Land Conservation Comes to Life at the BPL

A new exhibit at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center opens April 2.

from the Sea to the Mountains

Map of Existing and Proposed Open Spaces in Massachusetts, 1929 / Photo provided by the Trustees

Prior to 125 years ago, organized land conservation didn’t exist.

That is, until Charles Eliot put forth a new idea—to create an organization that would preserve properties in Massachusetts. It would work to conserve places with impressive scenery, ecological value, and history, and maintain them for public use and enjoyment.

Thus, the first land preservation organization in the world, the Trustees, was born in 1891. The nonprofit has been carrying out Eliot’s mission since, as it now oversees more than 26,000 acres of preserved land from the Berkshires to the Atlantic coast.

For the Trustees’ 125th anniversary, the organization is teaming up with the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library to exhibit a collection of Massachusetts land treasures. A total of 70 rare maps dating back to the 1800s, historic and modern photographs, and other items will be featured at the exhibit, entitled From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary.

Meant to display many of the Trustees’ properties over time, the exhibit will also teach visitors about various Massachusetts landforms and geologic terms, and create awareness about the natural and historic value in the state.

“How appropriate to view our history through the lens of a map exhibition as we have literally been transforming, influencing, and saving the landscape of the Commonwealth for 125 years,” said Trustees president and CEO Barbara Erickson in a statement.

“From the bird’s-eye view, we can see how the state has changed; what has been saved, lost, and where our future lies.”

The exhibit will also display belongings of former owners of Trustees properties, painting a picture of how days were lived out on the land—whether that meant fishing, hunting, gardening, reading, hiking, berry picking, or picnicking.

From the Sea to the Mountains: The Trustees 125th Anniversary will be on view April 2 through August 28 at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston,