BPL’s Jamaica Plain by Map event set for Jan. 14

Using Atlascope, the Leventhal Map & Education Center’s user-friendly portal for exploring urban atlases, users are able to see 200-year-old maps overlaid with modern ones in real time. Shown above, we can see that the modern day Arnold Arboretum used to be the President and Fellows of Harvard College. 

The Boston Public Library (BPL)’s Leventhal Map & Education Center is holding a free, virtual event where residents can learn about the history of the Jamaica Plain neighborhood via the BPL’s Atlasope program. Called Jamaica Plain by the Map, the event will provide a brief geographical history of the neighborhood from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and show how it has changed over the years, as well as highlight the Leventhal Map & Education Center’s Atlascope tool and how the public can use it.

The Gazette spoke with Rachel Mead, Public Engagement & Interpretation Coordinator at the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, to learn more about the event.

Mead said she has done several of these neighborhood historical events at different BPL branches across the city, and the upcoming JP one is the last one she has scheduled, and about the seventh one overall.

After building the Atlascope tool a little over a year ago, the Leventhal Map & Education Center “just wanted to give people hands-on experience with it and kind of personalize it so it was relevant to people who live in the specific neighborhoods,” Mead said. “We wanted to make it more fun and more interactive by bringing it into the branches instead of having more general talks about it.”

Though residents will not be able to speak during the event, they can write comments and questions in the chat for staff to respond to live on the stream, which can be viewed on YouTube or Facebook. 

Mead said that an introduction to the neighborhood is given and people are shown how to use the Atlascope tool (which can be found at https://atlascope.leventhalmap.org), and then a neighborhood-specific “historical geography talk”  will be given and people an ask questions about specific addresses or any other things they might want to learn more about. 

Mead said that at past events, residents will ask about their own home address or another significant address in their life to learn more about this history of it and the surrounding area.

“It’s really fun,” she said. Though the event is virtual because of the pandemic, and it can be “exhausting for people to look at their computers all day,” Mead said she hopes that these events are “something actually worth burning your eyes out for.” 

Mead also said that something to look out for in next week’s event is the placing of Stony Brook in a culvert, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and can be seen happening in the map that will be shown during the event. “When it was above ground it used to flood all the time,” she added.

The event, which is co-sponsored by the Jamaica Plain Historical Society, will take place virtually on January 14 from 7-8pm on the Leventhal Map Center’s YouTube and Facebook pages. The event is free, but registration can be done by using this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/jamaica-plain-by-map-tickets-130323748841

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