When you think of the Boston Public Library, you may picture grand architecture, rows of books, and hushed study areas. However, behind the scenes, there is a lesser-known side of the library waiting to be discovered. From hidden gardens to intriguing art installations, this article will take you on a journey through the secret gems and hidden treasures of the Boston Public Library that will leave you wanting to explore every nook and cranny. So grab your library card and get ready to embark on an adventure like no other.

History of the Boston Public Library

Founding of the library

The Boston Public Library holds a rich history that dates back to its founding in 1848. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, established with the goal of providing free access to knowledge and educational resources for all residents of Boston. The library was founded through the efforts of prominent citizens, such as philanthropist Josiah Quincy, who envisioned a place where people could expand their intellectual horizons and engage in lifelong learning.

Architectural design and construction

The architectural design of the Boston Public Library is a testament to its grandeur and historical significance. The main building, known as the McKim Building, was designed by renowned architect Charles Follen McKim of the firm McKim, Mead & White. Completed in 1895, the building reflects a combination of architectural styles including Italian Renaissance, Beaux-Arts, and Renaissance Revival.

The design of the McKim Building highlights the library’s importance as a cultural and intellectual institution. Its grand facade is adorned with intricate detailing, including Corinthian columns and a grand entrance staircase. The building’s exterior showcases a harmony of stone carvings, ornamental sculptures, and elaborate friezes that portray scenes from mythology, literature, and history.

Expansion and renovations over the years

Over the years, the Boston Public Library has undergone several expansions and renovations to accommodate its growing collection and evolving needs. One notable expansion occurred in 1972 when the Johnson Building, an annex designed by Philip Johnson, was added to the library complex. This modernist addition introduced a contemporary architectural style that beautifully contrasts with the historic McKim Building.

In recent years, the library underwent a substantial renovation project aimed at preserving its historic features while modernizing facilities and enhancing accessibility. This renovation includes the construction of a new wing, the Johnson Addition, which seamlessly connects the McKim and Johnson Buildings. These expansion and renovation projects have allowed the Boston Public Library to continue serving its community while embracing the demands of the modern world.

The Main Building: A Architectural Marvel

The architecture of the main building

The Boston Public Library’s McKim Building, often referred to as the main building, stands as a masterpiece of architecture that captivates visitors with its grandeur. The building’s architectural style draws inspiration from the Italian Renaissance, incorporating elements such as arched windows, terracotta detailing, and a prominent central cupola.

The facade of the main building is adorned with magnificent sculptures, including allegorical figures representing art, science, literature, and industry. These sculptural elements are symbolic of the library’s commitment to fostering knowledge, creativity, and innovation. The intricate craftsmanship of the exterior reflects the library’s dedication to providing a visually stunning and intellectually inspiring space for its patrons.

Distinct features of the main building

One of the most distinct features of the Boston Public Library’s main building is its grand staircase, which leads visitors to the entrance with an air of elegance and grace. The staircase, with its marble steps and beautifully carved balustrade, is a striking example of the building’s attention to detail and architectural excellence.

Upon entering the main building, visitors are greeted by the majestic Bates Hall, a breathtaking reading room that spans almost the entire length of the second floor. This iconic space features towering ceilings adorned with magnificent murals, a coffered ceiling, and rows of majestic columns. Bates Hall is a symbol of the library’s commitment to providing a serene and inspiring environment for both intellectual pursuits and quiet contemplation.

Interior design and artwork

Beyond its architectural splendor, the interior of the Boston Public Library’s main building boasts an impressive array of artwork and exquisite design details. The walls of various rooms and corridors are adorned with beautiful murals, depicting scenes from literature, history, and mythology. These murals not only add aesthetic beauty to the library but also serve as artistic interpretations of humanity’s cultural heritage.

The main building also houses a number of specialized reading rooms, including the Wiggin Gallery, which showcases the library’s collection of rare and valuable books. These reading rooms are meticulously designed, with cozy seating areas, ornate chandeliers, and ample natural light. The synthesis of architectural design, artwork, and interior decor creates a harmonious ambiance that elevates the library experience to a truly memorable one.

Exploring The Lesser-Known Side Of The Boston Public Library

Special Collections and Rare Books

Overview of the special collections

The Boston Public Library is renowned for its extensive and diverse special collections, which encompass a wide range of subjects and historical periods. These collections are a treasure trove of knowledge and offer unique insights into various fields of study.

One of the notable special collections is the Kirstein Business Library and Innovation Center, which provides valuable resources for entrepreneurs, business professionals, and those interested in startup culture. This collection offers access to business databases, market research reports, and expert guidance, enabling individuals to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations and stay ahead in the ever-changing business landscape.

Another remarkable collection is the Print Department, which houses an impressive assortment of prints, photographs, and drawings. This collection spans various artistic movements and includes works by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Goya, and Degas. Visitors to the Print Department can revel in the beauty of these visual masterpieces and gain a deeper appreciation for the world of art.

Highlights of the rare books collection

The Boston Public Library’s rare books collection is a true gem and draws scholars, researchers, and book lovers from around the world. This collection includes rare editions, first editions, and manuscripts that offer insights into the literary and historical heritage of humanity.

One of the prized possessions in the rare books collection is a first edition of William Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” published in 1623. This magnificent book comprises an extensive collection of Shakespeare’s plays and is a testament to the enduring significance of his work. The library’s “First Folio” is an invaluable resource for scholars and enthusiasts alike, providing a glimpse into the original presentation of Shakespeare’s plays.

Another noteworthy item in the rare books collection is the medieval manuscript known as the “Carmina Burana.” This illuminated manuscript contains a collection of secular poems and songs from the 13th century. Its intricate illustrations and calligraphy showcase the artistry and craftsmanship of the medieval period. The “Carmina Burana” illustrates the library’s commitment to preserving and sharing rare treasures that enrich our understanding of history and culture.

Access and research opportunities

The Boston Public Library is dedicated to making its special collections and rare books accessible to the public for research and academic pursuits. The library offers a comprehensive research service that allows scholars, students, and curious individuals to delve into the depths of its collections.

Researchers can make appointments to view and study materials in the library’s reading rooms, where they are provided with a conducive environment for focused study. Additionally, the library provides online access to digitized versions of select rare books and manuscripts, enabling wider access to these valuable resources.

For those interested in exploring the collections but not engaged in scholarly research, the library regularly organizes exhibitions that showcase highlights from the special collections. These exhibitions are a wonderful opportunity for the general public to see rare and significant works up close and learn about their historical and cultural significance.

Unique Exhibits and Artifacts

Rotating exhibits and displays

The Boston Public Library prides itself on its commitment to offering engaging and informative exhibitions that showcase a wide variety of topics and artifacts. The library’s rotating exhibits highlight different aspects of art, history, culture, and literature, providing visitors with a diverse array of learning opportunities.

One example of these rotating exhibits is the “Art of the Book” exhibition, which celebrates the artistry and craftsmanship of bookbinding and book illustration. This exhibition features beautifully bound books, rare manuscripts, and intricate illustrations that offer visitors a glimpse into the world of book art.

Noteworthy artifacts housed in the library

Apart from its rotating exhibits, the Boston Public Library is home to numerous noteworthy artifacts that are permanently housed within its walls. These artifacts range from ancient artifacts to more recent cultural treasures, giving visitors a chance to explore various periods of human history and cultural development.

One such artifact is the Deluge tablet, an ancient clay tablet dating back to the 2nd millennium BCE. This tablet, inscribed with a Babylonian flood story similar to that of Noah’s Ark, offers insights into ancient Mesopotamian mythology and the development of storytelling.

Additionally, the library houses a collection of Egyptian artifacts, including mummy masks and funerary objects. These artifacts provide a glimpse into the fascinating world of ancient Egypt and its religious beliefs surrounding death and the afterlife.

Permanent exhibits and their significance

In addition to its rotating exhibits and noteworthy artifacts, the Boston Public Library features several permanent exhibits that have become beloved features of the institution. These exhibits showcase different aspects of the library’s collection and highlight the cultural heritage of Boston and the wider world.

One of the most significant permanent exhibits is the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, which showcases an extensive collection of maps that span centuries of human exploration and cartography. This exhibit not only provides insights into the evolving understanding of geography but also showcases the artistic beauty of maps and their historical significance in shaping our understanding of the world.

Another permanent exhibit is the Sargent Murals, a series of impressive murals painted by renowned artist John Singer Sargent. These murals depict scenes from Boston’s history and capture the vibrant spirit of the city. The Sargent Murals serve as a testament to the library’s commitment to preserving and promoting the local history and culture of Boston.

Exploring The Lesser-Known Side Of The Boston Public Library

The Hidden Gardens of Boston Public Library

Exploring the outdoor spaces

In addition to its magnificent interior, the Boston Public Library boasts hidden gardens that offer a peaceful retreat from the bustling city streets. These outdoor spaces provide visitors with a welcome opportunity to enjoy nature, relax, and immerse themselves in the serene surroundings.

One of the hidden gardens within the library complex is the Courtyard Garden. This beautiful green space is surrounded by the majestic McKim Building and offers a tranquil setting with its lush foliage, blooming flowers, and serene fountains. Visitors can find respite on the garden benches or explore the winding pathways that lead to hidden corners and hidden treasures.

Famous sculptures and fountains

The hidden gardens of the Boston Public Library are also home to numerous sculptures and fountains that add artistic flair and visual interest to the outdoor spaces. These sculptures and fountains reflect the rich cultural heritage of Boston and enhance the beauty and ambiance of the gardens.

One of the most famous sculptures found in the library gardens is Anne Whitney’s bronze statue of Leif Erikson. This impressive sculpture pays homage to the Norse explorer believed to be the first European to reach North America, and it stands as a symbol of cultural diversity and exploration.

Another prominent feature in the library gardens is the Bacchante and Infant Faun fountain, created by sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies. This fountain depicts a playful scene of a nymph and a baby faun, adding a touch of whimsy and enchantment to the outdoor spaces.

Relaxation and events in the gardens

The hidden gardens of the Boston Public Library serve as versatile spaces that cater to both relaxation and community events. Visitors can bring a book and enjoy a peaceful reading session amidst the tranquil greenery, or simply take a leisurely stroll and appreciate the beauty of the surroundings.

The library also hosts various events in its outdoor spaces, such as concerts, poetry readings, and art exhibitions. The gardens provide a picturesque backdrop for these events, creating an atmosphere that truly celebrates the fusion of art, literature, and nature.

The Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center

Description of the map center

The Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center, located within the Boston Public Library, is a dedicated space that celebrates the art and science of cartography. This center is home to a vast collection of maps, atlases, and globes, offering visitors a unique opportunity to explore the world through different historical lenses.

The Leventhal Map Center features a state-of-the-art gallery space that showcases rotating exhibitions, expanding the understanding of maps beyond their functional purpose. The center also houses a research library, where scholars and enthusiasts can dive deeper into the world of maps and conduct detailed studies.

Interactive exhibits and educational programs

The Leventhal Map and Education Center goes beyond traditional exhibits and offers interactive experiences and educational programs that engage visitors of all ages. The center strongly emphasizes the value of maps as tools for learning, exploration, and understanding of the world.

One of the interactive exhibits is the “Mapping Boston: The City’s History in Maps,” which takes visitors on a journey through the history of Boston using maps from different time periods. This exhibit allows visitors to compare and contrast the changes and growth of the city over the centuries, providing a fascinating window into Boston’s evolution.

In addition to exhibits, the center hosts educational programs that cater to students, educators, and families. These programs offer hands-on activities, workshops, and lectures that promote map literacy, spatial thinking, and historical understanding. Through these interactive experiences, the center fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of maps as powerful tools for knowledge and exploration.

Preserving and showcasing historic maps

A significant aspect of the Leventhal Map and Education Center’s mission is the preservation and curation of historic maps. The center is committed to safeguarding these valuable artifacts and sharing them with the public to promote the understanding of cartography and cultural heritage.

The center’s conservation lab plays a crucial role in the preservation efforts, ensuring that the maps are properly cared for and protected from environmental factors. Highly skilled conservators work tirelessly to repair and restore damaged maps, ensuring their longevity and availability for future generations.

Through exhibitions, lectures, and digital platforms, the Leventhal Map and Education Center provides opportunities for the public to access and explore its extensive map collection. This dedication to preservation and accessibility allows the center to celebrate and share the rich history and diverse cultures represented in its maps.

Exploring The Lesser-Known Side Of The Boston Public Library

The Library’s Relationship with Local Authors

Support for local authors and literature

The Boston Public Library recognizes the importance of supporting and celebrating local authors and literature. The library actively engages with the local literary community, providing resources and opportunities for aspiring and established writers alike.

One way the library supports local authors is through its Author Talks and Book Signings series. This program invites authors to discuss their works, inspirations, and writing processes, giving the audience a chance to connect with the authors on a personal level. The events foster a sense of community and serve as a platform for local authors to promote their books and engage with readers.

Author events and book signings

In addition to the Author Talks and Book Signings series, the Boston Public Library hosts a multitude of author events and book signings throughout the year. These events showcase the works of local authors and provide opportunities for readers to meet their favorite writers, have their books signed, and engage in discussions about literature and storytelling.

The library also partners with local bookstores and literary organizations to host joint events, ensuring a vibrant and collaborative literary scene for both authors and readers. By creating spaces for dialogue and connection, the library fosters an environment that celebrates the literary contributions of local authors and enables the community to engage with their works.

Partnerships with literary organizations

The Boston Public Library actively cultivates partnerships with literary organizations to support and enrich the local literary landscape. These partnerships expand the reach and impact of the library’s efforts in promoting local authors and literature.

One notable partnership is with the GrubStreet Writing Center, a renowned literary organization that offers writing classes, workshops, and other resources for aspiring writers. Through this collaboration, the library provides access to GrubStreet’s programs and expertise, nurturing a thriving community of writers and furthering the development of local talent.

Additionally, the library partners with independent bookstores and publishers to promote book launches and literary events throughout the city. These collaborations create opportunities for the public to discover new authors, engage with the literary community, and celebrate the power of storytelling.

Innovations and Modern Technology

Introduction of digital resources

Recognizing the evolving needs of its patrons, the Boston Public Library has embraced digital resources to enhance accessibility and expand its offerings. The library’s digital resources provide convenient access to a vast array of information, allowing individuals to explore and engage with knowledge in new and innovative ways.

The library’s website serves as a gateway to a wealth of digital content, including e-books, audiobooks, and e-magazines, which can be borrowed and enjoyed from the comfort of home. This digital collection ensures that readers have access to a wide range of literary materials at their fingertips.

Online catalog and research tools

The library’s online catalog and research tools are powerful resources that connect users to the vast collection of materials available within the library’s walls. Through a user-friendly interface, patrons can search for books, films, music, and other materials, allowing them to efficiently navigate the library’s extensive holdings.

The library’s research tools go beyond traditional catalog search features, offering specialized databases, scholarly journals, and research guides. These resources empower users to conduct in-depth research on a wide range of subjects and provide a solid foundation for academic pursuits.

Virtual library services and initiatives

In response to the changing landscape of information access, the Boston Public Library has implemented virtual library services and initiatives. These digital platforms and programs enhance the library experience, providing patrons with a multitude of resources and services that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time.

One such initiative is the library’s virtual programming, which includes online workshops, lectures, and book clubs. These programs enable individuals to engage with the library’s offerings remotely, fostering a sense of community and intellectual stimulation.

Virtual library services also extend to online reference assistance, where library staff are available to answer questions and provide guidance through various digital channels. This accessibility ensures that patrons can receive the support they need, whether they are physically present in the library or accessing resources remotely.

Community Programs and Services

Library outreach programs

The Boston Public Library is deeply committed to serving its community beyond the confines of its physical spaces. The library’s outreach programs are designed to reach diverse populations and address the unique needs and interests of the residents of Boston.

One significant outreach program is the Mobile Library Services, which brings library resources directly to individuals and communities that may have limited access to the library. These mobile libraries visit neighborhoods, schools, and community centers, providing convenient access to books, educational materials, and various library services.

Additionally, the library’s Immigrant Learning Center offers resources and programs specifically tailored to meet the needs of Boston’s immigrant population. This center provides language learning materials, citizenship resources, and immigration-related information, empowering individuals on their journey to integration and success in their new homeland.

Children and youth services

The Boston Public Library understands the importance of fostering a love for reading and learning in children and youth. The library’s dedicated children and youth services aim to inspire young minds, promote literacy, and provide opportunities for intellectual growth.

The Children’s Library offers a wide selection of age-appropriate books, interactive exhibits, and educational resources that engage and entertain young readers. In addition to books, the library hosts storytimes, puppet shows, and creative workshops that encourage children to explore their imaginations and develop a lifelong love for reading.

For older children and youth, the library provides a range of programs and services, including homework help, tutoring, and college preparation resources. These initiatives support academic success, promote critical thinking, and empower young individuals to achieve their goals.

Adult education and job resources

Recognizing the role of libraries as centers for lifelong learning, the Boston Public Library offers adult education and job resources to support personal and professional development. These resources aim to empower individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary for career advancement and personal growth.

The library’s Job Seekers program provides assistance with job searches, resume writing, and interview preparation. Through workshops, one-on-one consultations, and online resources, individuals are equipped with the tools they need to navigate the job market and achieve their career goals.

Additionally, the library’s Adult Education and Literacy Services offer adult literacy programs, English language learning classes, and GED preparation support. These programs provide adults with opportunities to enhance their literacy skills, improve their English proficiency, and work towards further educational advancement.

Through its commitment to adult education and job resources, the Boston Public Library serves as a catalyst for empowerment and personal growth within the community.

Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Sections and Spaces

Discovering lesser-known sections

While the Boston Public Library is renowned for its grand main building and well-known attractions, it also houses various lesser-known sections that hold their own treasures and surprises. Exploring these hidden gems allows visitors to discover new areas of interest and deepen their appreciation for the library’s vast offerings.

One such hidden gem is the Louis Prang Collection, located within the library’s Print Department. This collection features over 8,000 chromolithographic prints produced by Louis Prang, a pioneer in color printing. The collection offers a unique insight into the history and development of color printing techniques, showcasing Prang’s artistic skill and innovative vision.

Unique reading and study spaces

In addition to its well-known reading rooms, the Boston Public Library offers unique reading and study spaces throughout its facilities. These lesser-known areas provide alternative environments for users seeking a change of scenery or a quieter space for focused work.

One such space is the Abbey Room, located in the McKim Building. This intimate study area features intricately carved woodwork, stained glass windows, and a serene atmosphere that inspires concentration and introspection.

Another hidden gem is the Map Room, which houses a collection of historic maps that are available for public viewing. This quiet and secluded space offers a peaceful sanctuary for those interested in exploring the maps at their own pace, providing a unique opportunity for deep reflection and appreciation of cartographic artistry.

Nooks and crannies that hold surprises

As visitors explore the Boston Public Library, they may stumble upon unexpected nooks and crannies that hold delightful surprises. These hidden pockets within the library’s architecture offer moments of serendipity and uncover hidden treasures.

One such surprise is the Guastavino Room, located in the second-floor vestibule of the McKim Building. This small chamber features intricate tile work created by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, showcasing his signature vaulted tile ceiling technique. The Guastavino Room provides a glimpse into the skill and craftsmanship of this acclaimed architect and adds an element of architectural marvel to the library’s hidden spaces.

Another delightful surprise can be found in the library’s courtyard, where a small Shakespeare Garden is tucked away. This charming garden features plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and offers a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city. It is a peaceful retreat where visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty of nature while honoring the literary genius of William Shakespeare.

In conclusion, the Boston Public Library is not only a repository of knowledge and literature but also an architectural marvel, a cultural hub, and a community center. From its grand main building to its hidden gardens, the library offers a multitude of experiences that cater to diverse interests and passions. By embracing innovation, supporting local authors, and engaging with the community, the Boston Public Library continues to thrive as a beacon of intellectual vitality, promoting education, and enriching the lives of all who enter its hallowed halls.