Press Room

Category Archives: General

Stacy Schiff Explores “The Witches: Salem, 1692” at the Central Library

Posted on September 21st, 2016 by BPL News in General

lowresAuthor Stacy Schiff visited the Boston Public Library’s Central Library in Copley Square on Tuesday, September 21, to discuss her latest book, The Witches: Salem, 1692, with help from moderator Brenton Simons, President and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The nonfiction book examines the social, political, and legal landscape of the Salem witch hysteria, an ordeal that began in late winter 1692 and ended nine months later.

Schiff, who joked that she came to Boston from New York City via broom, explained that a variety of political and historical factors—including the recent King Philip’s War and the coup of Massachusetts governor Edmund Andros—contributed to an environment of fear and paranoia in 1692 Salem. It was in this unstable landscape that the first witchcraft accusations emerged after two pre-adolescent girls in the home of town minister Samuel Parris began to act strangely. Soon, other teenage girls throughout the town began to shriek and writhe, and accusations of witchcraft were leveled against everyone from a beggar woman to one of the wealthiest merchants in Salem.

Schiff explained that unlike the modern-day conception of a witch with a pointy hat and broomstick, a 17th-century witch was a religious figure, a colleague of the devil viewed as a very real threat. Witches, she said, were a way to explain everything from a misplaced item to the death of a family member—they helped explain the unexplainable. She added that accusing someone of witchcraft was also a convenient way to retaliate against an enemy.

A 17th-century court room, Schiff said, was already a rowdy place; the shrieking girls who filled Salem’s courtroom as evidence of witchcraft only added to the chaos and confusion. The accused soon learned that they could save their lives by confessing and in turn pointing a finger at a neighbor. By August of 1692, everyone on trial was confessing to witchcraft. When the hysteria ended, Schiff noted, a veil of silence fell over the trials and records were destroyed. As recently as the 1950s, when Arthur Miller visited Salem for research for The Crucible, residents were reluctant to discuss the trials.

In response to Simons’ question about possible causes for the hysteria, Schiff dismissed the old theory of poisoning by ergot—a fungus found in rye that causes hallucinations—as not possible for a variety of reasons; instead, she believes trauma resulting from King Philip’s War was a contributing factor. The brutal conflict between the colonists and Native Americans had ended about fifteen years before the trials, and everyone in Salem knew someone who had died or was a captive.

Before concluding with a question and answer session, Simons pointed out that, thanks to an invitation from the New England Historic Genealogical society, a number of the night’s audience members were descendants of the accused.

Boston Public Library holds original records from the Salem Witch Trials, including manuscript depositions, as part of our Colonial and Revolutionary Boston Collection of Distinction.

The next Author Talk features Larry Tye, author of Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, on Thursday, September 22, at 6 p.m. in Rabb Hall.

Karin Tanabe Discusses “The Gilded Years” at BPL

Posted on September 16th, 2016 by BPL News in General
Tags: , , ,

img_1869The Gilded Years author Karin Tanabe visited the Central Library on Thursday, September 15 to discuss her historical fiction work, which tells the story of Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to attend and graduate Vassar College by passing as a white woman in the late 1890s. Anita has local ties – she grew up in Roxbury and worked at the Boston Public Library as a cataloguer, and likely met her husband at the BPL. Tanabe is a Vassar alumna and first got the idea for the book in 2014, when she flipped through her alumni magazine and saw mention of Anita. She began researching the woman and quickly found that not too much information could be found, but the subject of her next book was quickly brewing in her head.

Tanabe and some of her friends visited Vassar to search through their archives to find correspondence and details about Anita Hemmings. She was active in school, a member of the debate club and choir, and a very intelligent woman. Though no “majors” existed at Vassar at the time, Anita focused on languages and wanted to be a teacher. The year after she graduated, her college roommate of two years leaked the news that she was an African-American woman after her suspicions were raised in their senior year. After college, Anita married and lived with her husband in Tennessee before relocated to New York City. Anita did not pursue a teaching career after marrying and having children.

A question and answer period followed the reading of a passage. Audience members were curious to know if Anita was related to Peter or Sally Hemmings (maybe), and if Tanabe had communicated with any of Anita’s ancestors; Tanabe has been in touch with Anita’s great granddaughter. Listeners also asked if Anita was involved in civil rights issues, and Tanabe said she was not, to her knowledge, but Anita had a best friend who went to Wellesley College who was. One of the most challenging aspects of writing this book, Tanabe said, was tracking down the name of Anita’s roommate; she wrote most of the book without knowing. Tanabe also discussed how the book has relevance today, as racial tensions and acceptance of others is still an issue more than 100 years later.

Tanabe concluded the talk by signing books and showing photographs of Anita and others related to The Gilded Years.

The next Author Talk is Tuesday, September 20, at 6 p.m. in Rabb Hall at the Central Library in Copley Square, featuring Stacy Schiff, author of The Witches: Salem, 1692.

Michael Patrick MacDonald Kicks Off Fall Author Talk Series

Posted on September 14th, 2016 by kmiller@private.bpl.org in General
Tags: ,

mpm_1Michael Patrick MacDonald, the author of All Souls and Easter Rising, spoke to a captivated audience that filled the newly renovated Rabb Hall at the Central Library in Copley Square last night. MacDonald spent the hour reading from his debut novel All Souls and exploring his emotional journey and experience in South Boston during the 1980s and 1990s. A slideshow of his family and the South Boston Old Colony Housing Project where he grew up played in the background, giving a quiet but powerful context to the memories MacDonald related.

The first reading included an ode to the time MacDonald spent at the Boston Public Library during his high school years. He described the library as his shelter and safe haven. He spent so much time at the library, he added, that he eventually got a job shelving books—an anecdote that garnered applause from the audience. Fond memories of the library segued into his relationship with the world of punk rock. MacDonald’s story of stalking the band Sex Pistols, who were staying at the Central Library’s neighbor the Lenox Hotel, illustrated his sense of living in two worlds: South Boston and the punk rock scene, which allowed him to escape the harsh realities of Southie life.

MacDonald also explored the tragedies that took the lives of four of his eleven siblings and informed the writing of All Souls. His grief over these losses manifested as physical ailments. After going to see doctors all over the city, MacDonald finally was recommended to a therapist, an experience that made him realize that what happened to his family and his circumstances in Southie were not “normal.” Even more importantly, it helped MacDonald acknowledge the tragic events in his life.

The night concluded with numerous questions from the audience. MacDonald talked about his community organizing and the importance of that work as a way for him to transform his pain into good. MacDonald’s new book, with the working title The Echoes, focuses on the heroin epidemic in South Boston and Charlestown in the 90s and is slated for release in 2017.

This talk is part of the Boston Public Library’s Lowell Lecture Series and is generously sponsored by the Lowell Institute, established in 1836 with the specific mission of making great ideas accessible to all people, free of charge.

The next  Author Talk is on Thursday, September 15, at 6 p.m. featuring Karin Tanabe, author of Gilded Years, and takes place in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square.

Color Boston Public Library’s Collections for National Coloring Book Day

Posted on August 2nd, 2016 by BPL News in General

August 2 is National Coloring Book Day, and in celebration, we bring you four prints from our collections for you to color. To get started, click on the picture below to download a PDF of each image in coloring format. Then, print the image and color away!

Elephant

19th-Century American Trade Card for Lothrops, Farnham & Co. See the original here.

McKim Buildling

Boston Public Library Postcard from the Tichnor Brothers Collection. See the original here.

Philosophy Panel

Philosophy Mural Panel by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes at the Central Library in Copley Square.
See the original here.

ships

Set design drawing by Antonio Aquaroni. See the original here.

 

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Public Library Announce Grand Reopening Date for Central Library Renovation

Posted on June 20th, 2016 by BPL News in General

Mayor Walsh to attend celebration; all are welcome

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Public Library announced today that the grand reopening of the Central Library Renovation will take place Saturday, July 9, and will be commemorated with a 10:30 a.m. ribbon cutting. The grand reopening will celebrate the completion of the second and final phase of the renovation of the Central Library in Copley Square, which has been managed by the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department. This second phase of work includes updates to the lower level, first floor, mezzanine, and the building exterior of the Johnson building, which opened in 1972. The Central Library Renovation puts the Boston Public Library on the cutting edge of library services – reshaping and redefining the patron experience at a 21st century urban public library.

The Central Library in Copley Square will be closed on Thursday, July 7, and Friday, July 8, to prepare and train staff in the updated spaces, and will reopen on Saturday, July 9, following the ribbon cutting.

“The reopening of the Central Library’s Johnson building ensures a bright future for all who seek educational opportunities through utilizing the services of this grand civic space,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am grateful to all who contributed to this project and I am confident library patrons and visitors will love the enhancements.”

Highlights of the second phase of the renovation include removal of the granite plinths that covered the Johnson building windows – reconnecting the building to the street, a revamped lecture hall for author talks and programming, a new innovation center, new Mac and Windows computers for the public computing area, a hi-tech community learning center, an enlarged Fiction section and new ways of book browsing, digital stacks to explore the BPL’s digitized collections, a state-of-the art Welcome Center, a digital imaging suite, and major landscape components along Boylston Street, including a civic table and new trees. The enterprise retail space at the corner of Boylston and Exeter Streets will feature The Newsfeed Café, opening mid-summer and operated by The Catered Affair, and a WGBH News satellite bureau and studio. Patrons will move seamlessly between the enterprise retail space and the Library.

The public can learn more about the Johnson building’s new features at www.bpl.org/bplreno and by following the BPL on Twitter (@bplboston), Facebook, and Instagram (@bplboston).

“This is one of the most significant milestones in Boston Public Library history; the Central Library Renovation has greatly expanded the offerings for people of all ages, as this library has truly been transformed,” said Chair of the Board of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library Robert E. Gallery.

“The goal of the renovation was to reinvent both our building and our library services as inviting, dynamic, and modern, to be responsive to twenty first century urban civic life and to strengthen the Central Library and its connection to the City,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library. “We are proud to welcome everyone, from near and far, to celebrate a new era of library service in Copley Square.”

The first phase of the renovation, which opened in February 2015, included a colorful Children’s Library with books and media, early literacy and story time space, a tween corner, and flexible program space; Teen Central, a distinctive and media-friendly space with books, digital lab, media lounge, a dedicated quiet zone, and homework and hangout booths; refreshed and reorganized nonfiction collections and reference services; and an adult reading area and workspace for individuals and groups.

The Central Library Renovation is a City of Boston capital project totaling $78 million. In addition to the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department, the project team includes  PMA Consultants as the Owner’s Project Manager, Consigli Construction Co., Inc. is the contractor, and the project architect is William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.

 

About BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit bpl.org.

 

# # #