Historical Society Offers New Einstein Interactives

Just in time for the celebration of Albert Einstein’s 144th birthday, the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) has launched a new in-gallery interactive in which museum visitors can listen to stories about Einstein directly from his Princeton friends and colleagues.

As part of a planned expansion of its popular Einstein Salon exhibition, which features an up-close encounter with pieces of Einstein’s furniture and personal effects, the interactive uses curated audio clips to explore many facets of the physicist. Themes include “Einstein at Home,” “Einstein and His Pipe,” “Einstein on Politics,” and “What Makes Einstein, Einstein.” Sharing their insights are notable Princeton scholars and community figures, as well as Einstein’s long-time secretary, Helen Dukas.

The interactive draws upon a collection of eighty oral history interviews conducted by author Jamie Sayen in the 1970s. When researching his book, Einstein in America, Sayen spoke with more than fifty people who knew Einstein during his time in Princeton. These tapes were donated by the interviewer to HSP in 2005. With funding support from the New Jersey Historical Commission in 2020, HSP successfully engaged a professional vendor to create high-quality digital files from these recordings, making them accessible to HSP staff for innumerable engaging public history uses. Internship support for the project was provided by Princeton University’s Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship.

“Through this audio interactive, visitors to the museum are now able to hear about this world-famous physicist directly from the people who knew him,” said Stephanie Schwartz, Curator of Collections and Research, “We at HSP are so excited to incorporate these recordings into our exhibition as we continue to enhance our interpretation of Albert Einstein as both a Princeton resident and as a person.” 

The Historical Society of Princeton’s Updike Farmstead museum, located at 354 Quaker Road, is open Thursday through Saturday, 12:00 to 4:00 pm. Admission is $4. 

HSP is also offering several Einstein-related programs as part of the annual Pi Day Princeton festivities. On March 11, in partnership with the Princeton Public Library, author Dan Gutman will talk about his recent Albert Einstein biography for kids. Participants can join this hybrid event at 1:30 pm in the Library’s Community Room, or via Zoom. Between 2:30 and 4:30, drop in for puzzles, games and crafts, as well as to see some games that belonged to Einstein himself. On March 14 at 7:00 pm, in the Library’s Discovery Center, HSP will offer an “Open Archive,” sharing artifacts from its collection that capture the human side of Princeton’s most famous resident.