Feature: Inside the world, looking out

By DAVID D. HASKELL  |  Nov. 2, 2002 at 8:30 AM
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BOSTON, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Visitors to the Mapparium at the Christian Science Church in Boston enjoy the unique experience of looking at the world from the inside out.

The Mapparium is a three-story spherical stained glass map depicting the political geography of the world as it existed in the mid 1930s.

As one stands inside the globe -- the center of the earth, so to speak -- the planet is visible in its entirety, the North Pole above and the South below, with the brightly colored continents, countries and islands all around.

Inside, visitors view the 30-foot-diameter sphere from a crystal-clear footbridge linking the Pacific to the Indian Ocean at the Equator.

"People love the globe," tour guide Jon Michael Ramler explained to United Press International.

He cautioned the tourists not to lean over the footbridge rail, because if something were to fall to Antarctica below, "We won't be able to get it back for you."

Located in the church's recently renovated Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity, the Mapparium shows the political landscape of a world carved out by colonial superpowers as it existed in 1935.

Vietnam did not yet exist. It was French Indochina. Pakistan was part of the British Raj, Indonesia was the Netherlands Indies, and Uzbekistan belonged to the Soviet Union.

The $50 million renovation of the former publishing house at the headquarters of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, included updating the technology in the Mapparium.

The 300 60-watt light bulbs originally used to backlight the 605 curved glass panels of the map have been replaced with a new light and sound show.

The refurbished Mapparium uses words, music, and 206 LED light fixtures, producing 16 million colors, to illustrate how ideas have traversed time and geography and changed the world.

The introduction of the new technology "allows us to tell a very dramatic story about how ideas have changed the world," according to Chet Manchester, creative director for the library.

The Mapparium was designed and built over three years by Boston architect Chester Lindsay Churchill, and was built to a scale of 22 miles to the inch.

In terms of its architectural and cartographic achievement, there is no other globe in the world like it.

"It's like a world frozen in time," Ramler noted. "It no longer exists."

(For more information, see the Web site marybakereddylibrary.org)

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