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Library Love

by Eden Marcus

Photography by Angela Wang

No longer are libraries only associated with the dread of exams and long book reports for that one class. Libraries all around the Boston area highlight the history of the city, offering noteworthy events and exhibits. These libraries are bringing us back to a time when everything wasn’t just a simple Google search away, and are proving that libraries offer something the Internet does not: an authentic and tangible way of learning.

The Mary Baker Eddy library, located on Massachusetts Avenue, dedicates itself to celebrating the life of Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th-century influential religious leader, and also features the Mapparium, a three-story, stained glass globe. The Mapparium offers a three-dimensional perspective of the world in 1935. Visitors can go into this glass globe and experience A World of Ideas, the original presentation that reveals a world of words, music and LED lights. The unique exhibit put on by the library, “The Mapparium: An Inside View,” even offers original documents and layout plans of the glass globe.

The Mapparium first opened to the public in 1935, and cost $35,000 to build. The building it is housed in, the Christian Science Publishing Society building, was designed by a local Boston architect, Chester Lindsay Churchill. It houses the successful periodicals that Mary Baker Eddy started even before women had the right to vote.

Taryn McNichol, the marketing and public relations specialist for the library, labels the Mapparium as the main attraction of the library. It is the only place where you can see the world to scale. Even though10 million people have visited the exhibit since 1935, McNichol still considers it a hidden gem.

”Even though not everyone specifically asks for the Mapparium—they’ll ask for the map aquarium or for Mapapalooza—everyone knows that there is a map you can walk through in Boston,” she said. “It is still a new discovery.”

The Mapparium has never been updated. McNichol explained that it was scheduled for an upgrade, since it was made with 600+ individual panels

that could be removed and fixed, but by the 1960s there had been so many wars with many border and country name changes, that it was decided to keep the exhibit in its original condition. Visitors can cross over the glass bridge inside the globe to stand at the center of the world as seen in 1935. It brings the history of the 1930’s to life, offering texture and immersion that textbooks cannot convey.

“Churchill wanted to symbolize the global impact that Mary’s periodicals had by creating a shared experience,” McNichol said. He created the Mapparium to show how countries relate to each other by being able to see all sides of the globe at once.”

Her favorite part of the exhibit is the technique used to make the stained glass panels. The color red was the most difficult to create, and the designers in the early 1930s used a plenty of it.

“It was labor intensive to make the red colored stained glass panels,” she said. “Churchill used a lot of red to show off his skills, which most people today don’t know. But, they chose to make the larger countries red, which was impressive to visitors in the know in the 1930s.”.

The Mapparium offers us the chance to really see how far we have come since 1935—how much the world has changed and is still changing.

The Boston Public Library, located in Copley Square, also offers more than just an afternoon of reading in a beautiful and historical landmark. The BPL has also put on afternoon tea hosted at their Courtyard Restaurant, overlooking the courtyard in the McKim building. Teatime is held Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with an extensive menu of tea sandwiches, scones and premium loose-leaf tea.

Jessica Hackett, the Outlet Supervisor and PDR Coordinate at the BPL, oversees the café and restaurant that hosts the afternoon tea. The Catered Affairs started serving tea at the BPL eight years ago, which was originally paired with a lunch menu. Hackett’s favorite part about afternoon tea is the room is the location.

“We lovingly call it the ‘Purple Room’ because the paint, glasses and chairs throughout the room are lavender,” she said. “It is a nice atmosphere to enjoy something like afternoon tea in.”

Hackett recommends afternoon tea at the BPL to be on people’s Boston bucket lists. According to her, compared to other services in the area, the BPL offers the most affordable optioned coupled with incredible service.

“It is elegant without feeling stuffy,” she said. “Students should definitely have afternoon tea on their bucket lists.”

Charlotte Miller, a recent BU graduate, attended afternoon tea at the BPL for her mom’s birthday. After hearing about it from a friend who raved about the event, Miller had to go. She too would definitely recommend it to a friend, but warned that since it isn’t the cheapest event, to save it for a special occasion. Miller’s favorite part was the atmosphere that the BPL creates.

“There are so many hotels and restaurants that offer tea in Boston, but the BPL is such a beautiful old building that everyone should take advantage of—not just during finals week,” she said.

Afternoon tea at the BPL compared to a traditional event at a fancy hotel, offers visitors, both local and out-of-towners, an experience greater than just high end tea and finger sandwiches. Afternoon tea at the library, which itself is vibrant and traditional, also includes a dose of history, and an authentic experience of the city. The Boston Public Library McKim Building was built in 1895, and at its opening it was labeled the “palace for the people,” and it has truly upheld that title to this day.

Boston libraries offer more than just stacks of books and beautiful buildings to study in—they are a part of the city’s history and help bring it to life.

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