Imagine a large, hollow glass ball, encased inside a building with lights illuminating all sides, with a fancy glass footbridge traversing through its middle. The glass of the ball – stained glass – a map of the world. The Mapparium was an amazing feat that today would take more time or money than anyone would be willing to invest.
Located inside the library dedicated to Mary Baker Eddy, and just next door to the headquarters of the Christian Science Monitor, this grand feat of glass and color was designed and built by craftsmen of the Old World who’d fled Germany during the rise of Hitler. Due to the era in which it was made, the borders of the many countries are frozen in time, circa 1935, meaning you won’t find countries such as Vietnam or Israel.
The framework of the huge globe is constructed of bronze, which is interlaced with more than 600 colored glass panels, beautifully lit from the outside by more than 300 lights. Electrical clocks sound for the equator, which keeps nearly perfect time with the actual rotation and timing of the earth. The bridge has patrons entering via the Indian Ocean, exiting via the South Pacific. And, the acoustics are strange – if you whisper softly around Australia, your words travel perfectly to Greenland.
After restoring The Mapparium for four long years, it was reopened to the public in 2002. They augmented the globe with a super light show and an updated sound system. It was tricky designing the sound system, for the reason described above. While standing/walking through the globe, visitors now get to experience a six-minute presentation, explaining the how and why of The Mapparium.
Even though upgrades were completed on many of the systems within The Mapparium, many are happy to say that they countries’ borders remain the same as when designed (with the help of those Old World architects) by native Bostonian, Chester Lindsay Churchill.
Hours are variable, so calling ahead of time will alleviate any wasted trips, as the parking lot can fill up fast during busy times and the only other parking is on metered city streets or parking garages, which can get quite pricey. Call 617.450.7000.