Boston University Mugar Memorial Library
Boston University’s Mugar Memorial Library is a library located in the center of the university’s Charles River Campus. The library is attached to the George Sherman Union, which is the university’s predominant gathering space for students. The building is constructed in close proximity to Marsh Chapel, Marsh Plaza, and the Boston University Beach. The Charles River Esplanade can be seen from certain sections of the library. The library is the largest on Boston University’s campus, housing majority of the humanities and social sciences collections. Gifted in 1966 by Stephen P. Mugar, the library was dedicated to his parents, Sarkis and Vosgitel Mugar.
Backstory and Context
Stephen P. Mugar (1901-1982) was born in the town Kharpert in the Ottoman Empire, which is now the country of Turkey. He emigrated to the United States with his father, mother, and two sisters in the year 1906 to join his uncles in Boston, Massachusetts. The original Armenian family name of “Mugardichian” was shorted to “Mugar” when the family arrived. His mother took on a waitressing job, as listed in the 1910 United States Census, and bore another daughter, named Helen. The family lived in the 19th Ward of Boston.
Stephen’s father, Sarkis Mugar, bought a small grocery store called the Star Market in 1916. Located in Watertown, Sarkis paid $800 for the original store. Stephen took over the store in 1922 when his father died in an automobile accident at the age of 49. Past merely looking after his mother and sisters, Stephen had ideas of expanding the grocery store to more locations in order to better service the area. In 1932, the second Star Market was opening in Newtonville with a third one following five years later in Wellesley.
Expansion slowed down during the period of World War II as there were mandated restrictions and some shortages in the amount of supplies that Mugar was able to acquire. As the postwar economy allowed for larger affluence, Mugar worked with his younger cousin, John M. Mugar, to open more stores throughout the area. In 1948, a second Star Market was opened in Newtonville. This store was conceived as a supermarket instead of a small grocery shop. Many of the modern staples of supermarkets are attributed to this particular store, such as packaging meats in foam and cellophane I order to increase sanitation and make it easier for customers to pick up. John M. Mugar would go on to become president of the Star Market chain.
With the fortune that he made from the success of the Star Market chain, Stephen P. Mugar used his money for philanthropic purposes, namely contributions to educational institutions and causes that benefited the progress of Armenian people worldwide. One such gift was the Mugar Memorial Library to Boston University in 1966. Mugar dedicated the library to his parents. An inscription near the entrance of the library reads out:
“In coming to America from Armenia my parents opened the door of Freedom to me. America's public schools & libraries opened my eyes to the unlimited opportunity in this great land, as well as the privileges and obligations of citizenship. May this library serve over the years as a similar inspiration to all who use it. In memory of my father and mother Sarkis and Vosgitel Mugar. By their grateful son”
– Stephen P. Mugar –
While Mugar Memorial Library functions as a normal library, it also provides a Services and Technology Help Desk. In order to accommodate the spectrum of work schedules that student have, the library stays open until 2AM during the normal semester and twenty-four hours a day during the period when finals take place. The building, which is split into six floors, house a multitude of archives and exhibits. The ground floor contains a rotating exhibit that showcases artifacts from the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. The aforementioned research center was founded in 1963 and housed in a separate location until the completion of the library. It specializes in popular contemporary figures, containing artifacts from the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. to Robin Williams. The Research Center contains documents dating all the way back to the sixteenth century that belonged to prominent figures such as signers of the Declaration of Independence. The first floor also houses a computer lab open to Boston University students and staff. The second through fifth floors contain a Music Library, reading rooms, study lounges, and other such features. The sixth floor is home to the African Studies Library, which is the center for all research pertaining to the continent of Africa for both undergraduate and graduate students.
. About the Mugar Memorial Library, Accessed November 12th 2019. http://www.bu.edu/library/mugar-memorial/about/.
. Accessed November 12th 2019. http://archives.bu.edu/about.
. Mugar Enterprises Inc.. Accessed November 12th 2019. http://www.mugar.com/philanthropy/.
. Accessed November 12th 2019. https://www.ci.watertown.ma.us/DocumentCenter/View/643/Stephen-P-Mugar?bidId=.