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Website, Exhibit Shed New Light on the Hub’s Storied Past

Image credit: Robert Segal (SEGALDESIGN)

Chestnut Hill, Mass. (April 2012) – An interactive web site ( has been launched to accompany a new exhibition on literary Boston between the Revolution and the Civil War, which opened last month and is on display until July 30, 2012 at the Boston Public Library (BPL), with a satellite exhibition at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS).

The exhibit and web site are titled “Forgotten Chapters of Boston’s Literary History.” Curated by Boston College Professor of English Paul Lewis, the project is the result of a creative, collaborative effort by BC faculty, students and staff. It provided BC students, enrolled in Lewis’ same-titled seminar last fall, with a first-hand educational experience: their participation has included all aspects of the exhibit.

“Forgotten Chapters” draws on the collections of the BPL, MHS and American Antiquarian Society to tell stories about Boston’s literary history that have faded from popular memory. Divided into six sections, it comprises more than 100 letters, manuscripts, and early editions of works by both famous and forgotten Boston literary figures. 

Exhibition web site []

“The streets of Boston are haunted by the ghosts of forgotten writers and editors.” So reads the opening statement on the web site, launched on March 28 to accompany the exhibit opening. It provides a full-scale version of the exhibit, and invites viewers to explore its themes and extensive materials about the works on display.

To create the innovative web site, Lewis received a BC Academic Technology Innovation Grant (ATIG). According to Cristina Joy, manager of Administrative Services at BC’s Instructional Design and eTeaching Services (IDeS), he “used this as an opportunity to collaborate with students and give them hands-on experience as ‘citizen scholars’ charged with contributing to a scholarly resource for the public.

“He designed a course that involved students in discussing topics related to the exhibit and doing original research to generate interpretive materials such as labels and audio commentaries. He created a richer and more collaborative way to teach 19th-century literature and culture, and created a valuable online resource that will be available to the public after the exhibit closes,” she added.

BC’s IDeS—which is marking its 10th anniversary—managed the development of the website and supported Lewis and his students in creating more than 140 pages of multimedia exhibit content. The site also features a mobile audio component that visitors can listen to on their mobile devices while viewing the exhibit--the first ever smart phone-based audio tour at the Boston Public Library, according to Joy--and an interactive map of Boston that highlights sites associated with pre-1860 literature.

The “Forgotten Chapters” Exhibit

“The city of Boston does too little to celebrate and memorialize the contributions its writers, editors, and publishers made to US literature from the 1790s on,” said Lewis. “Moving beyond the canonical authors of the American Renaissance, the exhibit highlights authors, works and genres that deserve more attention.”

The exhibit is supported by Boston College, including the College of Arts & Sciences, American Studies Program, Institute for the Liberal Arts, Instructional Design and eTeaching Services, and Newton College Alumnae Chair in Western Culture. Funding was provided through both the Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring Grant (TAM) and the Academic Technology Innovation Grant (ATIG) programs.

[Exhibit news release: /content/bc/offices/pubaf/news/2011_jun-aug/forgotten-chapters.html]

Media Contact: Paul Lewis (Curator), Professor, English Department, Boston College, (617) 552-3710;
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--Office of News & Public Affairs