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Local and Family History Lectures, Fall 2014

Posted on August 6th, 2014 by Gail Fithian in Government Information





 Vrabel book cover high res



A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE NEW BOSTON  provides a grassroots perspective on the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s. Residents of the city’s neighborhoods engaged in an era of activism and protest unprecedented in Boston since the American Revolution. The book recounts fights against urban renewal, highway construction, and airport expansion; for civil rights, school desegregation, and welfare reform; and over Vietnam and busing. Much of the legacy of that activism remains in Boston today. This book will be sold at the event.

Jim Vrabel is a longtime Boston community activist and historian. He is author of When in Boston: A Time Line & Almanac and Homage to Henry: A Dramatization of John Berryman’s “The Dream Songs.




 sacco vanzetti daley



Christopher Daley recounts the saga of the two immigrant Italian anarchists. The robberies in Bridgewater and Braintree, the famous trial at Dedham, and seven years of attempts to get a new trial are recounted. The presentation contains period photographs, some of which are rare and not published elsewhere.

Christopher Daley teaches history at the Silver Lake Regional School System in Kingston. He has served as the Chairman of the Pembroke Historical Commission and the President of the Pembroke Historical Society. He is also working on a book for The History Press, Homicide in the Hub: Boston’s Most Infamous Murder Cases, to be published in the fall of 2015.


WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12        Baker_Storm_of_Witchcraft                                            


Baker’s will talk from his new book, which describes how conditions in the Bay colony in the 1690s set the stage for the dramatic events in Salem. Engaging a range of perspectives, his book addresses questions about why the Salem tragedy unfolded as it did, and why it has become an enduring legacy.

Emerson W. Baker is Professor of History at Salem State College. He is the author of The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England, and co-author of an award-winning biography of Sir William Phips. Baker has been featured as an expert consultant on the PBS series Colonial House and has provided historical consultation for Parks Canada, National Geographic, Plimoth Plantation, Historic Salem, Inc., and other historic district commissions. Both of these books will be sold at the talk.




Theaters were strongly opposed by the Puritans and officially banned by the state legislature in 1750. So it is a testament to the city that once the ban was lifted in 1790, theaters have thrived here. Susan Roberts reviews fifty years of the city’s theater history, focusing on such legendary venues as the Boston Museum Theatre, the Boston Music Hall, Keith’s Theatres, and the Boston Theatre. Her presentation features a virtual tour of the B.F. Keith Theatre, one of the city’s most elegant in its time.

Susan is an avid collector of Boston-related theater ephemera and a researcher of Boston’s theatrical history. Her hands-on theater experience includes work as an electrician, carpenter, property mistress, stage manager, and box office manager. She holds a Master’s Degree in Theatre Management from Emerson College.


Click here for more information and to hear audio of selected talks from past seasons.   


Local and Family History Lecture Series, Spring 2014

Posted on December 9th, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Government Information, Programs
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A Recipe for Wellbeing: Health and Illness in Colonial New EnglandBoston’s ethnic neighborhoods are famous, but what do they look like today? Old enclaves and predictable patterns are changing as Boston becomes a more global city. The spring series looks at Boston’s three most diverse neighborhoods: East Boston, Mattapan, and Allston Brighton.

This series will complement the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center’s exhibit, A City of Neighborhoods: The Changing Face of Boston (running from March 14  to July 12 at the Central Library in Copley Square). The exhibit will feature maps of Boston’s immigrant population based on the 2010 federal census as well as historic, modern, and digitized maps.

Talks are on Wednesdays at 6pm in the Commonwealth Salon, unless otherwise noted. For full descriptions of the talks, click here.

January 15  Ethnic Enclaves, Edge Gateways, and the Global Boston / James Madden

Tuesday January 28 in Rabb Lecture Hall Turmoil and Transition in Boston: A Political Memoir from the Busing Era / Larry DiCara

 January 29  Researching Your Ancestral Homes — Adding Stories to Your Family Tree / BPL Staff

Tuesday, February 4 in the Commonwealth Salon  The Race Underground: Boston, New York and the Incredible Rivalry that Built American’s First Subway / Doug Most

February 12  History of People, Places and Plans that Shaped East Boston / Antonio  Di Mambro

February 26  Boston’s Changing Neighborhoods with the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and  Tools for Mapping Neighborhoods and Stories in the Digital Age / Evan Thornberry and Jonathan Wyss

 March 12  Jewish Settlement in and out of Mattapan  and The Roots of New Boston: Race and Ethnicity in Mattapan, 1860 – 2010 / Amy Schechtman and Dr. Kerri Greenidge

March 26  Family Research Through Oral History for Less Documented Groups /  Marian Pierre-Louis

April 9  Brighton:  the Historic Neighborhood / Anthony Mitchell Sammarco

April 23 Researching Your Jewish Ancestors in Old Boston Neighborhoods / Meredith Hoffman

May 7 Diaspora to the Boston Neighborhoods and Suburbs  / James O’Connell .

May 21 – Mining Family History – Gold in Local Archives and Speakers’ Round Table, with James Madden, Tunney Lee, Joanne Riley, Antonio Di Mambro, Kerri Greenidge, James O’Connell, Anthony Sammarco and Amy Schectman

BPL Local and Family History Lecture Series for 2013-2014

Posted on August 23rd, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Featured Resources, Programs
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Save the dates! The new series rolls into its eleventh year in September. This fall, the talks will  focus on Colonial and Revolutionary Boston.

The series continues in January 2014 with talks dedicated to the theme Boston’s Changing Neighborhoods: History and Genealogy.

Programs are held two Wednesdays per month (except in December)  at 6pm in the Commonwealth Salon on the first floor of the Central Library in Copley Square.  Get details on each talk here.

September 11  The state archeologist, Victor Mastone, will give an illustrated talk on the Battle of Chelsea Creek, one of the lesser-known battles of the Revolutionary War.

September 25  Massachusetts State Archives staff will review the wealth of records at the Archives useful to researching colonial ancestors and the colonial era.

October 16  Nancy Rubin Stuart will speak on her new book, Defiant Brides, a dual biography of Peggy Arnold and Lucy Knox.

October 30  Maureen Taylor, aka the Photo Detective, will discuss her book and film project, The Last Muster, which uncovers photographs of Revolutionary War veterans who lived into the era of early photography.

November 6  Historian JL Bell will talk on Boston’s colonial newspapers and the men who published them. Bell contributed to Todd Andrilik’s Reporting the Revolutionary War and is the author of the very entertaining Boston 1775 blog.

November  20  Veteran genealogist Barbara Mathews will give tips on using colonial records in family history research.

December 4  Epidemiologist and genealogist Lori Lyn Price will discuss medicine and health in colonial New England. What types of health issues and diseases might your ancestor have experienced, and how might these conditions have been treated?


Collections and programs related to the fall series on Colonial and Revolutionary Boston are:

BPL Collections of Distinction: Colonial and Revolutionary Boston

BPL Collections of Distinction: American Revolutionary War Maps

BPL Collections of Distinction: John Adams Library

BPL Collections of Distinction: Local and Family History






The Science of Innovation

Posted on August 21st, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Government Information
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Check out a video series called The Science of Innovation, created by the US Patent and Trademark Office, the National Science Foundation, and NBC Learn.

The site currently has eleven videos exploring various processes of innovation in these areas:


  • Smart Concrete
  • Self-driving Cars
  • Electronic Tattoos
  • Fuel Cell Efficiency
  • Biometrics
  • Biofuels
  • Anti-Counterfeiting Devices
  • Synthetic Diamonds
  • Bionic Limbs
  • Innovation
  • 3D Printing


Four Interesting Data Visualization Sites

Posted on August 18th, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Government Information
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Cool data visualization pages proliferate.

Probably the most graphically stunning is A Handsome Atlas  from Brooklyn Brainery, with its colorful and imaginative visualizations of nineteenth century census data.

Rich Blocks, Poor Blocks  takes data from the US Census Bureau’s 2007 through 2011 American Community Survey to map  income data on income and rent. Data can be displayed by street address, zip code, census tract number, or city, and comparisons to state medians are also shown.

Bostonography was developed by two “cartography geeks”. It  includes maps on themes such as distances to liquor stores and Dunkin’ Donuts locations.  The site is also attempting to define some of Boston’s disputed neighborhood boundaries by crowdsourcing  “collective definitions of Boston’s neighborhoods by its residents and those who know the city well.”

Gapminder bills itself as  “a non-profit venture – a modern “museum” on the Internet – promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.”  Its data page contains visualizations on 513 socioeconomic indicators by country. The same data is also available to download to spreadsheets. The rest of the site is also worth checking out, particularly the Joy of Stats documentary.

Boston Puts Its Data Online

Posted on February 22nd, 2013 by Gail Fithian in Government Information
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 2010 Census data is now available by neighborhood from the Boston Redevelopment Authority

For the first time, the public may access the data that made up 134 reports on Boston’s neighborhoods, planning districts, the 2010 Census, and the 2005-2009 American Community Survey.  

The 2010 Census includes information on population, sex, age, race, housing occupancy and household type; the American Community Survey features more detailed characteristics such as place of birth, employment status, and languages spoken at home.  For example, to find Brighton’s median household income, enter “Brighton median household income” into the search bar on the Boston Data Portal, then click “Brighton, neighborhood data: American Community Survey 2005-2009″.  After downloading the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, click the “Economic” tab;  Brighton’s “Median Household Income”  is listed first.

Students, researchers, and others seeking economic, demographic, and housing information about Boston’s neighborhoods now have data at their fingertips.

The release of the data is part of Mayor Menino’s strategy for open government and transparency.  The BRA Research Division will make the data for future reports available via the Boston Data Portal.