Mayor Walsh Announces $15.7 Million Capital Investment for Preservation of Boston’s Rare Books and Manuscripts

Renovation and preservation project includes inventory, environmental, mechanical, and service improvements

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the launch of a major capital project at the Boston Public Library to help preserve its historic rare books and manuscripts collections, as outlined in Mayor Walsh’s Fiscal Year 2018 – Fiscal Year 2022 (FY18-FY22) Capital Plan being released tomorrow.

“The Boston Public Library has the distinct honor of serving as the steward of some of our nation’s finest and most historic collections,” said Mayor Walsh. “I am proud that through this Capital Plan, we are able to invest in the preservation and care of these collections to ensure their longevity and increase public access to these cherished items.”

The first phase of the project commenced in February 2017 with an inventory of the Rare Books & Manuscripts Department’s nearly 250,000 rare books and one million manuscripts, in preparation for the second and major phase of the project: substantial renovation with a focus on environmental and mechanical improvements to better regulate temperature and humidity control of the department’s collection storage areas, staff spaces, conservation lab, and public reading room. The project will be managed by the City of Boston’s Public Facility Department, and the total project is estimated to cost approximately $15.7 million between FY18-FY20.

This capital project continues the Boston Public Library’s renewed commitment to improve intellectual control and custodianship of all its special collections that began with the Print Department inventory launched in 2015.

The Rare Books & Manuscripts Department serves as the Boston Public Library’s principal repository of rare books, manuscripts, and artifacts of permanent or enduring value collected for their intellectual content and historical significance. Highlights of the library’s extraordinary holdings-one of the largest in the United States-include medieval manuscripts dating from as early as the 10th century; Colonial and Revolutionary War letters and documents; early printed books; and President John Adams’s personal library.

“As stewards of these most valuable and historic collections, we take our responsibility for their care extremely seriously; initiating this capital project ensures our rare books and manuscripts collection will be preserved, accessible to all, and utilized as intended today and for the future,” said David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library.

“This significant project enables the Rare Books & Manuscripts Department to better serve the public by creating a sustainable preservation environment that is critical to the collection’s long-term care,” said Laura Irmscher, Boston Public Library’s Chief of Collections.

To accommodate the inventory project, rare books and manuscript materials are on a limited viewing schedule until Thursday, April 27, when the collections will close to accommodate the environmental and mechanical improvement work. For more information on the viewing schedule, please visit here.

Special accommodations are currently being planned for viewing of other BPL special collections materials such as items from the BPL’s print and art collections. During the closure, patrons may visit and to view a portion of the Library’s Special Collections. Limited remote reference services will also be available.

Today’s announcement complements Mayor Walsh’s proposed FY18 operating budget, which was released last week, and is designed to balance sustainability and increased investments in key initiatives to more fully supports Boston’s neighborhoods.

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