Bored tonight? Go see the Magna Carta for free.

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is free today thanks to a special Free Fun Fridays program from the Highland Street Foundation. One of the four original copies of the Magna Carta is there this summer. I saw it Wednesday night. When in your lifetime are you going to have the chance to admire such a fine document from almost 800 years ago (799, really)? It’s amazing to think about how someone had the presence of mind that long ago to try to preserve that thin parchment and those elegantly penned lines that became critically important to many governments.

The exhibit does not allow photography, so alas, I personally have no proof. (Yeah, no selfie with 800-year-old parchment.) It made me wonder how, in this age of sharing, it would change things if the museum or the document’s owner, Lincoln Cathedral, or someone would provide an image or something we could all share, send to friends, and view to get closer looks at this amazing piece of history.

Like the gorgeous quilts on display now, it makes me ponder why some people keep some things and not others, why go to the lengths to preserve some of the things we do. Not that I’m saying these things are not worth preserving, just how is it that some of these things that are hundreds of years old have survived, been handed down, found their way into hands that would cherish them, etc. And items like the quilts end up telling us so much about how people lived and what they had in the 1800s or so. What cultures influenced others; what colors, patterns, and fabrics were available; what was likely to end up in a blanket. But talking about the quilts, even though some tell terrific stories and, of course, they’re fibre arts–hobbies closely associated with librarians–is not nearly as germane as talking about a major historical document. It would be way too off topic, perhaps, for me to say that the collectors focused on the same pattern as my Mom’s quilt, the one she and some women made when our church experimented with a quilting group a while back. The ones on display were amazing variants on that pattern, one of which in particular caused more people than just me to gasp and admire it in wonder. Oh, the patience and creativity that went into some of those threads!

Besides, what else are you going to do tonight? It’s not like there’s a football game.

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