NEWS: August 2008

Vol. 1, No. 7

In This Issue:

Athenaeum Members' Reading Room, c. 1940



Although it may be the “dog days” of summer, your Athenaeum is still hopping with activity.  Our Art Bound exhibition with its book workshops and gallery talks has attracted a number of new people to the gallery.  Catching a glimpse of the poster for the show, tourists from as far away as Israel, France, Italy, Austria, Spain, and even Belize have toured our gallery and the building, leaving comments in the gallery visitors’ book, such as “Wow!  By and about people who love books – glad to see ‘used ones.’”  

If you have not had time to visit the gallery for this show, I urge you to come to the Athenaeum before the exhibition closes on August 28th.  Better yet – attend the final gallery talk on August 13th at 5:30 PM or attend the last book workshop (Tunnel Book) on Saturday, August 9th, from 10AM to 1PM.  Please reserve your place for the gallery talk by contacting Susan Gallo at either 215-925-2688 or Registration for the book workshop can be completed online: 

Book Workshop Registration

Let me also remind you that Coffee Day for August is this coming Monday, August 4th.  Since this also corresponds to New Book Week, you will have an opportunity to look over the new books, chat with friends, and have a bit of refreshment from the heat of the day.  Last month’s Coffee Day for Mrs. G. was a great success, and Mrs. G. enjoyed seeing so many old friends.

Banner Image: Athenaeum Members' Reading Room, c. 1940.

Peterson Fellowship Lecture

Gather with us on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 5:30 PM, for a final report from one of the Charles E. Peterson Fellows.  Greg Huber, whose research focuses on the Germanic liegender Stuhl roof form, will bring his investigation to the Athenaeum  with an illustrated lecture.  Mr. Huber has found and examined more than 40 examples of the roof form, including barns, houses, mills and a rare church west of the Susquehanna River .  His lecture is entitled “Barn Roof Timbers That Helped Build the Early German Nation in Pennsylvania Liegender Dachstuhl and Other Roof Supports.”  Please reserve your place by contacting Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or by e-mailing her at

Light refreshments will be served.

Photo: Courtesy of Greg Huber

Athenaeum Launches New Interface for Viewing Historic Maps

Since 2005, the Athenaeum has been scanning thousands of historic maps and making them available through its Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network (GPGN) website. Now there is a new, user-friendly way to view these rare items. The interactive maps viewer employs the nearly universal Google Maps technology and allows users to overlay and switch between current and historic maps. In addition to materials available from the Athenaeum and Free Library of Philadelphia, the new viewer provides access to historic and contemporary aerial photos as well as historic topographical maps from the United States Geological Survey.

In addition, links have been created between the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings (PAB) and GPGN so that each project in PAB will feature a growing number of historic map images that depict the site changes over time.

The Athenaeum continues to scan and post geographic material to the site and expects to add at least 1000 additional images within the next year. The GeoHistory Network can be visited at

Summer Interns

The work of the Athenaeum has been greatly assisted this summer by the hard work of three bright interns. The interns have assisted in the retrieval, accessioning, inventory and processing of new book and archival collections. They have also initiated the computerization of our museum collection holding records using the PastPerfect software program.  They even lent their hands and shoulders in the demolition and removal of outdated and overloaded shelving on the Athenaeum’s third floor.

Kevin McMahon is a senior in the Architecture program at Cornell University where he expects to graduate in January of 2009. In addition to his work at the Athenaeum, Kevin has interned this Summer at the new offices of the American Institute of Architects, Philadelphia Chapter. His internship is underwritten by the Charles E. Peterson Fellowship Fund.

Christina Rissell is a Spring 2008 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University , where she majored in Fine Arts. Her association with the Athenaeum began in 2007 when she volunteered for the summer. Her internship is underwritten by the Charles E. Peterson Fellowship Fund.

Hannah Christensen is a senior English major at Swarthmore College . She comes to the Athenaeum as part of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation internship program with Swarthmore’s McCabe Library.

L-R: Hannah, Christina and Kevin.  Photo by Jim Carroll

Chess Returns to the Athenaeum

The game of chess has a long history at the Athenaeum, dating at least to 1845.  Mr. Charles Vezin was the father of chess at the Athenaeum.  In his peak playing days, he was said to be on par with the American chess champions of the time. Vezin mentored fellow Athenaeum members such as Benjamin Tilghman, Lewis Elkin, and Philip P. Randolph.  In 1847 the Athenaeum played two correspondence games against the Boston Chess Club which resulted in one win, and one draw.  A similar contest took place in 1855-56 against the New York Chess Club, with the Athenaeum taking a 2-0 victory.  The importance of the Athenaeum players to the world of chess led American Chess Magazine to refer to the institution as "the classic chess ground of Philadelphia."

For a number of years, the Chess Room has served as the place to access the library catalog--first housing the card catalog, and then public access computers.  The computers have recently been relocated and one of the Athenaeum's historic chess tables has been made available for members who wish to play chess.

Hyman Myers and Ilene Lefko have each donated chess sets which are available for use.  Please see a staff member at the circulation desk or the reference desk to obtain a set.

Photo: Chinese chess pieces donated by Hyman Myers, and traditional pieces donated by Ilene Lefko. Photo by Jim Carroll.

Socrates Cafe Reminder: The first Socrates Cafe will take place at 11AM on Tuesday, September 16. Please RSVP to Gil Feinberg at if you plan to attend. Full details about the Socrates Cafe were reported in the July Newsletter.

Save The Date: Cordelia Biddle’s lecture on Deception’s Daughter, the latest of her Martha Beale Mysteries, Wednesday, September 17, at 5:30PM; Opening for Design Projects exhibition Friday, September 19th, 6PM to 8PM, in the gallery.

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.


The Athenaeum does not share this mailing list.

You can Subscribe or Unsubscribe at the Athenaeum website.

To read past issues, visit the Newsletter Archive.