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Boston Public Library map center adds virtual tour

An exhibit at the Boston Public Library includes maps from the past 500 years, including this one on climates and crops from 1831. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library

If you’re too tied up to take the train to Copley Square and venture into the Boston Public Library to view the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center’s latest exhibit, there’s now an easier way to enjoy what’s on display.

Curators from the map center revealed this week the launch of a new “3D virtual tour” of the entire museum space, allowing map enthusiasts and art lovers alike to take a “walk” through the exhibit with the click of a computer mouse — and without ever leaving a desk chair.

The exhibit, called “Regions and Seasons: Mapping Climate through History,” explores climate and weather patterns through the use of maps from the center’s collection. It’s open to the public and will be on display through Aug. 27.


“Regions and Seasons” is essentially a deep-dive into “cartographic innovation,” spanning the last 500 years. It compares maps dating back to the 15th century — pictures and drawings of faces that were used to depict which way the wind was blowing, for example — to today’s digital technology, according to a description of the exhibit.

The present-day part of the display includes visuals of areas of Boston at risk of flooding due to the threat of sea-level rise and storm surges.

The 3D-tour offered online gets visitors up-close-and-personal. By placing a cursor over certain parts of the museum space, users can simply click and then zoom in to pore over the maps selected for the exhibit.

The virtual tour is so detailed, people can even read the fine print on the plaques posted to the walls that describe each display. Or, if they need a break, they can peer out the windows and onto the library’s courtyard.

Connie Chin, president at the map center, said curators decided to launch the online component to maximize people’s access to the exhibit.


“The 3D tour is a fun new way to explore the exhibition online even if you haven’t been able to get to Copley Square,” Chin said in a statement. “It’s part of our overall digital strategy and augments our extensive online offerings.”

The 3D venture takes enthusiasts through the map center.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.