ART at the BPL

Last weekend I was given a genealogy (don’t ask) tour of the Boston Public Library and the guide happened to point out much of the building’s art and architecture while trapesing around the McKim building.

I had always thought the BPL was quite small compared to what I pictured in my head until this tour, when I was guided through a doorway in the back of the short term internet room and realized there was a whole new world through thattaway. Durr.

The double durr for me came when I realized there was a 3rd floor, only open on weekdays that I had yet to explore.  And that’s where all the good stuff is!  The 3rd floor is the Fine Arts Department which houses over 125,000 non-circulating documents including original photographs, rare books, diaries, biographies, journals, old playbills, prints, manuals, and a Boston specific Picture File containing mounted and unmounted photographs and clippings about Boston buildings, parks, monuments, streets, etc

A listing of their entire Special Collections list can be found here.

Interesting aside:

“The Fine Arts Collection is not defined by the demands of specific curricula or by the research needs of the staff of a parent organization or its special clientele. Rather, as a research collection within a public library, the Fine Arts Department follows broad objectives in acquisitions, collecting as comprehensively as possible the materials necessary for the study of all facets of art and art history, architecture and its history, the decorative arts and crafts of all countries and periods.Fine Arts Department follows broad objectives in acquisitions, collecting as comprehensively as possible the materials necessary for the study of all facets of art and art history, architecture and its history, the decorative arts and crafts of all countries and periods.”

Also, the Boston Public Library offers free Art and Architecture Tours(but does not cover the 3rd floor collections.)

The Volunteer Office of the Library offers tours highlighting the architecture of Charles Follen McKim and Philip Johnson, as well as the many works of famed sculptors and painters. The tours last about an hour and are given by volunteer guides. The following is a list of currently scheduled tours:

  • Sunday 2:00 p.m
  • Monday 2:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday 6:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday – No Tours
  • Thursday 6:00 p.m.
  • Friday 11:00 a.m.
  • Saturday 11:00 a.m.

A walking tour of the Boston Public Library is available on their website.

Notable works include:

The outdoor sculptures representing Science and Art, by Bela Pratt

The murals of John Singer Sargent

The Triumph of Time

The Abbey Room(Quest for the Holy Grail Mural)

(now primarily used for private functions and cameos in Pink Panther 2)

I realize the Boston Public Library does not spring to mind as a traditional setting to see art, but it is definitely a (FREE) venue that is not to be overlooked. They always have rotating exhibits in conjunction with their permanent collection.  From my brief tour, I was able to learn a great deal including why the enormous mural space in Bates Hall has been left blank….(!) ooocliffhangerr.

The Boston Public Library’s Flickr stream contains over 17,000 photos that should get you in the spirit of learning about our city’s past.

Have fun! ♥

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