Archivist by Day, Rockin' the Typewriter Orchestra by Night"Lots of people in different places have awesome ideas and don't have follow-through. In Boston, they have follow-through."
Boston is nerd heaven, says Giordana Mecagni.
Where else can you live in a gritty neighborhood, work with archivists collecting medical paraphernalia and spend your free time playing in a typewriter orchestra?
Yes, that's right. Mecagni, 37, is a member of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, which is just what it sounds like: a well-coifed row of performers hitting typewriter keys in rhythm. And it's composed in whole of, you guessed it, fellow nerds: a crossword writer, a cancer researcher, a technology-business owner, and a makeup artist, to name a few.
"We're just a ragtag bunch of geeks," Mecagni says.
No other city in America can boast the caliber and density of universities that Boston has, among them MIT, Harvard University, Wellesley College, Boston College, Berklee College of Music, Boston University and Emerson College.
So when someone has a whacky idea — for instance, how about getting on stage with some old typewriters? — plenty of similarly enthused and offbeat folks are around to make it happen. And unlike powerhouse cities like New York or San Francisco, in Boston such a venture needn't be about turning a profit or landing fame.
"You don't make money when you're playing in a typewriter orchestra," laughs Mecagni. She does add, though, that the group is solvent, which basically means the members are up to their fingertips in donated typewriters, two or three per person at any time. (One performance of key pounding easily decimates a typewriter.)
"Nine times out of 10, you tell people you're in the Boston Typewriter Orchestra and people around here are like, 'That's freakin' awesome.' That wouldn't be the case everywhere," says Mecagni. "Lots of people in different places have awesome ideas and don't have follow-through. In Boston, they have follow-through."
Mecagni grew up in nearby Hopkinton and earned a degree in women's studies from the University of New Hampshire.
She did an administrative stint in the corporate world before landing at a nonprofit center, where she found herself running a library and loving it. Classes and a master's degree in library science followed, and Mecagni soon discovered archivist work. "I realized, 'These are my peeps!'" she says.
Mecagni now works as an acquisitions archivist at Harvard University's Countway Library of Medicine, where she solicits records of medical researchers and Harvard doctors for historical preservation.
"The coolest part of it is many of these people are Nobel Prize winners," Mecagni says. A recent score included the records of Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, a researcher whose discovery of the cause of infant respiratory failure has been credited with saving nearly 1 million lives.
"To learn what she went through to get to where she got, in a male-dominated profession, is fascinating," says Mecagni.
Mecagni lives in East Boston ("Eastie"), a culturally diverse, working-class infill separated from downtown Boston by the harbor.
"I think, in general, Boston is a really easy place to be smart," she says. "I probably never would have been able to do any of the things that I do without a community of people doing interesting things in the community."
Check out Giordana's Boston.