MIT has been producing global leaders in marine technology for more than four generations. This outstanding tradition of educating marine engineers and designers can be traced back to one of the Institute’s earliest students, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff,  MIT Class of 1870.

As the guardian of the world-famous Herreshoff Manufacturing Company design record, the MIT Museum is uniquely equipped to tell this important story. The 14,000 plans in the Hart Nautical collection document designs for over 2,600 rowing, sailing and power vessels from 1869 to 1945, including many of the most significant vessels of their type. This unique marine design collection is the most heavily accessed of the MIT Museum's many collections and has vast educational potential.

In this project, the MIT Museum will create a stunning exhibition about the extraordinary Herreshoff legacy that seamlessly interacts with an online database of the Herreshoff design record. Together they will dramatically enhance the educational value of the collection and increase interest and use of this and related collections. A lasting benefit will be high quality digital scans of the plans to preserve the visual data, with innovative tools to search and explore the collection.


Selected quotes

Nathanael Greene Herreshoff

Nathanael G. Herreshoff was a singular genius whose 75-year career produced six America’s Cup winners and hundreds of other highly successful vessels. He introduced modern catamarans and designed highly efficient steam engines. And he built the first torpedo boats for the U.S. Navy and the first steam-powered fishing vessels in the United States. The many Herreshoff boats still winning races today further attest to his legendary standing.

Herreshoff’s career is a bridge from traditional to modern marine engineering and design. A less appreciated aspect of his legacy is that he set the bar for all future MIT graduates in this field. With unsurpassed contributions as a designer and engineer, he continues to influence yacht design and marine engineering to the present day.




The Herreshoff Collection and story are extensive and complex. The time frame is from the 1850s through closure of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in 1946, and beyond, considering the lasting influence of Herreshoff innovations. The Museum has retained Tellart, with specialization in both interactive exhibitions and web design, to help craft an accessible approach to the varied topics. The overarching theme of speed has been chosen because virtually every element of the Herreshoff design collection and legacy has an association with the quest to go faster.



The display sequence above represents access to the digital collections, both online and onsite. A graphic view of all Herreshoff boats can be sorted in various ways. Moving over each boat icon brings up a representative image. Clicking the image brings up a page of images from the database related to this vessel and connections to related types. A demonstration of this collection access tool is available to those who wish to learn more.