Mission & History

Where we came from and where we’re going

Land Acknowledgement

The Leventhal Map & Education Center stands on land that was once a water-based ecosystem that provided for the Massachusett people who lived in the Greater Boston area. We acknowledge these indigenous people, the devastating effects of settler colonialism on their communities, and their contemporary presence.

Our Mission and Values

Adopted June 17, 2020

The Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library shall inspire curiosity and learning, and foster geographic perspectives on the relationships between people and places, through free and accessible collections and resources, critical interpretation and research, and K-12 and public education.

Values

  • Commit to integrity, excellence, respect in all our relationships, and professional library ethics*
  • Listen to and include community voices, especially those who have been less represented
  • Increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our organization and our work with others
  • Work to advance a more just and equitable society
  • Keep our spaces and community services open, welcoming, and “free to all”

*American Library Association Code of Ethics; Association of College and Research Libraries Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians

Our Commitment to Confront Systemic Racism

We condemn the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many, many more who have become victims of racial violence. These attacks are tragic symptoms of a long history of systemic racism, brutality, and inequality that continue to undermine the most basic rights of so many of our neighbors, family, friends, and fellow citizens.

We are called to take action to reveal and work towards ending these injustices. Maps, both historical and contemporary, reflect and shape our lives. Where Black and other people of color have been subjected to violence, discrimination, and depredation, maps can expose these patterns, assist in identifying and addressing inequities, and enable us to act against them.

We are renewed in our commitment to listen and educate ourselves more deeply about the racial dimensions of ingrained systems of domination, and to offer materials, free to all, that may help in this conversation. Here are just a few resources that show some of the geographic stakes of this struggle:

  • The Racial Dot Map of the United States allows you to see how strikingly segregated our cities remain in the present day
  • The Mapping Police Violence project shows how Black people bear a disproportionate share of harm from police violence
  • Closer to home, the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission’s State of Equity report maps patterns of racialized inequity in the Boston region

In our own programs, we commit to examining and confronting these geographic patterns of injustice. We will address the ways that maps have been used as instruments of oppression and tools of dominance, and explore how maps can be used to engender positive change. We will engage and amplify the voices of people of color in our interpretative programs. We will use maps to open discussion of the role of racism in the past and present. Perhaps most importantly, we will connect with and listen to communities of color, ask what more can we do, and do it humbly and justly.

This is a process which will take not only individual reflection but a collective effort. We will work with colleagues in libraries, museums, educational institutions, and community groups around the world to build efforts actively dedicated to a more just society.

June 16, 2020

History of the Center

The Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library, created in 2004, is a nonprofit organization established as a public-private partnership between the Library and philanthropist Norman Leventhal. Its mission is to use the collection of 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases for the enjoyment and education of all through exhibitions, educational programs, and a website that includes more than 10,000 digitized maps at collections.leventhalmap.org. The map collection is global in scope, dating from the 15th century to the present, with a particular strength in maps and atlases from the New England region, American Revolutionary War period, nautical charts, and world urban centers.

The Leventhal Map & Education Center is located on the first floor of the Library’s historic McKim Building in Copley Square. It includes an exhibition gallery that features changing thematic exhibitions; kids’ nooks with map puzzles, books, and activities; a public learning center with research books; and a reading room for rare map research

Educational programs for students in grades K-12 are offered to school groups on site and in the classroom. Lesson plans based on national standards are available on the website, and professional development programs for teachers are scheduled regularly throughout the year.

The Leventhal Map & Education Center is ranked among the top ten in the United States for the size of its collection, the significance of its historic (pre-1900) material, and its advanced digitization program. It is unique among the major collections because it also combines these features with exceptional educational programs to advance geographic literacy among students in grades K to 12 and enhance the teaching of subjects from history to mathematics to language arts. The collection is also the second largest in the country located in a public library, ensuring unlimited access to these invaluable resources for scholars, educators, and the general public.

Annual Reports

Our Annual Reports can be accessed through each link below. The Leventhal Center’s fiscal year runs July 1 - June 30.

Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report

Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report