Here are the latest Back Bay - Midtown neighborhood notes:

Mansion tour

A public one-hour tour of the Ayer Mansion, 395 Commonwealth Ave., which showcases the striking interior and exterior embellishments designed and created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, will be offered at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Reservations are required and a $10 donation is requested to help with the ongoing restoration costs.

To make a reservation, send an email to or call 617-536-2586.

Great Molasses Flood

Author Stephen Puleo will be the guest speaker at the Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Puleo will talk about the Great Molasses Flood on the centennial anniversary of the tragedy that occurred in Boston’s North End when a 50-foot steel tank with 2.3 million gallons of molasses collapsed on the waterfront. A wave of molasses traveling at 35 miles per hour killed 21 and injured 150 people. Puleo will talk about this event that has become part of local folklore and the resulting landmark court battles that changed laws and regulations regarding construction.

Puleo is a historian, educator and the author of six best-selling narrative nonfiction books, including “Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919.”

For more information on this free program, visit or call 617-536-5400.

Introduction to genealogy

The New England Historical Genealogical Society, 99-101 Newbury St., will host a new visitor tour at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

Attendees will learn about the resources available at the research facility as they tour the building and meet the expert staff.

The NEHGS is the largest and oldest genealogy library and archive in the country with more than 15 million artifacts, records, books, manuscripts, photographs and more. Attendees are welcome to use any of the resources after the tour. Registration is not required.

Visit or call 617-536-5740 for more information.

Erasure of African identity

The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston St., will present “Race, Empire and the Erasure of African Identities in Harvard’s National Skulls” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17. There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:15 p.m.

Christopher Willoughby, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, will present this program, with comment by Evelynn Hammonds of Harvard University.

In 1847, John Collins Warren gave his anatomical collection to the Harvard medical school, including a collection of “national skulls.” This paper analyzes how skulls from the black Atlantic were collected and dubbed “African,” to show that medical schools were intimately connected to the violence of slavery and empire, and to posit a method for writing the history of racist museum exhibitions that does not continue the silencing of black voices at the heart of those exhibitions.

Registration is required for this free program, by calling 617-646-0579 or online at

Massachusetts pottery

The Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., will welcome master potter Rick Hamelin in a free talk on the history of Massachusetts pottery from 2 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17.

Hamelin of Pied Potter Hamelin will present a fun and fast exploration of the Commonwealth’s pottery legacy in “Throwing Back: Massachusetts Pottery History.” He will tell tales of the unusual, the unknown and the unpredictable with a demonstration of techniques and many types of pots.

Admission is free.

Call 617-536-5400 or visit for further details.

Eating and living well

The French Cultural Center of Boston, 53 Marlborough St., will present “Eat Well, Live Well,” cooking and wellness workshops for women, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 and 25.

Physician and certified health and wellness coach Martine Vounatsos will host these cooking workshops. Attendees will discuss ways to incorporate wellness into every aspect of a woman’s mental and physical health, from exercise and supplements to sleep habits and cooking methods.

Participants will make and enjoy a traditional and healthy French meal with Vounatsos in a convivial environment.

Aprons, ingredients and kitchenware will be provided. Women can attend one or all workshops. Admission is $45 for members and $65 for non-members.

Further information is available at or by calling 617-912-0400.

Genealogy skills

The New England Historical Genealogical Society, 99-101 Newbury St., will offer “Building Your Genealogical Skills” from 2 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 19 and 26.

This three-week course is for those new to genealogy or those who want to refresh their skills, learn best practices and get the most out of family history research.

Topics will include: how to record findings, strategies for analyzing records, online research and more. Each class includes skill-building exercises to help students apply their new knowledge. The course is $75.

Visit or call 617-536-5740 for more information and to register.

Bach cantatas

Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St., is presenting its 42nd season of the J. S. Bach Cantatas at 10 a.m. on Sundays now through May 20.

The orchestra and chorus of Emmanuel Music will present weekly performances of the cantatas and motets of J.S. Bach and others, conducted by Ryan Turner.

For more information, call 617-536-3356 or visit

Collections tour

The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston St., will host tours of the collections of the society at 10 a.m. on Saturdays.

Led by an MHS staff member or docent, the 90-minute tour focuses on the history and collections of the MHS.

The tour is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required for individuals or small groups. Parties of eight or more should contact the MHS.

Further information can be found at or by calling 617-646-0560.

Library tours

Boston Public Library volunteers will give art and architecture tours of the McKim Building, a National Historic Landmark, in its main building, constructed in 1895, throughout the week.

Highlights include the murals of John Singer Sargent, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Edwin Austin Abbey and the work of architect Charles Follen McKim.

Self-guided tours are available as well, and literature describing the architectural highlights is available on the web at

For tours by appointment, call 617-536-5400.