NEWS: June 2008

Vol. 1, No. 5

In This Issue:

Members' Reading Room by Thorton Oakley, 1929.


Greetings from the Executive Director,

STRATEGIC PLAN: Thank you to all who participated in our online and paper member surveys and to those of you who gave your time to a focus group or steering committee for the Strategic Plan. We are still gathering responses to the surveys; and if you have not already filled out the online survey, here is the link: Online Survey Also, please remember that we do have paper versions of the survey available at Susan Gallo’s desk in the Athenaeum. We hope to have a draft of the Strategic Plan by the end of the summer, and the Athenaeum Board will meet to discuss the outcome in the fall. Soon after this will go out to the membership so that you have an opportunity to add your comments.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: It is clear from the responses that we have received so far that many of you are willing to become more involved with the Athenaeum, and we are hoping that you will come forward to help us this summer and next fall. Volunteers are needed for:

Summer Book Workshops, specifically on the Children’s Workshops for ages 7 to 11: June 28, 10am -12 noon and August 2, 10am -12 noon, but also for the Adult workshops on July 2. 10am -1pm and August 9, 10am -1pm. In the children’s workshops the volunteers provide another set of hands for students who might need extra help. For the adult workshops the volunteer may assist the instructor in gathering materials, etc. Two volunteers are needed for each children’s workshop; one volunteer is needed for each adult workshop. No training is required. (See below for a full description of the workshops.)
Fall Saturday Hours: You asked, and we are responding to your pleas to offer extra hours. In the fall we plan to open one Saturday per month so that we can see how many people would actually use the collection on the weekend. We plan to open the first Saturday of the month from 10 am to 2 pm, beginning in October 2008 (4 October 2008). We need at least four people, including staff to keep the building open. The lending collection will be available, as will the gallery. Research will still require an appointment so that we can be sure that the required materials are available. We need volunteers who would be willing to help with the lending collection, watch the door, answer the telephone, and possibly give a tour or gallery talk. Some training is required.
Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project: The Philadelphia project is going national! Volunteers are needed to add data to the information that we have already gathered. Some computer skills are required; training will be provided. It is possible that some of this could be done from your home.

Please contact me at to put your name on the volunteer list, or call me at 215-925-2688.

Thank you in advance for all of your help.  In the months since I joined the Athenaeum as Executive Director, I have been pleased to find a wealth of attractive and innovative ideas that we will try out during the coming months.  As we enter this somewhat experimental period, I hope that you will continue to respond with your feedback, your interest, and your enthusiasm for the Athenaeum.

Banner Image: Members' Reading Room by Thorton Oakley, 1929.

New Exhibition- Art Bound: Book Design Past and Present

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Center for the Book, invites you to an exhibition of book arts combining book illustration and designed covers from the Athenaeum’s Rare Book collections with the work of five contemporary artists. Supported by a grant from the Samuel S. Fels Fund, this exhibition looks back to the Arts and Crafts movement while also featuring contemporary approaches to book arts. Acknowledging the influential work of designers and illustrators such as William Morris, Edmund Dulac, and Edward Burne-Jones, the Athenaeum chiefly relies in this exhibition on works by Margaret Armstrong, the Decorative Designers, Elbert Hubbard of the Roycrofters, and Will Bradley, among others. These traditional designs, some drawn from the legacy of the Athenaeum lending collection and others recently added through the gift of Evan Hopkins Turner, display next to books by Cynthia Back, John Fatula, Maria G. Pisano, Maddy Rosenberg, and Elysa Voshell. 

Exhibition: June 16 - August 28, 2008, M-F, 9-5, Free Admission

Opening Reception: June 18, 2008, 6:00-8:00PM

Gallery Talks: 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008, 5:30PM

Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 3:00PM

Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 5:30PM

For gallery talks RSVP to or call 215-925-2688 (limited space available)

Book Arts Workshops will be held throughout the summer. Download the registration form.

Photo: Book by Cynthia Back.

Athenaeum Member Receives U. S. Capitol Historical Society Fellowship

Athenaeum member Jean M. Farnsworth has been selected to receive a United States Capitol Historical Society Fellowship to study the stained-glass skylights and windows produced for the mid-19th century Capitol extension. The stained-glass was produced by John & George H. Gibson of Philadelphia for the Capitol's newly extended wings, designed by Thomas U. Walter. Jean will be researching in the records of the Architect of the Capitol, other relevant resources in Washington, D.C., and The Athenaeum's Thomas U. Walter Papers.

Photo: Jean Farnsworth conducts research at the Athenaeum.


Athenaeum Acquires Walnut Lane Bridge Collection

This spring the Athenaeum received a collection of 67 glass-plate lantern slides that document the construction of the Walnut Lane Bridge in Northwest Philadelphia. A gift of David Young, the collection illustrates the creation between 1906 and 1908 of the longest concrete arch bridge in the world. Designed by City Engineers George Webster and Henry Quimby, the Walnut Lane Bridge connected the Germantown and Roxborough neighborhoods. Spanning the magnificent Wissahickon valley, the bridge was one of Philadelphia’s earliest contributions to the City Beautiful movement.  Images from the lantern slides are currently on exhibition at Cliveden of the National Trust as part of Building Bridges: Linking Lives and Communities, an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Walnut Lane Bridge. The exhibition is free and open through December 31. The exhibition posters were designed and produced by RDIC staff here at the Athenaeum. The lantern slides have been scanned and are available on PAB.  Walnut Lane Bridge Lantern Slides.

Photo: View of completed arches from below.  Walnut Lane Bridge Collection, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

Carolyn Pitts (1923-2008)

Photo by Bernie Cleff, 1977.

July Coffee Day: Tuesday, July 8th, 2008.  Say farewell to Membership Secretary, Mrs. G. Volunteers to bring cookies are welcome.

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday.  The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Group tours and research visits are by appointment only. Please visit our website for more information, or call 215-925-2688.


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