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Category Archives: General

Bee Panel at the Central Library in Copley Square

Posted on May 18th, 2016 by BPL News in General
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BeesBees were the theme for the final Boston Public Library Author Talk of the spring, with guests Olivia Messigner Carril, co-author of The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees, and Thomas Seeley, author of Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting. The bee experts provided the audience with an overview of the different ways to observe and track the wild bees that live around us.

Seeley led off with an exploration of the art of bee hunting, which involves tracking bees to their nest through a process of luring and following them. To begin, a hunter catches a bee in a box designed specifically for bee hunting that contains a sugar water comb. When the bee is released it will return with its nest mates, allowing the bee hunter to see the “beeline,” or the direction in which the bees are flying. The hunter then moves further down the beeline with the box of bees, following the bees’ path as they again are released and return to the box with the food source. Eventually, the hunter will be able to follow them home to their nest. Seeley says the joy of bee hunting lies in observing the bees and locating their home. A bee hunter doesn’t have to be immersed in nature to go on a bee hunt; Seeley has conducted bee hunts everywhere from Harvard Yard to Central Park in New York City.

Messinger Carril followed with an overview of the wide variety of bee species – four thousand in the United States and Canada alone – and how to find and identify them. The solitary bee can make its home in everything from sand to pine cones and snail shells. Some bees even build beautiful nests out of flower petals. When encountering a wild bee, she said, an observer can use a camera phone to take pictures from a few different angles in order to identify the species later. To help illustrate the wide diversity of bees, she brought along a box of bee samples that showcased a range of bee types and sizes.

The authors concluded by taking questions from the engaged audience members who were eager to know more about bee populations and species. In response to one attendee’s question on how to support wild bees, Messinger Carril emphasized that it’s important to provide them with an undisturbed place to nest and to grow native plants that are not highly cultivated.

Thank you to all who attended our spring Author Talks. Boston Public Library’s Author Talks Series will return in the fall.

Public Interview Date Set for Boston Public Library Presidential Candidate Finalist

Posted on May 16th, 2016 by in General, Media Releases

Candidates will be interviewed by BPL Board of Trustees; Public invited to attend and observe

 May 16, 2016 – Today, the Boston Public Library Presidential Search Committee announced they will present three candidates to be interviewed for the position of BPL President to the Library Board of Trustees on Saturday, May 21. The interviews are open to the public and will be held in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square beginning at 8 a.m. The candidate finalists will be announced on Thursday, May 19.

“The Search Committee has conducted a transparent and open process, and I commend them for that,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Now the BPL Board of Trustees has the task of selecting the candidate who demonstrates the leadership most suited to head the Boston Public Library, one of the oldest library systems in the nation.”

“The BPL Presidential Search Committee has held seven public listening sessions since November and had numerous conversations with Library leadership, staff, friends groups, and other committed stakeholders to determine the qualities they wanted to see in the next BPL president,” said John Palfrey, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee. “Thanks to the assistance of executive search firm, Spencer Stuart, the committee was able to narrow down an expansive field of potential candidates to three very qualified applicants.”

“The BPL Board of Trustees is eager to hear from the candidates the Search Committee will present,” said Robert Gallery, Chair of the BPL Board of Trustees. “We’re preparing interview questions that will dive deep into each candidate’s interest in the position and how that individual’s experience aligns with the mission of the Boston Public Library.”

The three candidate interviews will be conducted in succession by the BPL Board of Trustees beginning at 8 a.m. on May 21. Each interview will be one hour and 15 minutes in length, followed by a brief break between interviews. At the conclusion of the three interviews, the Trustees will vote to extend an offer of employment as President of the Boston Public Library to the selected finalist.

The public is invited to observe the interviews and may submit suggested interview questions prior to the meeting via the email address


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

Joseph Bagley and “A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts”

Posted on May 12th, 2016 by BPL News in General
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image1Joseph Bagley, City Archaeologist of Boston, wrapped up the BPL’s spring Local and Family History Series with a discussion of his new book A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts. He treated the crowd of 100 people that filled the Central Library’s Commonwealth Salon to images of some of the artifacts highlighted in the book as well as the fascinating stories behind them.

Bagley was inspired to write A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts by the volume A History of the World in 100 Objects. When writing the book, he made sure to select artifacts that represent all time periods in Boston history, not just the Revolution, and Bostonians from all walks of life. For instance, he highlights a plate found in an excavation of the 1806 African Meeting House on Beacon Hill that was part of a matched set of shell-edged pearlware – a luxury in the 19th century. It was identified as belonging to Domingo Williams, a free black man who lived below the meeting house and ran a successful business as an event caterer for Boston’s upper classes.

Other artifacts serve as a gateway into the lives of fascinating Bostonians throughout history. For example, the oldest bowling ball in North America, dating from 1660-1715, was uncovered in the North End in a privy on the property of Katherine Nanny Naylor. Though lawn bowling was illegal in Puritan society, the wealthy Nanny Naylor may have openly bowled as a sign of her elite status. Illegal bowling was just the tip of the iceberg of ignoring convention for Nanny Naylor; she was also the first woman in Massachusetts to successfully sue for divorce from her abusive husband.

Other artifacts highlighted in Bagley’s book remind readers that the history of Boston did not begin with the Puritans. A native spear point found during an archaeological survey of Boston Common dates from 5,500-7,500 years ago, making it older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids. Bagley also explored the stories behind such objects as a comb found in the Paul Revere House, a whizzer toy that belonged to the son of wealthy merchant and slave dealer Charles Apthorp, an arrowhead made from a kettle traded to native people, and a page from a Hebrew prayer book found in the walls of the African Meeting House.

Bagley concluded with an overview of the City of Boston Archaeology program, including the current work at the Malcolm X House. He emphasized that the program is truly public, as anyone is welcome to help excavate the property. During a question and answer session that followed, the audience proved eager to learn more about archaeology in Boston.

Paul Lewis & The Citizen Poets of Boston

Posted on May 11th, 2016 by BPL News in General
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citizens 2Paul Lewis, a professor of English at Boston College, visited the Central Library in Copley Square on May 9, discussing his book The Citizen Poets of Boston, which originally began as an exhibition at the Boston Public Library in 2012 titled The Forgotten Chapters of Boston’s Literary History. Lewis began by thanking staff of the Boston Public Library, who were instrumental in assisting him with his research; the book would have been very difficult to produce without databases and BPL resources that provided the images and text of the poems. The poems in his book are a compilation of “citizen” poems from 1789-1820. At the time, there were hundreds of magazines throughout the country, and quite a few in Boston; they would invite readers to submit their poems, hence “citizens,” which could refer to any resident of the City at that time.  This time brought forth much interaction from writers to editors and editors to writers, and between readers and writers.

The poems revealed the culture of the time, and of what people were thinking about and feeling in post-revolutionary Boston. Poems included thoughts by a seamstress wanting to get married, a 21-year-old complaining about aging, a formerly enslaved man striving for freedom, a young woman protesting marriage, and a poet describing his love for books. The sections of the book are broken down into categories: “Coming to Boston,” Men and Women,” “Politics,” “the Family,” “Jobs, Shops, and the Professions,” “Pleasure and the Good Life,” “Rebusses, Riddles, Anagrams, Acrostics, and Enigmas,” and “Death.” Lewis was joined by students from Boston College to read some of these poems, as well as City of Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges.  Lewis indicated that this type of project could potentially be replicated in cities such as New York and Philadelphia.

The BPL’s Author Talk Series continues on Wednesday, May 11, at 6 p.m. in the Commonwealth Salon with Joseph Bagley as he discusses A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts.

Locating Ancestors through the Freedmen’s Bureau

Posted on May 3rd, 2016 by BPL News in General

bureauDiane Boucher, a lecturer in history at the United States Coast Guard Academy, gave a presentation titled “The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands: Securing Freedom During and After the Civil War” on April 27 in conjunction with the BPL’s Local and Family History Lecture Series, detailing the Freedmen’s Bureau’s functions and its tie to Massachusetts. The Freedmen’s Bureau, established in 1865 by the War Department, was in charge of providing education, health care, housing assistance, and employment arrangements to former slaves as a temporary means to get them situated as they began a new life. Former slaves fought to gain economic and social status, along with finding their families, establishing their own land, and gaining an education. The Bureau also gave assistance to families and others fleeing north after the war.

Field offices were established to help people post-war across the east coast, and in 1866, the Walnut Street School, later the Howard Industrial School, was founded by Anna Lowell in Cambridge, serving as a trade school and housing for former women slaves and women in search of work. Most women were anxious to earn wages, and desired to be independent. They moved quickly into employment once arriving. An average of 30 people lived there at any given time, with most people from the Washington, D.C. area. The school served 355 people its first year. In 1868, Congress voted to end funding for the Freedmen’s Bureau, and it is likely the Howard Industrial School dissolved not long after.

The lecture concluded with conducting a sample search for an audience member’s ancestor.  Transcriptions of documents from the Freedmen’s Bureau are ongoing, and resources vary in their search capabilities. Below are a variety of resources that may be helpful for genealogical research related to that time period. The Local and Family History Series concludes on Wednesday, May 11, with Joseph Bagley speaking about his book A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts.

Free online databases available at Boston Public Library:

  • Ancestry Online: This site has some of the Freedmen’s Bureau records online at the Learning Center. Select digital copies of microfilmed reels are searchable by field office, but a name search is not available.
  • US Congressional Serial Set: This contains reports generated by the federal government in conjunction with Freedmen’s Bureau activity, available through Archive of Americana.

Additional Resources: