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 ethics1
  • 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”

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.


  1. American Library Association Code of Ethics; Association of College and Research Libraries Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians ↩︎