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Local and Family History Lecture Series Continue with Exploration of Shoe Industry in Massachusetts

Posted on March 17th, 2016 by BPL News in General

Inspired by her Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) exhibition, Anna Fahey-Flynn spoke to a crowded Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square last night, Wednesday, March 16, on the history of the shoe industry in Massachusetts. Fahey-Flynn took the audience through the beginning of shoe making in the colonial era to the decline of the industry in Massachusetts during the early 1900s, as part of the Boston Public Library’s Local Family and History Series.

Beginning in the Colonial era, Fahey-Flynn explained that shoe making was March 16 Shoe ad courtesy Digital Commonwealtha homemade type of business, and shoes were typically constructed with tools found in the kitchen. Inventors not only revolutionized the industry into one of mass production but made Massachusetts into a hotbed for making shoes. Elias Howe Jr., the inventor of the sewing machine that was tough enough to withstand heavier materials needed to make shoes, was born and resided in Massachusetts along with other shoe industry innovators, Gordon McKay, and Lyman Blake. These main players’ Massachusetts roots helped grow and keep the industry within the state. By 1869, about 60 percent of boots and shoes in the United States came from Massachusetts.

Fahey-Flynn provided an inside look into the industry by describing the factory workers’ lives. Factories employed both men and women (women making up about 30 percent of the workforce). Massachusetts’s shoe industry workers were at the forefront of establishing labor unions and fighting for laws such as prohibiting children under the age of fourteen from working in the factories.

A discussion of the decline in the shoe industry came at the tail-end of the lecture. Fahey-Flynn accounted for World War I’s demand for price-fixed military footwear (tempering factories’ revenue), and Europe reestablishing their footwear market as key factors to the closure of factories. Additionally, as women’s hemlines went up due to the availability of more attractive stockings, so did the need for, now visible, fashion forward footwear. Failure to adapt to this growing trend created a hardship for many local factories.

The lecture ended with questions and comments in which many audience members shared stories of how the shoe industry affected their family or town. Fahey-Flynn also provided great resources for future research on shoes or Massachusetts’ general history including the DPLA, Digital Commonwealth, Internet Archive, and Lynn Museum & Historical Society.

The Local and Family History Lecture Series runs through May and features lectures of interest to both amateur genealogists and local historians. See the full schedule via

Library Lovers’ Month Public Art Project Concludes at Boston Public Library

Posted on March 10th, 2016 by BPL News in General
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Desktop284Library Lovers’ Month concluded at the end of February, marking a month full of love for the Boston Public Library. Patrons of all ages filled out nearly 1,700 paper hearts with the reasons they love their library and the hearts were then placed on display at BPL locations throughout the city. A few of the hearts read, “It lets me keep learning far after school ends,” “I love the people here. They make me feel right at home,” and “Books! Books! Books!”

“Members of the Boston community love our local libraries for many reasons,” said Mayor Walsh. “Whether it is accessing their favorite books or using computers, the opportunities they provide are endless. The more people use them, the better position they will be in to achieve their aspirations. I thank all of the residents and visitors who took the time out to share their most favorite memories and thoughts about one of our most cherished institutions.”

“We are incredibly thankful to all library users who participated in Library Lovers’ Month and shared what they love about their library – the BPL is much loved!” said Boston Public Library Interim President David Leonard. “We gained insightful comments and will use them to make decisions about ways we can make the Boston Public Library experience even better.” Read more »

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library and The Trustees Announce the Opening of FROM THE SEA TO THE MOUNTAINS: THE TRUSTEES 125TH ANNIVERSARY

Posted on March 8th, 2016 by BPL News in General

06_01_006599.LARGE v2An exhibition at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center April 2 through August 28, 2016

The exhibition From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary opens at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (NBLMC) at the Boston Public Library on Saturday, April 2, 2016 and runs through August 28, 2016. The exhibition is a collaboration between the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and The Trustees, featuring maps, photographs, and historic items from both collections to document the Trustees 125-year history of stewardship, conservation, and access to over 100 properties throughout Massachusetts. The Trustees is Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation organization and the world’s first land preservation nonprofit known for caring for cultural, natural, and scenic sites for public use and enjoyment.

“The exhibition is an opportunity for visitors to explore through dynamic visuals the great state of Massachusetts, enjoying all that has been conserved through the dedicated work of the Trustees,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

From the Sea to the Mountains will give viewers a greater understanding of the rich history of Massachusetts from a variety of perspectives,” said Robert Melzer, Chair of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center’s Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to collaborate with The Trustees and honor the past and present of the Commonwealth in a unique way.”

In celebration of The Trustees 125th anniversary, the exhibition features 70 items including maps, photographs, and historical items. Visitors will be introduced to Trustees properties, become familiar with a number of distinctive map formats, learn about natural landforms and geologic terms, and cultivate an appreciation for the natural, historical, and cultural treasures of Massachusetts.

“How appropriate to view our history through the lens of a map exhibition as we have literally been transforming, influencing, and saving the landscape of the Commonwealth for 125 years,” adds Barbara Erickson, Trustees President & CEO. “From the bird’s-eye view, we can see how the state has changed; what has been saved, lost, and where our future lies.”

Examples of a variety of rare and unique maps from the 19th century to the present will be on display, including bird’s-eye views, town plans, tourist, trail, topographic, and GIS maps. Historic and modern photographs of Trustees properties will also be on view, as well items once belonging to prior owners depicting how they lived on and enjoyed gardening, recreating, fishing, hunting, reading, picnicking and more at these iconic places.

In 1891 landscape architect Charles Eliot asserted the bold idea to form an organization that would preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts.  At a time when land conservation and ‘being green’ was not widely discussed, his vision was forward thinking. Today, the organization he founded, The Trustees, oversees more than 26,000 acres of preserved places from the Atlantic Coast to the Berkshire Mountains.

The Leventhal Map Center is located in the Central Library in Copley Square, 700 Boylston Street. It is open Monday – Thursday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Sunday: 1– 5 p.m. The best entrance to use is the Dartmouth Street entrance via the McKim building, which faces Copley Square.


The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center is ranked among the top 10 map centers in the United States for the size of its collection, the significance of its historic (pre-1900) material, and its advanced digitization program. It is unique among the major collections because it also combines these features with exceptional educational and teacher training programs to advance geographic literacy among students in grades K-12 and enhance the teaching of subjects from history to mathematics to language arts. The collection is also the second largest in the country located in a public library, ensuring unlimited access to these invaluable resources for scholars, educators, and the general public. The Leventhal Map Center, created in 2004, is a nonprofit organization established as a public-private partnership between the Boston Public Library and philanthropist Norman Leventhal. Its mission is to use the Boston Public Library’s permanent collection of 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases and a select group of rare maps collected by Mr. Leventhal for the enjoyment and education of all through exhibitions, educational programs, and a website that includes thousands of digitized maps at The map collection is global in scope, dating from the 15th century to the present, with a particular strength in maps and atlases of Boston, Massachusetts, and New England.

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


Funded by nearly 125,000 members and supporters, The Trustees saves and shares some of Massachusetts’ most treasured natural, scenic, and historic sites for public use and enjoyment and believes in protecting the irreplaceable for everyone, forever. Its mission is to connect more people to outdoor recreation, culture, agriculture, and healthy, active living by using its 114 diverse properties, community spaces, and over 3,500 annual programs as a powerful and compelling platform.  Located within minutes of every resident and visited by 1.6 million people in 2015, Trustees properties span more than 26,000 acres across the state – from working farms, landscaped and urban gardens, and community parks, to barrier beaches, forests, campgrounds, inns and historic sites, many of which are National Historic Landmarks. In addition to its properties, The Trustees is also an active leader in land conservation, holding conservation restrictions on more than 20,000 acres, more than any other entity. In 2014, The Trustees became a founding partner of the Boston Public Market, the first all locally-sourced indoor market of its kind in the nation where it operates an Appleton Farms vendor booth and serves as the educational programming partner for the Market’s demonstration KITCHEN. To learn more, visit:


Image: George Eldridge (d. 1900). Eldridge’s Map of Martha’s Vineyard. Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, 1913. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library


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Marta Crilly from Boston City Archives Visits for Local and Family History Series

Posted on February 25th, 2016 by BPL News in General

MartaCrillyOn the evening of Wednesday, February 24, Marta Crilly, Archivist for Reference and Outreach at the Boston City Archives, stopped by as part of the BPL’s Local and Family History Series to discuss how local historians and genealogists can draw upon Boston City Archives’ records for research.

The Boston City Archives, located in West Roxbury, opened in 1989 and house more than 35,000 cubic feet of materials as part of their mission to preserve and provide public access to City of Boston records. The records span several hundred years and include everything from tax to voting to school records. The information contained within these records can provide genealogists and historians with everything from a person’s former address, age, and occupation to height and weight. Institutional records, which include materials from hospitals, the almshouse, and the House of Corrections, can often shed light on more personal information, as well. For instance, penal records note all the possessions on a person at the time of entrance, and documents from organizations such as the Temporary Home for Women and Children can include details about how and why a person ended up there. The Archives also house Boston Public School records, which include yearbooks, student newspapers, school manuals, and more.

Crilly also emphasized the City Archives’ commitment to increasing access to records through digitization. The Boston City Archives have already digitized over 11,000 photographs documenting Boston’s past, and the public can also remotely access tax records as well as online exhibitions, including explorations of Boston’s fire department and the Horace Mann School for the Deaf.

The Local and Family History Lecture Series runs through May and features lectures of interest to both amateur genealogists and local historians. See the full schedule via

Dr. Peter Grinspoon Discusses Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction

Posted on February 19th, 2016 by BPL News in General
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Desktop279-001Boston Public Library welcomed Dr. Peter Grinspoon and more than 70 people last night for an author talk and Q&A regarding the doctor’s past addiction to opiates. A Harvard-educated MD and nine years sober, Grinspoon currently practices as a primary care physician in Boston, is a staff member at Massachusetts General Hospital, and teaches medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The author and doctor takes the audience back to February 2005, when authorities came to his practice to arrest him for three felony counts for writing false prescriptions. He admits he was in denial and that made it difficult to get treatment when he was caught, but he did go to a 90-day rehabilitation program. According to Grinspoon, there is a high rate of addiction amongst physicians, as there is both a lot of stress in the field and access to medications. The good news for physician addicts is that there is a 75-80% success rate for recovery because the stakes are high and there are more resources to help; for example, physician help groups.

He also discussed the opiate epidemic in general –  it is highly stigmatized and there is no other addiction in which addicts get punished instead of helped. Fortunately, he says, attitudes are beginning to change. Addiction is a disease that needs to be treated with healing and compassion, and it does not need to be a death sentence as long as people are cared for as they should be. The earlier the problem is identified, the easier recovery will be.

The Central Library’s Author Talk Series continues in March on Thursday, March 17, at 12 p.m. with Irish Author Colm Tóibín, as he reads from his newest novel, Brooklyn.