Boston Public Library



Boston Public Library

Catalog Entry

The artifact I would like to talk about is not necessarily a piece of history you can hold in your hand or observe to take in the art style and history of other cultures. It is a door to discover more than the surface of learning. My theme revolves around trying to spread knowledge without having to excavate and hold important artifacts in museums in foreign countries. The library I decided to take as an artifact is one of New England's oldest and largest places of learning, the Boston Public Library.

The premise of museums is you go and look at relics of old and you read a small summary for a few minutes and move on to the next exhibit and so on. I believe if true learning and interest can be sparked it can be nourished in the walls of a different building, that of a library not a museum. There is a basic appeal to visiting museums and looking at parts of history and getting a glimpse of other cultures' art, lifestyles, etc. When you go to libraries such as Boston’s Public Library you can get a hold of something much better than a one-hundred-word summary on artifacts, other cultures, and other parts of the world altogether. When I chose this theme to discuss I started off as thinking certain artifacts in certain museums should be given back to their rightful lands and peoples, but I think this artifact gave me a different light after exploring this thought more. Overall the goal of museums in my eyes is to inspire younger children to like history and to get them to learn in a relaxed environment, and to visit a Library the goal is to get work done and study. I find this confusing because libraries and museums should go hand in hand; they both offer knowledge and access to material on foreign, local, and all kinds of historical information, so why are museums so much more popular than libraries?

To continue the question on my mind, I have to ask why are libraries only seen as a resource to use for study and not as a place to learn in recent years? In my opinion if kids were to be given one day in a library instead of museum they would be able to learn so much more and then some. However, museums have the appeal of being able to walk through exhibits and show the past in collections, while making it seem like no work or learning is being forced onto you. Why has there been no push to integrate these two forms of storage for knowledge and cultural relics before? In my research I found very few museums with dedicated libraries that came along with the rest of their collections. It seems like such a wasted opportunity to not establish this relationship between reading and observing history in these two similar places. Ideally I would see someone walking through an exhibit being fascinated with an Egyptian artifact and then going a mere few steps and finding a library with access to all kinds of Egpytian-based texts, historical records, and more. Would merging these two ideas not solve the flaws that come with these two places of learning? Museums' ease and relax observational aspects to draw in the crowd and the libraries' knowledge and availability of texts and extended research for learning would make for an excellent combination. 

When I was researching the Boston Library's history I found an amazing collection of investors, both government and private, donating these amazing sums of money and books over the many decades since its creation. This came as no major shock since public facilities normally come from generous donations to allow the greater masses to enjoy its benefits, but what did catch my attention was the amount of appreciation for this library in particular. Its popularity compared to the Boston Museum of Fine arts was astounding; the Boston Public Library averages around over four to five million visitors per year to research, work, and study in their walls while the Boston Museum of Fine Arts has an average of only one million visitors. The majority of these visitors to the library are working students and those researching topics for their jobs, future careers, or personal interests, while the MFA's visitor count leans heavily towards younger audiences and family-related trips. The Boston Public Library is my example of what learning could be in the future if libraries could create exhibit-like wings in relation to the type of learning/area of learning. Would it not draw in more people and help develop both interest for learning and the amount of information learned?

In my opinion there is a lack of the desire to learn and an even greater gap in the accessibility to learn for early education, and this idea could be a possible solution. I grew up in the years before technology really started becoming a popular tool in learning and was taught subjects through books in the local library after being assigned projects on certain cultures or periods of history. And I believe I can say with confidence having spent all that time in books and researching topic after topic, it can spark a kid's attention and lead them to learn so much more than opening up a tablet and looking up answers on Google. In a very similar manner when visiting museums as a kid I loved seeing all the different ancient cultures and their artifacts that represented them in the exhibits, but if you ask me about the museum exhibits I can probably recall one out of the hundreds I've been to while being able to still remember the Egyptian gods after ten years since I lasted studied them. So to wrap my thoughts up, I would like to ask once more: why not try to aim for an inbetween of these two centers of learning for the better of the new generations?


“About Us.” Boston Public Library,

“Annual Report.” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 

“BPL History.” Boston Public Library,

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Dominic Malo, Student, Fitchburg State University

ALFA Mentor

Veda Ross


“Boston Public Library,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed September 27, 2022,

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