Category Archives: Free Exhibits

WBZ4’s Lev Reid Features Cambridge’s Black Trailblazers

Congratulations to the Cambridge Black History Project and their wonderful work, celebrating the lives of fifteen extraordinary Black Cantabrigians, Trailblazers, whose contributions and accomplishments have been often overlooked.

Stop by any Cambridge Public Library branch for a bookmark or come to the Main Library to view the Trailblazer exhibition, on display through February 28th.

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.  

Exhibition on WPA Muralist Elizabeth Tracy

WPA Muralist and Artist, Elizabeth Tracy

The Harvard Art Museums Archives is featuring an exhibit on WPA muralist and artist Elizabeth Tracy, later known as Tracy Montminy.  Tracy, along with Arthur Willis Oakman, painted the four murals in the Cambridge Public Library’s historic reading room.  The public is free to visit the exhibit this Thursday, October 25th from 12:00pm to 3:00pm, during the museum’s Archives Open Hours

The murals, commissioned by the Civil Works Administration in 1934, depict the ten divisions of knowledge that make up the Dewey decimal cataloguing system, and include:

  • “Religion,” on the east wall of the Delivery Room, featuring the City Seal of Cambridge, flanked by wreaths labeled General Works, Philosophy, Religion, Sociology and Philology.
  • “Fine Arts,” on the west wall of the Delivery Room, with a historic clock at its center, flanked with banners titled Literature, History, Useful Arts, Fine Arts and Pure Science.
  • “History of Books and Paper,” a series of three panels on the east end of the Reading Room, depicts the contributions of Babylon, ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome and medieval Europe.
  • “The Development of the Printing Press,” on the west wall of the Delivery Room, is the largest of the set, and follows the evolution of the printing press from Guttenberg in 1449 through the invention of the cylindrical press by Hoe and Co. in 1820. At the center is the 1639 Stephen Daye press of Cambridge, the first press in America.

The four murals were restored in 2009 when the Library was renovated.

Tracy’s mural, Religion, during the 2009 restoration at the Cambridge Public Library.

Tracy’s mural, The Development of the Printing Press, during the 2009 restoration at the Cambridge Public Library.

Best Food Forward: The Shoe Industry in Massachusetts

Illustration from The Union boot and shoe worker, 1900-1902. Courtesy of University of Wisconsin via HathiTrust.

Check out this great new online exhibit featuring the Massachusetts show industry, courtesy of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).  The DPLA has created several online exhibitions with material from collections all over the U.S.  There are some great topics, like Activism in the US, a History of US Public Libraries, and Patent Medicine Advertisements.

Miniature Book Exhibition

A leaf from an Italian breviary manuscript, rubricated on both sides and dating from about 1450.  The 3 inch tall page has five rubricated initials.   

Miniature Book Exhibition

Exhibition Location: Entrance and 2nd Floor, Glass Building

The definition of a miniature book depends on who is asked.  In the United States, many collectors feel that a miniature book is usually considered to be one which is no more than three inches (7.5 cm) in height, width, or thickness.  Some aficionados collect slightly larger books while others specialize in even smaller sizes.  Outside of the United States, books up to four inches are considered miniature by many.  The Library of Congress determined a miniature book to be one smaller than 4 inches (10 cm) in spine height.

The books in this exhibit represent a variety of sizes.  From 4 inches to one of the smallest in the world at .0394 inches (1 mm).  All of the books on display are “real” books, with pages that turn and with text and images on the pages, or sample pages from real books.

The categories of miniature books are:

Macro-Mini (between 4 and 3 inches tall)
Miniature (between 3 and 2 inches tall)
Micro-Miniature (between 2 and 1 inches tall)
Ultra Micro-Mini (less than 1 inch tall)

This exhibition is on loan from Joseph Curran, former President of the Miniature Book Society of America, and is in honor of the 2014 Book Fair of the Miniature Book Society, which is free and open to the public on Sunday, August 17th from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Taj Boston Hotel.

The Best Books about Cambridge You’ve Never Read

On left:  The Secret of Question Nine:  How We Lost Rent Control by Bill Cunningham, 1996.  On right:  Don Leslie, world renowned sword swallower and native Cantabrigian.

The Best Books About Cambridge That You’ve Never Read

The Cambridge Room, the Library’s Archives and Special Collections, has a vast collection of books on every subject imaginable about Cambridge, Massachusetts.  We’ve selected a few of our favorites – featuring bohemians, activists, hippies, teetotalers, revelers, restaurateurs, writers, design gurus, and urban planners.

With titles like, Peaking through the hole of a Bagel, Lewd, and Baby Let me Follow you Down  – what’s not to love.  These books are rare gems – one of a kind – in our collection and touch on the vast and unusual history of Cambridge.  Stop by the Cambridge Room on the second floor for more recommendations.

Exhibition Location: The Sakey Room on the first floor of the original Library building.

Cambridge Streets: Contested and Adored

On left:  The Streets of Cambridge:  An Account of their Origins and History by Lewis M. Hastings, City Engineer, 1921.  On right:  Harvard, Urban Imperialist by the Anti Expansion Anti ROTC Strike Steering Committee, 1969.

Cambridge Streets:  Contested and Adored

From lovingly recreated maps of Cambridge circa 1700 to rioting students in the 1960s, and from proposed demolition of neighborhoods to detailed plans of the urban landscape, this exhibition displays documents that show the ways in which the streets of Cambridge have been both a cause of celebration as well as a place of political contest. 

Exhibition Location: 2nd Floor of the Main Library

From Powder Magazine to Bath House : A Cambridge Room Exhibition


From Powder Magazine to Bath House

Exhibition Location:  2nd Floor of the Main Library

Built in 1818 by the Commonwealth on what was then called Captain’s Island, Cambridgeport’s powder magazine was used to store state and private gun powder and ammunition.  Once the magazine was operational, the “way to Captain’s Island” was renamed Magazine Street.   During the first half of the 19th Century, the building served as a magazine and was guarded by the Independent Corps of Cadets at the outbreak of the Civil War.   In 1863 after a response to a citizen petition, the magazine ceased to store public powder, beginning a decades-long decline into disrepair.

In the late 1890s, the City of Cambridge decided to create a park with access to a swimming beach along the banks of the Charles River and hired the Olmstead Brothers to redesign the “old magazine” as a bath house.  In 1899, the bath house opened – electric lights were installed for dusk dips in the Charles and three life guards were placed on duty until the park closed at 9 o’clock in the evening.  By 1901, 60,000 people visited the park annually.

After the Charles River was declared too polluted to swim in the 1950s, three public swimming pools were built along with a new bath house.  The historic bath house was converted to a garage for use by park workers and has since fallen into disuse.

The Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association is currently working with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to restore the “old magazine” as part of an effort to revitalize Magazine Beach.  For updates on the project, please visit

Sabot: A Cambridge Room Exhibition

Sabot, from the Cambridge Historical Objects, Cambridge Room, Archives and Special Collections.

Exhibition Location: The Sakey Room on the first floor of the original Library building.

n.  heavy work shoe worn by European peasants, especially in France and the Low Countries.  There are two kinds of sabots: one is shaped and hollowed from a single piece of wood (called klompen by the Dutch); the other is a heavy leather shoe with a wooden sole.

v.  deliberate destruction of property or slowing down of work with the intention of damaging a business or economic system or weakening a government or nation in a time of national emergency.

The word is said to date from a French railway strike of 1910 when workers destroyed the wooden shoes (sabots) that held the rails in place.  A few years later sabotage was employed in the United States in the form of slowdowns, particularly in situations that made a strike untenable—such as by migratory workers whose employment was temporary.

origin.  The sabot on display has a slight heel with detailed carvings across the front and side, reminiscent of leather creasing and patterning.  Nail stubs line the bottom of the shoe.

There is no known provenance or chronology of custody other than an old card catalog claiming that it came from the John Snelling Popkin Estate, which was located on Massachusetts Avenue near the Cambridge Common.  Popkin (1792- 1852) was a professor of Greek at Harvard University.