Author Archives: The Cambridge Room

Curator Talk: The Life and Metal Art of Abraham Megerdichian 

Date & Time:
October 12, 2022
6:30 – 8 pm
In Person
Cambridge Room, Main Library
REGISTER HERE

Join us for a curator talk on the life and metal art of Abraham Megerdichian.   Abraham’s son and decades long Cambridge resident, Robert, will “speak with” his deceased father about Abraham’s hobby of machining from solid scrap metal his interpretations of everyday objects, and then giving them away as gifts to family and friends.  After Abraham died in 1983 his pieces were put away, where many of them lay until 2013.  Since then Abraham’s son, Robert, has had pieces from the collection exhibited at nearly 20 venues in New England and beyond.  This talk accompanies the first major exhibit in Cambridge of Abraham’s artwork and professional photographer Scott Sutherland’s photographs of the artwork, which is on display at the Main Library from September 19th to October 14th.

Love in Metal: Abraham Megerdichian Machined Metal Miniatures  

Date & Time:
September 19 – October 14, 2022
Main Library Hours
In Person

Join us for the first major art exhibit in Cambridge of Abraham Megerdichian’s metal miniatures on display at the Main Library from September 19th to October 14th.  Lifelong local machinist, Abraham machined from solid scrap metal his interpretations of everyday objects, and gave them away as gifts to family and friends.  After Abraham died in 1983 his pieces were put away, where many of them lay until 2013.  Since then Abraham’s son, Robert, has had pieces from the collection exhibited at nearly 20 venues in New England and beyond.  Also on exhibit are professional photographer Scott Sutherland’s photographs of the artwork.  The artwork is on display throughout the Main Library –  in the lobby, on the second floor, in the Cambridge Room, and in the Children’s Room.  Join us for a curator talk by Robert on October 12 at 6:30 pm in the Cambridge Room.  

The Library Takes First Prize: 1975 4th of July Parade

Poster from the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation Records.

The United States Bicentennial was a significant event in the city of Cambridge. Planning for the two-year celebration began in 1971 and was managed by the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation. One of the corporation’s major events was the “Great Cambridge Parade,” held on July 4, 1975, to mark the 200th anniversary of General George Washington taking command of the Continental Army in Cambridge.

The festivities were extensive: Minutemen units, bands, floats, and ceremonial military units. Heading the parade was Richard B. Washington, a descendant of George Washington’s brother, John.

The Cambridge Public Library won first prize for their float called, “Ethnicity,” which “celebrates the city’s wide and diverse ethnic population and the rich customs they keep alive.”

The poster and photographs come from the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation Records, which are housed at the Cambridge Public Library’s Archives and Special Collections.

Recording Available – Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge

We were fortunate to have John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs and bibliophile, give the lecture Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge. The talk, part of the Spring Lecture Series from the Cambridge Room, was recorded on June 8, 2022.

The following is a description of the workshop and a short bio of John Hanson:

The burial grounds of old New England hold a wonderful range of poetic messages in the epitaphs carved on their gravestones, each a profound expression of emotion, culture, religion, and literature.  Too often dismissed as mere sentimental doggerel, these passages can be fascinating and well worth paying attention to.  After all, every single epitaph was chosen, deliberately, on an occasion of the utmost gravity and importance, the death of a parent or child or spouse or neighbor.  Join John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs, as he shares some outstanding verses on old stones in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground.  He will reveal their sources of inspiration, including Scripture, hymnody, poetry, and epitaphs made-to-order for a particular individual.  We will consider what these very personal choices tell us about early New Englanders’ attitudes towards life, death, and eternity.

John Hanson has been collecting early New England epitaphs for years, examining where the verses originated, how their source texts were accessed, and the spiritual and commercial context in which they were chosen and carved on gravestones.  He is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England (McFarland, 2021), and has published and spoken extensively on his research.  Hanson is a Massachusetts native, and lives in Cambridge and the Berkshires.  His book, Reading the Gravestones of Old New England, can be ordered directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

The Black Population of Cambridge by Census Year, 1790 – 2020

George Washington Lewis Jr. family at 47 Parker
Street. Photo ca. 1900. The Lewis Family, a large extended family, were a well known African American family who first established roots in Cambridge in the early 19th Century.
Census Year Total PopulationNumber of Black ResidentsPercent of Population
17902,115602.8%
18002,453251.0%
18102,32339*1.7%
18203,295531.6%
18306,072791.3%
18408,409770.9%
185015,215140**0.9%
186026,0603541.3%
187039,6348222.1%
188052,6691,5042.9%
189070,0281,9882.8%
190091,8863,8884.2%
1910104,8394,7074.5%
1920109,6945,3344.9%
1930113,6435,4194.8%
1940110,8794,8584.4%
1950120,7405,2804.4%
1960107,7165,6715.3%
1970100,3616,7836.8%
198095,32210,41810.9%
199095,80212,93013.5%
2000101,35512,07911.9%
2010105,16212,25311.7%
2020118,40812,52010.6%

*includes West Cambridge (1 person)
*includes 41 listed as Mulatto and 99 listed as Black

Citations:
1790, 1800, 1820, 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, 1960, 1980, 2000: from Slavery and Its Aftermath in Cambridge by Charles Sullivan, Executive Director, Cambridge Historical Commission, 13 January 2021. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/citymanagersoffice/monumentsadvisorycommittee/Slavery_and_its_Aftermath_in_Cambridge.pdf.

1810: Total from column, “all other free persons except Indians not taxed,” in 1810 census

1830: Total from column, “free colored persons,” in 1830 census

1850: Counted total from race column in the 1850 census

1870: Census totaled from race column in the 1870 census. Column totaled as “colored” and includes Black and Mulatto. Ward 1: 87; Ward 2: 626; Ward 3: 9; Ward 4: 82; Ward 5: 18. Total 822.

1890: Compendium of the Eleventh Census: 1890, Part I Population, Department of the Interior, Census Office, 1892. Cambridge is on page 552. Available here: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Compendium_of_the_Eleventh_Census_1890_P/L2tVWSA9xUAC?hl=en&gbpv=1

1900-1910: Negro population in the United States, 1790-1915, edited by William Loren Katz, 1968. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000053752499&view=1up&seq=104&skin=2021&size=125&q1=cambridge1950: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1950/population-volume-2/38840572v2p21ch4.pdf.

1910-1930: Negroes in the United States, 1920-1932, by United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1935. Available here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112047636300&view=1up&seq=83&size=125&q1=cambridge

1970: 1970 Census of Population, Characteristics of the Population, Massachusetts, 1973. Available here: https://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1970a_ma-01.pdf

1990: Comparison of Cambridge, MA. U. S. Census Short Form Results:
1980, 1990 & 2000
, Cambridge Community Development, 17 May 2004. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_1980to2000_sf1_comp.pdf

2010: Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010
Demographic Profile Data
, U.S. Census Bureau, 27 June 2011. Available here: https://www.cambridgema.gov/-/media/Files/CDD/FactsandMaps/PopulationData/Citywide/census_2010_sf1_profile.pdf

2020: Cambridge: Population and People, U.S. Census Bureau. Available here: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/profile?g=1600000US2511000

Cambridge Population: From Cambridge, Massachusetts Wikipedia Page, Demographics. Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge,_Massachusetts#Demographics

Register Now for Reading the Gravestones of Old Cambridge

Date & Time:
June 8, 2022
12:00pm – 1:00pm
Virtual
REGISTER HERE

The burial grounds of old New England hold a wonderful range of poetic messages in the epitaphs carved on their gravestones, each a profound expression of emotion, culture, religion, and literature.  Too often dismissed as mere sentimental doggerel, these passages can be fascinating and well worth paying attention to.  After all, every single epitaph was chosen, deliberately, on an occasion of the utmost gravity and importance, the death of a parent or child or spouse or neighbor.  Join John Hanson, expert on early New England epitaphs, as he shares some outstanding verses on old stones in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground.  He will reveal their sources of inspiration, including Scripture, hymnody, poetry, and epitaphs made-to-order for a particular individual.  We will consider what these very personal choices tell us about early New Englanders’ attitudes towards life, death, and eternity.

John Hanson has been collecting early New England epitaphs for years, examining where the verses originated, how their source texts were accessed, and the spiritual and commercial context in which they were chosen and carved on gravestones.  He is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England (McFarland, 2021), and has published and spoken extensively on his research.  Hanson is a Massachusetts native, and lives in Cambridge and the Berkshires.  Hanson is the author of Reading the Gravestones of Old New England and can be ordered directly from the publisher or from Amazon.

The Beauty of Book Binding and Decoration: Linked Spine Bindings

Date & Time:
May 11, 2022
7:00pm – 8:30pm
In Person
REGISTER HERE

Join book conservator, Sam Ellenport, for a talk on the history of linked spine bindings.  His illustrated talk will explore a little known aspect of bookbinding decoration, used on sets of books.  The binder makes use of the entire rectangle comprised of all the spines as a canvas on which to produce an overall design, whether representational or abstract. 

Sam Ellenport has been a hand-bookbinder since he bought The Harcourt Bindery in Boston over 40 years ago.  Trained as an historian, Sam has written and lectured about the history of the craft throughout the country.  He is a passionate collector of books about binding.  Committed to education, Sam helped establish the bookbinding program at the North Bennet Street School in 1986, and remains an advisor.  He has served in various positions among book-related organizations.  As a witness to the great sea-change occurring today in the book arts, Sam remains a defender of the classic aesthetic developed around the physical book.

Central to It All: A Look at Central Square, the Nightclub ManRay, and Twenty Years of Change

Date & Time:
April 27, 2022
7:00pm – 8:30pm
In Person
REGISTER HERE

Central Square in the 1980s was at the jumping-off point for a new beginning. Shops, restaurants, and long-standing businesses lined the square. However, the one area that was expanding greatly was in the realm of nightlife. Venues such as the Middle East, The Cantab Lounge, and T.T the Bears were bringing in both local and national performing artists. Joining these venues was a nightclub, Campus, on 21 Brookline St. In 1985, that space became ManRay. A nightclub that promoted what they called the “Art of Nightlife.” ManRay promoted dance nights for many cultures, sub-cultures, and scenes such as Goth, Industrial, Fetish, New Wave, and those in the LBGTQIA communities. Like the other music venues in the square, ManRay had a dynamic roster of artists and bands that performed there that included Divine, Peter Murphy, KMFDM, Sleep Chamber, and, most notably, Nirvana. 

Join Shawn Driscoll, author of We are But Your Children:  An Oral History of the Nightclub Manray (2021), us for a look into Central Square during the years of ManRay’s existence. Through presentation and a rich panel of speakers, we will explore the years of 1983 to 2006 and witness the growth and dynamic change within the square, through the lens of ManRay and its twenty years at 21 Brookline Street. Joining Driscoll will be:

Terri Niedzwiecki–Longtime Bartender, ManRay
MJ Pullins–Proprietor, Hubba Hubba
Emily Sweeney–Boston Globe Journalist, ManRay Attendee
Tony Lee (DJ Arcanus)–DJ (ManRay, Ceremony) ManRay Attendee
David “Daisy” Crowder–Bartender, ManRay

Recording Available – Democratizing Book Collecting: The First Bibliophiles of Cambridge

We were fortunate to have Drew Griffin, the Library’s Senior Librarian for Adult Services and bibliophile, join us for a lively and informative workshop titled, Democratizing Book Collecting: The First Bibliophiles of Cambridge. The workshop, part of the Spring Lecture Series from the Cambridge Room, was recorded on April 13, 2022.

The following is a description of the workshop and a short bio of Drew Griffin:

Democratizing Book Collecting: The First Bibliophiles of Cambridge
Join Drew Griffin, Senior Librarian at the Cambridge Public Library, as he delves into the history of book collection in Cambridge. By 1850 two of the finest book collections in the Boston area were located within half a mile of one another on Mass Ave between Central and Harvard Squares.  The two bibliophiles, Thomas Dowse and George Livermore, show a distinctly American approach to book collecting.  Unlike their British peers they came from humble backgrounds, didn’t attended college, and emphasized the democratic nature of their bookish pursuits by opening their libraries to the public (Dowse) and writing articles on book collecting for the nascent Cambridge Chronicle (Livermore).

Drew Griffin has worked at the Cambridge Public Library for the past 15 years in various capacities.  Since 2016, he has served as Senior Librarian in the Adult Services Department.  Drew’s area of expertise is genealogy and rare book librarianship.   Over the past 3 years, Drew has taught many of the Library’s popular genealogy workshops, including beginner’s genealogy and DNA testing and genealogical research.  Also, in his spare time, Drew is an avid rare book collector.  He is a member several bibliophile clubs, including the Grolier Club in New York City and the Ticknor Society in Boston. 


Democratizing Book Collecting: The First Bibliophiles of Cambridge

Date & Time:
April 13, 2022
12:00pm – 1:00pm
Virtual
REGISTER HERE

Join Drew Griffin, Senior Librarian at the Cambridge Public Library, as he delves into the history of book collection in Cambridge. By 1850 two of the finest book collections in the Boston area were located within half a mile of one another on Mass Ave between Central and Harvard Squares.  The two bibliophiles, Thomas Dowse and George Livermore, show a distinctly American approach to book collecting.  Unlike their British peers they came from humble backgrounds, didn’t attended college, and emphasized the democratic nature of their bookish pursuits by opening their libraries to the public (Dowse) and writing articles on book collecting for the nascent Cambridge Chronicle (Livermore).

Drew Griffin has worked at the Cambridge Public Library for the past 15 years in various capacities.  Since 2016, he has served as Senior Librarian in the Adult Services Department.  Drew’s area of expertise is genealogy and rare book librarianship.   Over the past 3 years, Drew has taught many of the Library’s popular genealogy workshops, including beginner’s genealogy and DNA testing and genealogical research.  Also, in his spare time, Drew is an avid rare book collector.  He is a member several bibliophile clubs, including the Grolier Club in New York City and the Ticknor Society in Boston.