If you’ve ever got $15 to spare (and I just lost 90% of your interest there, but bear with me), and are looking for somewhere cool to spend a few minutes, consider checking out Boston’s Mapparium. It’s one of the many architectural wonders of a city steeped in history – and it’s walking distance from the BU campus!
Located behind closed doors within the Mary Baker Eddy Library near Hynes, the Mapparium is a three-story concave globe made entirely of stained glass. And yes, when those doors come open and you first step inside, it is every bit as wondrous as it sounds. The stained glass panels –polished magnificently so that every tile looks distinctly like a perfectly fitted piece in a perfectly fitted puzzle – glow right at you in bright and vivid shades of red, green and, of course, endless blue.
Chester Lindsay Churchill, the architect behind the masterpiece, built something 78 years ago that a picture does not speak a thousand words for.
The photo doesn’t do it justice.
Suddenly, you find yourself standing within the Earth itself, staring up at it as it was in 1938 when the Mapparium was first completed. Suddenly, you realize how big and spread out the world really is – the concave nature of the globe ensures you have to constantly turn in place to look from one country to the next. And suddenly, you realize how much has changed since then. There are entire countries missing – mine included – whose first chapters had not even been written yet, and entire nations that no longer exist today, on which the books have closed somewhere in between.
It’s a monument frozen in time – and though there have been discussions about updating it, I’m glad that they ultimately made the call not to. It’s not just a historical monument, but also a monument that celebrates history. In having that aspect preserved, the Mapparium is as much a representation of shifting times as it is of shifting spaces.
After a brief but enlightening introduction from your tour guide, you’ll be treated to a light and sound show commemorating the nations of the world and the heroes and philanthropists that have hailed from them. The acoustics ensure that every quote they have to offer comes booming down at you, and rebound off the walls as if the giants that spoke them are whispering through the glass tiles themselves. Following the presentation, you’ll be permitted to play with the acoustics yourselves a little bit. Expect to overhear snippets of conversation between other visitors that you weren’t really sure you wanted to hear.
Although the tour ends there and isn’t overall much longer than a TED talk, it’s still worth the price of admission (and definitely over 80 seconds, contrary to what my title suggests). And if you still feel a little iffy, know that the price of admission is $6 for the average visitor and $4 for students, not $15 (also contrary to what I initially implied). So if you had $15 to spare, you can go and potentially still have $11 left over!
Isn’t math great?
Now go! Go see those trees of green, smell the red roses too. And think to yourself when you get in there: ‘What a wonderful world.’