Calling all history + map nerds! (Us included!)

The Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library has launched its latest free exhibition – Getting Around Town: Four Centuries of Mapping Boston in Transit!

Getting Around Town, the Leventhal Center’s first-ever show focused on public transportation and mobility, brings together an extraordinary collection of maps, plans, ephemera, and other materials to investigate how Bostonians have moved around the city in the past, present, and future.

Getting Around Town is guest curated by Steven Beaucher, the author of the book Boston in Transit (MIT Press) and the owner of WardMaps LLC in Cambridge. The exhibition pairs Beaucher’s own collections with the extensive holdings of the Leventhal Center and the Boston Public Library.

In the exhibition, located at the Leventhal Center gallery at the Central Library in Copley Square, visitors will explore the story of Boston’s evolving transit infrastructure and how it has shaped the city as we know it today. From the early days of horse-drawn carriages and streetcars to the modern-day subway system, the exhibition will showcase the innovative ideas and technological advances that have transformed Boston’s transportation landscape over the past four centuries.

“Boston has sanctioned some form of public transportation since the city’s founding in 1630,” says Steven Beaucher. “We’ve been doing this longer than any other city in the United States. With an unparalleled collection of maps and complimentary ephemera, this exhibition looks back on how people got around town, and how the routes and modes they used evolved along with the city itself, from one simple ferry to the regional multi-modal network of today’s MBTA.”

One of the goals of this exhibition is to spark conversation and invite questions about the future of transportation in Boston. Visitors will be encouraged to reflect on how the city’s transit system can continue to evolve to meet the needs of its residents and visitors and how issues of transit justice weave together with other efforts to make Boston more equitable and accessible.

“Maps of transit systems are among the most widely used maps in our daily lives, and for that reason, maps are almost visually synonymous with these ways of getting around the city,” says Garrett Dash Nelson, the Center’s President and Head Curator. “In this exhibition, though, we want people to think not only about what the Boston transit system is like today, but also how it was built over time, and what it might look like in the decades to come.”

Getting Around Town also features the work of high school students who worked with the Center’s K-12 Education team through a career development program funded by the Private Industry Council (PIC). The students’ digital maps explore issues around challenges and opportunities with the present-day public transit network.

You can learn more here! 

Image Via BPL – A test train of BERy Elevated Type 1 rapid transit cars pauses at the upper level of Dudley Terminal in this 1901 photograph.

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