventory of these materials is ongoing.   Repository: MIT…

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Arthur H. Clark Collection

Marine artwork, books, plans and half models

The Arthur H. Clark Collection was the first major collection received by MIT’s new nautical museum in 1921 and consists of marine artwork, books, plans, and half models. The 1,700 pieces of artwork include prints, lithographs, etchings, engravings, and photographs, mostly depicting American and British ships and yachts between 1850 and 1900. Numerous European prints…

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A view of the stern and starboard-side of the HMY…

A colored lithograph of the port-broadside view of the lugger…

Colored lithograph: Yacht Squadron at Newport, showing Dauntless, Peerless, Fleetwing,…

Charles H. W. Foster Collection

Charles H. W. Foster photographic and model collection

The Charles H. W. Foster Collection was received in 1957 from the estate of Charles H. W. Foster, Harvard University graduate and well-known yachtsman. Foster owned and experimented with an extraordinary number of yachts over his lifetime and participated in the design of several of his own yachts. A longtime member and a commodore of…

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Mattie J. Alles, working craft, trading schooner, three-masted schooner, built…

Enchantress, schooner, built 1911. Negative number 20860.

Fredonia in Dry Dock, fisherman schooner fisherman, built 1889. No…

George Owen Professional Naval Architecture Collection

Plans, photographs and models of the professor and yachtsman

The George Owen Professional Naval Architecture Collection includes plans, photographs and models created by George Owen, Class of 1894. Owen (above right)  was a professor in the Institute’s Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from 1915 to 1941. From 1901 until his death in 1959, he produced over 200 designs of yachts and commercial…

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profile, bow view

profile, sail and spar info

In 1st 3 years, 1908-10 (sailed by GO) of 62…

Allan Forbes Collection

Prints and art depicting whales, whaling, and whaling vessels

The Allan Forbes Collection, assembled and organized while Allan Forbes, Sr. was head of the State Street Trust Company, features over 2,000 prints and paintings from several countries. Objects range from sixteenth-century Dutch engravings to nineteenth-century Japanese woodcuts, including a small collection of rare books about whaling. Forbes originally cataloged the archive into 16 subject…

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Hand-colored map of the North Pole and the surrounding areas.…

Hand-colored map of the world showing North and South America,…

One of a collection of 10 woodcuts From Itinerarum Sacrae…

Haffenreffer-Herreshoff

Herreshoff Manufacturing Company Design Record

The Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection, one of the most important yacht design collections in the world, features 17,000 objects, primarily drawings for the construction of boats and steam engines. It is the primary design record of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, founded by brothers John and Nathanael Herreshoff in 1878. John B. Herreshoff began building boats commercially in…

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Catalog Notes: Changes. Related vessel name: Coquina. Related hulls: 404,…

Catalog Notes: Weights list below title block; long note regarding…

Catalog Notes: Notes. Related vessel name: Gloriana. Related hull: 411.