Libraries are a cornerstone of our democracy, a place where ideas are promulgated and exchanged in a barrier-free environment. Through We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence, Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map Center engaged library-goers in conversations about modern definitions of liberty by using the liberty tree as a physical and virtual symbol of dialogue and protest. The exhibit was staged in the Boston Public Library’s McKim Building and supported with interpretive programming at the Center, including teacher workshops and public programs.
We Are One was on display from May to October of 2015 in the main exhibition hall of the Boston Public Library and received over 107,000 visitors. In that time period, the Leventhal Map Center presented a number of programs for K-12 teachers, children, and the general public as well as an interactive installation connected to the 250th anniversary of the Liberty Tree in Boston.
The Liberty Tree project, installed in May of 2015, had a multi-part approach: a physical tree installed in the lobby area outside the Map Center entrance where visitors could write their responses and post their answer to the prompt “what does liberty mean to you?” on the tree; collection boxes and, in some cases, other trees installed at Boston Public Library branches and Freedom Trail historic sites such as the Paul Revere House; and invitations to post responses on social media with the hashtag #libertytreebpl. Over 10,000 leaves were created and posted in the various physical and virtual locations.
In mid-July of 2015, Leventhal Map Center completed a one-week K-12 teacher institute entitled Mapping Boston’s Role in the Revolution with 28 participants. A two-day workshop, Visualizing the American Revolution, in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on July 28-29 was attended by 14 teachers. In both workshops, teachers took part in interactive sessions on teaching the American Revolution with maps, visuals, and other primary sources. The We Are One exhibition was an integral part of both workshops.