ArticleAn interview with Fall 2022 Northeastern co-op, Ezra Acevedo
We’re excited to welcome Ezra Acevedo to the team as the Fall 2022 co-op student serving as Visitor Services & Exhibition Assistant. Ezra is a student at Northeastern University studying International Affairs and will be working at the Map Center until December 2022. We sat down with Ezra to learn more about their interests and work on upcoming Map Center exhibitions.
Tell us a bit about your background. What are you currently studying at Northeastern and what made you choose to work at the Map Center during your co-op experience?
I’m originally from Massachusetts and I’ve lived in the area my whole life, which I think instilled in me a love of traveling and a need to see more of the world. I’m an International Affairs major at Northeastern University, which at first might seem like an odd fit for a museum centered around cartography and geography, but I feel like my background and interests actually align themselves very well to this work. (After all, if you’re interested in anything international, you should know your world geography.) I approach International Affairs from a cultural perspective, which means that I focus on taking a lot more Area Studies and History classes than most similar majors.
I think I’ve always been incredibly fascinated by geography and maps and how we portray space, history, and data. Maps can tell us so much information about the world they’re made in and they can also be really beautiful to look at, sometimes they are even art-like. I really wanted to get experience working in a museum or archive for my co-op, so when I found the Map Center it felt like the perfect intersection of everything I wanted to do.
Are there any maps that you’ve been particularly fascinated by?
The classic MBTA map that you see at all the stations is what first comes to mind. I’ve been visiting Boston using the commuter rail and the T since I was young, but ever since I moved to Boston, it’s like my whole life revolves around that MBTA map. It’s a very important map when you’re getting to know the city, but it warps the distances between stations for obvious practical reasons (to make it all fit and to look nice). Despite the warped scales between the lines, it was still really useful for me in learning how to get around the city, and where everything is in relation to one another.
There’s this one particular map I love of all the green line train lines on the platform at Hynes Convention Center station. It was a curiosity for me for quite some time because it displayed stops that are no longer there. It shows a discontinued section of the E line extending all the way to the Arborway station - right next to Forest Hills. That map prompted me to learn more about the history of the MBTA and how the lines have changed over the years - in this case, how the E branch was cut back to its current terminus at Heath Street. I think that was one of the first few times that I went looking for answers when a map made me curious about the story behind it.
You’re finishing up your second full week of working in our gallery at the Central Library. Are there any parts of the current exhibition More or Less in Common that you’re especially drawn to?
I’ve found myself interested in our maps from the 1800s depicting Managing People, Managing Nature part of the exhibit, because it reveals a side of Boston’s history I was unaware of. I’m very familiar with the Back Bay Fens due to it’s proximity to Northeastern, but I wasn’t familiar with the former South Bay, nor its history. The maps in More of Less in Common reveal that while both of these Bays were once huge dumping grounds for sewage and industry, one was turned into the Back Bay Fens - the beautiful park and upper class neighborhood - while the South Bay, which was experiencing the same problems, was allowed to continue to industrialize and be polluted. Despite living in Boston for a number of years now, I had never heard the second half of the story and seen how these historical roots influence our current realities of people’s access to green space and exposure to ecological hazards.
What are you excited about working on in the next six months?
I’m excited to get to know the More or Less in Common exhibition! There’s so much to explore and talk about in any single map in the exhibition, especially with a multifaceted topic like environmental justice. For example, the “City of Unequal Risks” map offers a viewer a ton of information in a visually appealing way, and because of the depth of the information, can be explained many different ways. I’m glad I’m going to get a chance to explore these perspectives through giving tours and writing articles for the Map Center.
I’m also helping to shape and produce a more permanent exhibition that will be part of our gallery. I’m looking forwards to it immensely, especially learning about curation and exhibition work. I think it will be a great opportunity to learn and participate in one of the coolest parts of the Map Center, which is the fact that we can display the maps in our archives and collections for public viewing.
I know you’ve only just gotten here, but do you have a favorite map in the LMEC collections?
I don’t think I’ve found a favorite map yet (there’s just too many to choose from!), but I am incredibly fond of this map of all the public libraries in Massachusetts in 1904. I love libraries and this map is a really beautiful representation of the distribution of libraries at the time. It’s a cool example of a data set being turned into something very visually detailed and appealing. I’m also a big fan of it because I recognize a fair number of the libraries, many of them are still in the same buildings, including my hometown library!
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