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Current Exhibitions

From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary

April 2, 2016 through August 28, 2016

In 1891 landscape architect, Charles Eliot asserted the bold idea to form an organization that would preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts. At a time when land conservation and ‘being green’ was not widely discussed, his vision was forward thinking. Today, the organization he founded, The Trustees of Reservations, oversees more than 26,000 acres of preserved places from the Atlantic Coast to the Berkshire Mountains.

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library is partnering with The Trustees in celebration of their 125th Anniversary on a 70-item exhibition, featuring maps, photographs, and historical items from both collections. Visitors will be introduced to Trustees properties, become familiar with a number of distinctive map formats, learn about natural landforms and geologic terms, and cultivate an appreciation for the natural, historical, and cultural treasures of Massachusetts.

Hy-Brasil: Mapping a Mythical Island

June 29, 2016 through October 23, 2016

In 1325, an island appeared on a nautical chart, just off the southwest coast of Ireland. This island, shrouded in mist, was said to appear once every seven years and was home to an advanced race that was immune to sickness and the passing of time. This mystical place, known variously as Brasil, Brazil, Breasil, Hy-Brasil, O’Brasil and numerous other names, would appear on maps for the next five centuries. Its exact location on maps would change over the years, and numerous expeditions would venture into the North Atlantic Ocean to find the island. Some mariners claimed to have discovered the legendary island; however, these reports teemed with fantastic accounts of alien beings, and eventually fell into legend.

In this online exhibition of forty maps from the collection at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library and the Mapping Boston Foundation, visitors will see the transition of Hy-Brasil over the course of five centuries from legitimate island destination, to “imaginary” place, to simply a “rock,” before it finally stops appearing on maps in the late 19th century. A variety of map formats are included in the online exhibition, such as portolan charts, woodcut engravings, copperplate engravings and lithographic prints. Hy-Brasil even makes an appearance on a 1492 globe.

In addition, several sketch books and drawings of internationally acclaimed visual artist Caoimhghin Ó Fraithile (Quee-veen Ó Frá-ha-la) (Ireland) will be on display in the Leventhal Map Center gallery. His sketchbooks illustrate images of his site-specific floating artwork entitled “South of Hy-Brasil,” a three-dimensional piece that will be sited in the lagoon behind the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from early summer through mid-October 2016. His floating work is part of Tír na nÓg, a temporary public art project in the Fenway section of the Emerald Necklace park system.

The outdoor artwork by Mr. Ó Fraithile is part of Ireland’s 2016 Centennial – a global initiative to mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising which set Ireland on its path for independence. Tír na nÓg, and its related exhibitions and events, are supported by Culture Ireland as part of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme. Medicine Wheel Productions is the lead organization for Tír na nÓg and their Cultural Partner is the Fenway Alliance. Additional key supporters of the project are Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Consulate General of Ireland in Boston, and Boston Parks and Recreation. To learn more about Medicine Wheel and Tír na nÓg, or to see a full listing of project sponsors and collaborators, please visit: http://mwponline.org/wordpress/projects/tir-na-nog/

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center (http://maps.bpl.org)