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John J. Burns Library



Boston College's special collections and rare books, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance.

Current Exhibit

Being Social Before Social Media

July 10 - October 6, 2017

Social media is defined as “websites and applications which enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” We once used telegrams, snapshots, postcards, letters, and scrapbooks to communicate with each other, organize our daily lives, and preserve memories. Drawn from John J. Burns Library archival collections, this exhibit endeavors to connect some of our legacy material culture with the apps of today.

Sponsored by the Boston College Libraries



Previous Exhibit

Dark Age Ahead or Systems of Survival? Jane Jacobs and the Ethics of Economies

April 10, 2017 - June 23, 2017


Are we headed for another "dark age," or do the moral foundations of our commerce and politics possess the resources and resilience to rebound? Urban theorist and activist Jane Jacobs examined these questions in her later works, which we present in this exhibition drawn from her personal papers held in Burns Library.

Thirty years ago, in April 1987, Jacobs made the first of several visits to Boston College to participate in a symposium devoted to her work. The celebrated author of the revolutionary Death and Life of Great American Cities, who had waged legendary protests against plans to bisect Lower Manhattan with an expressway, was then at work on a new book, one that would probe the ethical underpinnings of civic and commercial life and economic systems.

Jacobs’s encounters with BC faculty and students—particularly those involved with BC’s PULSE Program for Service Learning—gave new form to her writing. They prompted her to turn precepts and prologue into a Socratic dialogue, with lively characters relating their insights into the two distinct ways that humans make a living, either through trading or “raiding.” Their debate would yield a corresponding pair of implicit codes of conduct (“moral syndromes”) that can either foster healthy economic activity through a dynamic symbiosis, or, by unwittingly forming “monstrous hybrids,” threaten to doom civilization.

Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics appeared five years later in 1992. Its key ideas and their development are presented here, along with Jacobs’s last book, Dark Age Ahead, published in 2004, just two years prior to her death at age 89.

“We need continual but informal democratic explorations on the part of people who must thread their ways through governmental, business, or volunteer and grass-roots policies,” Jacobs wrote in her preface to Systems of Survival, “or must wrestle with the moral conflicts and ethical puzzles that sprout up unbidden in all manner of occupations.”


Earlier Exhibits

We invite you to browse a list of earlier exhibits held in Burns Library.