By Alejandro Serrano, deputy news editor
Historic maps, letters and other artifacts adorn the Boston Public Library’s (BPL) Norman B. Leventhal Map Center in a new exhibition that opened Saturday, April 2.
From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary is a collection of 70 items chronicling Massachusetts’ history through various map formats, photographs and archival letters. The exhibition celebrates The Trustees of Reservations’ 125th anniversary.
“It is a very interesting exhibition,” said Ailsa Deans, a tourist from Edinburgh, Scotland who was visiting the exhibition with her mother. “I study geography and love maps. [I like how] it’s not just old maps, but new ones too, showing that maps can be used for many things.”
The exhibition was organized by a partnership between The Trustees, a nonprofit conservation organization, and the Leventhal Map Center. Viewers get to see the history of a place with artifacts – such as a map from 1852 demonstrating where the Old Manse house is in Concord, Mass. – juxtaposed with modern photos, said Leventhal Map Center assistant curator Stephanie Cyr.
“The photographs and maps work together,” Cyr said in an email to The News. “The artifacts also give glimpses into the different types of activities available at the sites, in the past or present; they also let people into the hobbies that residents of the historic homes were engaged in – such as gardening at Naumkeag or literary pursuits at The Old Manse.”
The 70 items on display are from both The Trustees and the Leventhal Map Center’s collections. They are organized from east to west, from the sea to the mountains, according to Cyr.
Upon entering the map center, the first item on display is an aged Tisbury Pond Club log book from 1912, opened to a page with two brown-hued photographs on the left and log entries on the right, a duck decoy from around 1940 and a 1913 photo of Tisbury Pond Club members, all in a glass showcase.
At the back of the room there are terrain maps, such as an 1883 map of Berkshire Hills that was designed to promote tourism in the area, representing the mountain part of the display.
“The way the maps are displayed is beautiful,” said John Dalterio, a Malden, Mass. resident. “[It] really shows the aesthetic of the map and is also informative. It shows the factual historical aspect of maps, but also how we thought.”
The collection of items also includes a Feb. 28, 1867 letter from then 12-year-old Ralph Waldo Emerson to his aunt Mary Moody Emerson with a transcription of the letter on laminated paper available to viewers.
Charles Eliot, the landscape architect who founded The Trustees, is represented through various items including a map from 1893 where he illustrated open spaces he hoped to protect, like Muddy Pond and Hencock Hill, declared by a light orange highlight on the map.
“Crowded populations, if they would live in health and happiness, must have space for air, for light, for exercise, for rest and for the enjoyment of that peaceful beauty of nature,” reads an excerpt from his 1902 book “Charles Eliot, landscape architect, a lover of nature and of his kind, who trained himself for a new profession, practised it happily and through it wrought much good,” placed next to the map.
Two maps near the back of the room demonstrate the location of grocery stores and open spaces in Boston, according to Cyr. The distance of a grocery store in the area depicted is shown by a shade of red. The lighter the shade, the closer the distance to a store, and the darker the shade, the closer to one mile away. Both maps are part of a sequence of three maps, the third showing grocery store locations and community gardens in Boston. The sequence is accompanied by two photographs of people with produce.
“The story here is this – that community gardens are vitally important, especially in areas that are considered ‘food deserts’ throughout the city,” Cyr said. “When the closest supermarket is over a mile away, having access to the fresh food produced by a community garden is extremely important.”
The celebratory exhibition will be open through Aug. 28. Cyr said she hopes to bring light to history while still preserving it.
“We are proud to have partnered with The Trustees on this exhibition,” she said. “In this work, we are both preserving the natural and cultural heritage of our home for generations to come.”
Photo by Robert Smith