A world of insight in 20 minutes

(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/File 2002)
By Steve Greenlee
Globe Staff / May 28, 2011

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If you were going to name the seven wonders of Boston, the Mapparium would certainly be on the list. Located in the Mary Baker Eddy Library at the Christian Science Complex on Massachusetts Avenue, the Mapparium doesn’t take long to visit — a “tour’’ lasts maybe 20 minutes — but it will leave you in awe.

Designed by architect Chester Lindsay Churchill and built in 1935 for the Christian Science Monitor, the Mapparium is a three-story globe made up of 608 colored glass panels. Visitors walk through the globe on a bridge and basically stand there, in wonder, as the tour guide describes how it was constructed. Other than a four-year cleaning and restoration that concluded in 2002, the Mapparium hasn’t been updated since it opened. So the world as it was in 1935 — with countries that included Siam and Italian East Africa — is what you see there. A brief light-and-sound show helps keep the kids interested.

Because the globe is made of flat glass panels, the Mapparium is interesting acoustically. If you stand at one end and whisper, a person at the other end will hear you as though you were standing next to her. My kids and I had a blast whispering “booga booga’’ to each other once the official part of the tour was over.

When you’re done with the Mapparium, you can explore other parts of the library. The Hall of Ideas, in the building’s beautiful neoclassical hall, features a mesmerizing water fountain where quotes and words are projected from high above. The Quest Gallery, which includes interactive exhibits about Eddy’s life, compelled my kids to spend way too much time dragging images around on a computer and projecting their “artwork’’ onto a giant screen.

Admission to most of the Mary Baker Eddy Library is free, though a trip inside the Mapparium will run you $6 for adults and $4 for kids, students and seniors (children younger than 6 get in for free).

Mary Baker Eddy Library, 200 Massachusetts Ave. 617-450-7000. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHO: Globe features editor Steve Greenlee, his wife, and their three kids

WHAT: Going into middle Earth

WHERE: The Mapparium

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