Project Description

Filament/Firmament is a permanent public artwork installed during the main branch renovation in 2010 as a living memorial that honors the contributions of women to the life of the City by longtime Cambridge resident and acclaimed sculptor Ellen Driscoll.

A collaboration of the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, the Cambridge Arts Council, and the Cambridge Public Library, Filament/Firmament uses etched glass, perforated zinc panels, woven cable, text, and textile imagery to metaphorically represents the oldest and most universal of women’s activities – weaving and sewing.

Filament/Firmament montageThe metaphor of weaving is particularly apt for the two-story interior space that houses Filament/Firmament since the location itself knits together the original library structure and the addition. The sky-lit vertical atrium is filled on the upper level with tensioned cables that emerge from diagrams etched into two opposing walls of glass and that are woven across the space. The theme of weaving and connectedness is further explored in the lower half of the atrium space with a zinc-coated wall featuring 240 cutout circles that suggest the dot pattern of a Jacquard loom punch card. The Jacquard loom revolutionized textile manufacturing in the nineteenth century and is a precursor of the modern-day computer circuit board. Each hole is an etched-glass window to a different woven textile pattern. Together, the 240 circles represent many different cultures and civilizations throughout the world, reminding us that weaving and the simple act of intertwining string is a metaphor for the endless process of invention.

Filament/Firmament also features profiles of remarkable Cambridge women in a searchable website accessible from a dedicated computer adjacent to the space and available to the public. The website, formally entitled the Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project, provides permanent documentation of the remarkable women of Cambridge and serves as a resource to stimulate further inquiry into the rich history, present day life, and future inspiration related to the contributions of Cambridge women to our community and beyond.