On Tuesday, September 13 Finegold Alexander Architects – along with Boston’s Mayor Michelle Wu, Boston Public Library’s president David Leonard, BPL staff, key project team members and the public – celebrated the reopening of the Boston Public Library’s Special Collections Department. The BPL’s trove of historically important treasures includes among other items rare books, original manuscripts, prints, music, fine arts, and photography. The newly renovated space ensures the continued public access to—and the preservation of—these irreplaceable artifacts.
Finegold Alexander’s design addresses the needs of both staff and visitor. Administrative offices, the conservation work area, the collections stack and storage areas were reconfigured for more efficient operations. The public lobby and reading room now feature climate-controlled display cases, encouraging patrons to spend time and engage with the historic materials. Other building improvements include mechanical upgrades, the installation of a state-of-the-art fire suppression system throughout, and an enhanced security system. The $15.7 million project features 7 miles of stack shelving and museum-quality resources for over ¼ million books in a collection that spans centuries.
As reported in the Boston Globe, Mayor Michelle Wu praised the renovations in an interview at the library on GBH Radio: “We have some of the foremost gems of our country’s intellectual history right here in this building,” she said. “And if you go in the back, there’s now wide-open windows where you can see where they preserve it. ... It’s like a science lab in parts of it. It’s really incredible, the work that happens here.”
Some of the exciting documents in the collection include original printings of the Declaration of Independence; Robert McCloskey’s sketches and preliminary drawings for Make Way for Ducklings; a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, which was printed in his lifetime; and the Robert Aitken Bible, known as “The Bible of the Revolution”, the first complete English-language bible to be printed in America.
In a video shared with the public (above), the BPL’s President David Leonard spoke to the mission of both the Library and the Special Collections Department: “These collections belong to the people of Boston. We are simply their custodians. And with the opening of the new space, we look forward to welcoming casual and scholarly researchers to explore and discover these amazing treasures.”
Finegold Alexander Architects is proud to be part of this effort and is excited to share photos of the space as we launch the landing page of the BPL Special Collections project on our firm’s website, which you can now see, here.