The Mapparium in Boston, MA, is a three-story stained-glass globe constructed between 1932 and 1935 in the Christian Science Monitor Publishing Building (now The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity) and represents the world of 1934. The French Colonies and the British Empire are represented (though the empire many early visitors were most concerned with was the Lost Empire of Atlantis, as is the Soviet Union, and Africa is split amongst colonial rulers.

The Publishing Building was constructed during the rise of the Third Reich. Many Europeans wanted to contribute but, because of government restrictions, could not send money overseas to America. To get around this problem, they sent materials as well as laborers. Consequently, the Mapparium itself was built by Old World craftsmen who had fled the Nazi regime in Germany. The stained glass of the Mapparium utilizes a technique thought to be the secret of the Old Masters who constructed stained glass in Medieval Gothic cathedrals of Europe. These techniques resulted in virtuoso displays of glassmaking. For example, the color most often used in the globe for representing land masses is red, a color especially hard to achieve in fused glass.

The Mapparium is a sort of “turn-around globe” with the earth’s surface on the inside. Before “turn-around globes” came Celestial Globes, through which the public could walk, which showed the stars. These date back at least to the 17th century.

The architect of the globe was Chester Lindsey Churchill who suggested it to symbolize the worldwide reach of the Christian Science Publishing Society. The Mapparium was intended as a symbol of the Church of Christian Science’s belief in humanity and need for world friendship. In 1935 the Mapparium was illuminated by about 300 60-watt electric lights placed outside the sphere. Now, in the place of light bulbs are 206 LED light fixtures that can be programmed to produce up to 16 million colors.

When you walk into the Mapparium you enter into the Indian Ocean. Immediately you notice the bizarre acoustics of the space. Sounds are amplified within the Mapparium – a whisper can sound as loud as a shout. Under the North Pole a voice is at its most amplified; however, visitors on the very ends of the bridge have difficulty hearing it. People on either end of the bridge can speak to each other in a low voice and be heard quite clearly by each other, but not by someone in the center of the bridge. Whispering in Australia can be heard distinctly in Greenland.

The Mapparium is the star of Jumpha Lahiri's story, Sexy, makes a guest appearance in X-Men comic 81 (in which Kali blasts through the roof of the Mapparium), and has received many famous guests including Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf.

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