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Knowledge Box 2 collection, 2009-2012

Identifier: 032.04.09

Materials related to the construction and exhibition of Knowledge Box 2. The collection includes the architectural model of Knowledge Box 2, construction documentation in manuscript and digital formats (including CAD drawings), the digital audio file used for the 2009 recreated program, and the 35mm slides projected in the Knowledge Box 2 along with a key to the slide projection sequence.

The collection also includes documentary information (publicity, press coverage, administrative correspondence) about the 2009 exhibit. The collection does not include the reconstructed Knowledge Box 2.


  • Creation: 2009-2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 2009


Language of Materials

Records are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Research

Collection Size

4 Series

Biographical / Historical

The original Knowledge Box, created in 1962 by Kenneth Isaacs, who was a visiting instructor at ID at the time, was erected in Crown Hall by Isaacs and ID students and measured about 18 feet on each side. The wooden box, large enough to hold 5 people at once, was intended as an experimental teaching "tool" which, by means of 24 slide projectors mounted on the outside of the box facing in, gave viewers who entered the box through a door which closed behind them, an experience of being surrounded by images completely covering all 6 interior surfaces. Multiple images could be projected on each wall, the floor and ceiling at a time. A sound system was also incorporated into the structure. Isaacs and his students created the original "program" which was shown in the box, but apparently some of the students at the time also created their own alternate programs. (Neither the original Knowledge Box nor any of the original programs survive.) Isaacs' intention was that the Knowledge Box could be used to present information in visual and audio format in an intense and focused manner, thus increasing the person's ability to learn the "lesson" being presented more quickly. The original Knowledge Box received national publicity at the time including coverage in Look and Life. In 2009, as part of the "Learning Modern" exhibit - a collaborative project of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and IIT's Mies van der Rohe Society - which was installed in the Sullivan Galleries (in the former Carson Pirie Scott & Co. building in the Loop), Isaacs and a team of faculty, curators and students from SAIC, the Mies Society, and IIT's College of Architecture (Alex Derdelakos and Chris Strailman) designed and built a recreated version of the original Knowledge Box. "Knowledge Box 2" (this is Isaac's official name for the recreated Box) is a wooden 9-foot cube painted bright blue. Isaacs and members of the team created a new program (2 minutes, 33 seconds long) to be shown in the box during the exhibit. Using historic images from Getty Institute and short historic audio clips, the 2009 program gave the feel of the 1960s era. At the end of the "Learning Modern" exhibit, the Knowledge Box 2 was disassembled and transported to IIT.


Series are arranged by format of materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Formerly 2009.023 and 2010.020 and 2012.018

Related Material

2010.040/03 Video interview with Ken Isaacs created in connection with the 2009 exhibit., 023.04.05 Materials related to the "Living Modern Chicago" activities which included the "Learning Modern" exhibit where the Knowledge Box 2 was installed., 2005.017.42 Newspaper article on 1962 Box., 1998.031-Oversize Box Newspaper article on 1962 Box., 1998.031.11.01 Photos of Isaacs with 1962 Box.


Catherine Bruck October 15, 2013

Part of the Paul V. Galvin Library. University Archives and Special Collections Repository

35 West 33rd Street
Chicago IL 60616
(312) 567-5993

Paul V. Galvin Library

35 West 33rd Street | Chicago, IL | 60616