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Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The present Copley Square location has been home to the Library since 1895, when architect Charles Follen McKim completed his "palace for the people." Between 1870 and 1900, twenty-two additional Branches began serving communities throughout Boston's diverse neighborhoods. In 1972 the Library expanded its Copley Square location with the opening of an addition designed by Philip Johnson. Today, the McKim building houses the BPL's vast research collection and the Johnson building holds the circulating collection of the general library and serves as headquarters for the Boston Public Library's 26 branch libraries. In addition to its 6.1 million books, the library boasts over 1.2 million rare books and manuscripts, a wealth of maps, musical scores and prints. Among its large collections, the BPL holds several first edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart to Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf;" and, in its rare book collection, the personal library of John Adams. Over 2.2 million patrons visit the BPL each year, many in pursuit of research material, others looking for an afternoon's reading, still others for the magnificent and unique art and architecture.break

http://www.bpl.org/

Upcoming Events

  • In Person
    Virtual
    Join rock pioneer June Millington and acclaimed indie artist Emm Gryner for an enlightening discussion and performance.

    June Millington—guitarist and founding member of all-female rock band Fanny—will converse with Emm Gryner—independent singer/songwriter, bassist, and pianist—about Fanny, music, and activism. The main content will conclude with a musical performance.

    This program is part of our Lowell Lecture Series and our “Revolutionary Music: Music for Social Change” programmatic theme.
    Partner:
    Boston Public Library
  • In Person
    Virtual
    Music has always been central to the African American quest for freedom. The Civil Rights struggle and its music provided some of America’s most powerful calls of hope, moral clarity, and equity.

    During the 19th century, spirituals such as Steal Away carried coded protest. In the 20th century, protest became explicit. In the 1930s Ethel Waters sang an anti-lynching song that shocked Broadway and Billie Holiday bravely recorded the stinging song Strange Fruit. Duke Ellington’s long career spoke for racial respect and civil rights in such pieces as Black Beauty and [Martin Luther] King Fit the Battle of Alabam’.

    As political action picked up and in the 1950s and 1960s, We Shall Overcome became the clarion anthem of the Civil Rights movement and central to America’s moral quest for “a more perfect Union.” Old songs like This Little Light of Mine took on new meaning and fresh songs appeared such as If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus. Black and white activists alike sang Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. And great artists—such as Sam Cooke (A Change is Gonna Come), The Impressions (People Get Ready), James Brown (Say It Loud), Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, on up to The Roots—all sang to advance respect and equality.

    Dr. John Edward Hasse, long-time music curator at the Smithsonian and Duke Ellington’s biographer, plays stirring video clips of these songs that inspired, motivated, and advocated for what Martin Luther King called for in his “I have a dream” speech: that we all be judged not by the color of our skin, “but by the content of our character.” He will also play works by W.C. Handy and Duke Ellington that helped lay the musical foundation for the Civil Rights movement.

    Bookselling information
    For in-person attendees, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, one of our community bookstore partners, will provide copies of Hesse's book Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington for purchase and facilitate an author signing from 7 - 7:30 PM following the the audience Q&A. Zoom webinar attendees and any patrons wishing to order copies online may do so from Bookshop dot org by visiting this link.
    Partner:
    Boston Public Library
  • In Person
    Virtual
    As part of our "Revolutionary Music: Music for Social Change" programmatic theme, join the Boston Public Library and American Ancestors in-person or online for talk about a sweeping and spellbinding portrait of the longtime kings of jazz—Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie—who, born within a few years of one another, burst through racial barriers to become the most popular entertainers on the planet.

    About the book
    The Jazzmen is the story of three revolutionary American musicians, the maestro jazzmen who orchestrated the chords that throb at the soul of twentieth-century AmericaLarry Tye paints a vivid and immersive portrait of the birth of jazz, highlighting the resilience of its trailblazers as they opened America’s ears and souls to the magnificence of their melodies. Each insisted he was a music maker first and last, when in reality all three were cultural and racial insurgents.

    There will be time for Q&A from both in-person and online audiences. After the main program ends at approximately 7 PM, there will be an author signing facilitated by local independent bookstore partner Trident Booksellers and Cafe.

    Online attendees will have a chance to order copies from another local independent bookstore partner (Porter Square Books) during the main program (6 - 7 PM).
    Partner:
    American Ancestors
    Boston Public Library

Past Events

  • Two journalist-professors discuss the history of women in American journalism from 1840 to the present; and the new book Undaunted, which showcases the exceptional careers of such impactful reporters as Margaret Fuller, Rachel Carson, Joan Didion, and Martha Gellhorn.

    Join us in Women’s History Month to examine the lives of some of the best-remembered and long-forgotten woman journalists, standout reporters who covered the major news stories and every conflict at home and abroad since before the Civil War. In addition to chronicling the careers of journalists and newsroom leaders, Undaunted explores the larger story: the nearly two-centuries-old struggle for women’s rights as it manifests in a field where women have never found easy welcome. The book documents their collective fight for equity from the gentle stirrings of the late 1800s to the work, actions, and pronouncements of celebrated journalists such as Ida Tarbell, Ida B. Wells, and Kate Masterson as the century turned, on to Pauline Frederick, Anne O'Hare McCormick, Martha Gelhorn, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault in the first half of the 20th; through the legal battles of the 1970s to the #MeToo movement and onward. With Tracy Lucht, Kroeger will discuss the huge and singular impact women have had on this vital profession still dominated by men.

    This program is presented by the American Inspiration Series from American Ancestors/NEHGS and presented in partnership with with the Boston Public Libraryand the GBH Forum Network.
    Partner:
    American Ancestors
    Boston Public Library
  • Celebrating one of America’s greatest female novelists, this biography brings to life Willa Cather -- her artistry and endurance, her immigrant family and the prairies on they lived, and her trailblazing success as a journalist and writer.

    In the early 20th century, Willa Cather leapt into the forefront of American letters with the publication of her novels O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Antonia (1918). At the time, she was well into middle age. Her success followed years of working in journalism in Nebraska, brief spells of teaching, and editorial work on magazines. Chasing Bright Medusas is her story told by of another mature and highly accomplished writer, the award-winning biographer Benjamin Taylor, a lifelong lover of Willa Cather’s work. Taylor’s elegant exploration of her artistic endurance and of her early years and family, bring us back in time to portray vividly the challenges of being an immigrant family, a woman, and a literary trailblazer -- one the greatest authors of the twentieth century.
    Partner:
    American Ancestors
    Boston Public Library
  • Hear from the author of a revelatory memoir about a 330-mile walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City—an unforgettable pilgrimage to the heart of America across some of our oldest common ground.

    Neil King Jr.’s desire to walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City began as a whim and soon became an obsession. By the spring of 2021, events had intervened that gave his desire greater urgency. His neighborhood still reeled from the January 6th insurrection. Covid lockdowns and a rancorous election had deepened America’s divides. Neil himself bore the imprints of a long battle with cancer.

    Determined to rediscover what matters in life and to see our national story with new eyes, Neil turned north with a small satchel on his back and one mission in mind: To pay close attention to the land he crossed and the people he met.

    What followed is an extraordinary 26-day journey through historic battlefields and cemeteries, over the Mason-Dixon line, past Quaker and Amish farms, along Valley Forge stream beds, atop a New Jersey trash mound, across New York Harbor, and finally, to his ultimate destination: the Ramble, where a tangle of pathways converges in Central Park. The journey travels deep into America’s past and present, uncovering forgotten pockets and overlooked people. At a time of mounting disunity, the trip reveals the profound power of our shared ground.

    This program is part of the American Inspiration Series from American Ancestors/NEHGS and presented in partnership with with the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library and the GBH Forum Network.
    Partner:
    Boston Public Library
    American Ancestors
  • A portrait of late 19th-century Boston and one of its most daring and celebrated women, Isabella Stewart Gardner – the connoisseur and visionary collector who created an inimitable legacy in American art and transformed the city.

    When Isabella Stewart Gardner first arrived in Boston in 1861, she was twenty years old, newly married to a wealthy trader, and unsure of herself. Puzzled by the frosty reception she received from the city’s coterie of “bluebloods,” she strived to fit in and had limited success. Then after two devastating tragedies, she discovered her true spirit and passion for collecting. When Isabella opened her Italian palazzo-style home as a museum 1903 to showcase her old masters, antiques, and objects d’art, she was well-known for scandalizing Boston’s upper society.

    The Lioness of Boston is historical fiction – a richly detailed portrait of a time, also a cultural and social history. Author Emily Franklin reveals the day’s mores and expectations which Isabella, a feminist before feminism, rejected, opting instead for friendships with painter John Singer Sargent; writers Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Orne Jewett; and neighbor Julia Ward Howe. With novelist Claire Messud, Franklin discusses her process for researching and bringing to life this remarkable woman – her friends, her family, and her era.

    Presented by the American Inspiration series from American Ancestors/NEHGS in partnership with Boston Public Library.
    Partner:
    American Ancestors
    Boston Public Library
  • The dramatic and uplifting story of legendary outdoorsman and conservationist JohnMuir’s quest to protect one of America’s most magnificent landscapes, Yosemite.

    Everybody needs beauty, as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” —John Muir

    In this portrait of a place, a time, and a movement, the bestselling author Dean King takes us behind the scenes, to the beginning of America’s love affair with Yosemite Valley. In June of 1889 in San Francisco, John Muir—iconic environmentalist, writer, and philosopher—met face-to-face with his longtime editor Robert Underwood Johnson, an elegant and influential figure at The Century magazine. Before long, the pair ventured to Yosemite Valley, the magnificent site Muir had visited twenty years earlier. There, they confronted a shocking vision, as predatory mining, tourism, and logging industries had plundered and defaced “the grandest of all the special temples of Nature.” The rest is history: that watershed moment led to the creation of Yosemite National Park, and launched an environmental battle that at once captivated the nation and ushered in the beginning of the American environmental movement. Join us for King’s illustrated presentation of his riveting new book, Guardians of the Valley, “a rich, enjoyable excursion into a seminal period in environmental history.” (The Wall Street Journal)
    Partner:
    American Ancestors
    Boston Public Library
  • Join American Ancestors for a shimmering discussion about artists and their summer communities, the “utopias” they created for their friends, families, and students during the first half of the twentieth century on Cape Ann and Cape Cod.

    Their names are iconic: Edward Hopper, Charles Hawthorne, Hans Hoffman, Willem de Kooning, Josef and Anni Albers, and Walter Gropius. The artist residents of summertime seashore communities hold a special place in America’s history. To this day, in private collections, museums, and galleries, they portray our country in transition in the last century, its welcoming light and obscuring shadows, burgeoning with industrial and political power.

    Join John Taylor “Ike” Williams and Elliot Bostwick Davis for a discussion of their new books looking at the vision and ascendancy of several celebrated artists associated with summer colonies and communities. Our presenters will spotlight individual paintings and measure the cultural impact and their creators who, imbued with summertime spirit and sensitivity, became our country’s cultural luminaries. Don’t miss these authors’ insights on Cape Ann and Cape Cod as it was experienced and represented by its artists, and the lasting impact of their work.

    Join us for a shimmering discussion about artists and their summer communities, the “utopias” they created for their friends, families, and students during the first half of the twentieth century on Cape Ann and Cape Cod.

    Presented by the American Inspiration series from American Ancestors/NEHGS in partnership with the Cape Ann Museum and Provincetown Arts Association and Museum.

    Partner:
    American Ancestors
    Boston Public Library
  • Likely the last in her family line to qualify for tribal citizenship with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Leah Myers elegantly blends Native folklore, personal history, and the search for identity in this highly anticipated memoir, Thinning Blood.





    Because of her tribe’s strict blood quantum laws, Leah Myers may be the last of her family to be formally recognized as a member of her tribe. For her, this realization carries with it a responsibility to preserve her heritage and her ancestors’ memory. Thinning Blood is Myers’s attempt to capture a record of her family’s history, presenting the stories of four generations of women. Beginning with her great-grandmother, the last full-blooded Native member in their lineage, she connects each woman with her totem to construct her family’s totem pole: protective Bear, defiant Salmon, compassionate Hummingbird, and perched on top, Raven. Myers weaves together tribal folktales, the history of the Native genocide, and Native mythology. With fresh perspectives and profound insight, she offers crisp and powerful vignettes of her own life between White and Native worlds. Thinning Blood is at once a bold reclamation of her female identity and a searingly honest meditation on heritage, family, and what it means to belong.

    Leah Myers is in conversation with Kaitlin Curtice, also author, poet-storyteller and member of the Potawatomi nation.
    Partner:
    American Ancestors
    Boston Public Library
  • Gen Z Environmental Justice Educator & Founder of QueerBrownVegan Isaias Hernandez converses with Boston Public Library President David Leonard on his journey and work as a Queer Brown and Vegan person.
    Partner:
    Boston Public Library
  • Executive Producer and host of NPR’s “Living on Earth" Steve Curwood converses with Boston Public Library President David Leonard as part of the Boston Public Library's 2023 Lowell Lecture Series _You are Here: Climate Change and What’s Next._ Their 60-75 minute conversation is followed by an audience Q&A from both the in-person and virtual audiences. Steve Curwood is the executive producer and host of “Living on Earth.” He created the first pilot of “Living on Earth” in 1990 and the show has run continuously since April 1991. “Living on Earth” is currently aired on more than 250 National Public Radio/Public Radio International affiliates and XM/Sirius Satellite Radio.
    Partner:
    Boston Public Library
  • Environmental justice warrior, Rhodes Scholar, and founder of Black Girl Environmentalist Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru converses with Boston Public Library President David Leonard as part of the Boston Public Library 2023 Lowell Lecture Series You are Here: Climate Change and What’s Next. For Wanjiku "Wawa" Gatheru, caring about the environment started early. While farming with her mom and grandmother as a child, the conversations would often turn to saving the earth. The first-generation American of Kenyan descent became even more invested when taking an environmental science class in high school, when she learned that social justice and climate issues were deeply intertwined. Everything suddenly became personal. “It was in this call I learned that the environment had everything to do with me,” she says.
    Partner:
    Boston Public Library