NEWS: February 2009

Vol. 2, No. 2

In This Issue:

Members' Reading Room, 1953




In the Athenaeum’s continuing efforts to “go green,” and also to save money on printing, with this newsletter we launch our Annual Report online. Just use this link to access a pdf of the Report, which is available on the website.

Athenaeum members received a card with their Annual Appeal letters in 2008 announcing this change and also requesting that members who wished to receive the Annual Report in paper form would return the card. So far only 56 members have requested the paper version, and we are sending it out to them next week. For those of you who receive this e-newsletter, however, the online version will come first. In the past Athenaeum Annual Reports were issued on a two-year basis, but through the use of the electronic version, we can publish this online yearly. If you have problems downloading or reading the electronic version, please call Mike Seneca at the Athenaeum for assistance.

Please also note a few changes in the kinds of information presented in the Annual Report. Since so many of our potential funders request a list of donors from us, we have included the names of donors rather than a list of all of the stockholders of the Athenaeum. We have also acknowledged the named funds for books, conservation, program, or operating expenses. This again is data that our funders often request, and the Annual Report will have both a public and private function by including donor information.

Banner Image: Members' Reading Room, 1953.

Upcoming Exhibition

This month, the Athenaeum will host an exhibition of the work of Voith & Mactavish Architects (VMA).  Since establishing their practice twenty years ago, VMA's overarching interest in context, tradition and beauty, and the innovations that can occur within these paradigms, has remained unchanged. This exhibit traces the evolution of their practice that has produced beautiful, innovative architecture addressing a wide spectrum of challenges. Visit Structure, Purpose, and Beauty: 20 Years in the Athenaeum's Haas Gallery from February 20 - March 7.

Above: Math & Science Center, Millbrook School, Millbrook, NY. Voith & Mactavish Architects.

International Visitors

In October 2008 the Athenaeum hosted a literary evening for Chilean Ambassador Mariano Fernandez, and this January 2009 Brazilian Ambassador to the United States Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, accompanied by Gisela Padavon and Paul Johnson, Philadelphia’s Honorary Consul for Brazil, visited the Athenaeum for a behind-the-scenes tour. Curator Bruce Laverty opened the doors of the research collections vault so that Mr. Patriota could see the many books related to Brazil that were collected in the 19th century by the Athenaeum. 

Above: Paul Johnson, Sandra L. Tatman, Antonia de Aguiar Patriota and Gisela Padavon. Photo by Jim Carroll.

Adult Seminars at the Athenaeum

Beginning in Spring 2009 the Athenaeum will launch a new educational program for adults, modeled on the program offered by the Newberry Library, “an independent research library concentrating in the humanities with an active educational and cultural presence in Chicago.” We are beginning modestly with only two offerings this spring; but if this proves popular, we will expand our offering for the fall. Click the links below for full details and registration.


A Writing Workshop with Author Cordelia Frances Biddle

Saturdays, April 18, 25 and May 2, 9, 16, 11am to 1pm; Members: $100, Non-Members: $125

A Seminar on "Reading Shakespeare" led by Ejner J. Jensen, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan

Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 3:30 to 5:30: Members: $25; Non-Members: $35

Above Right: Cordelia Frances Biddle.  Photo by Steve Zettler.

Above Left: Bust of William Shakespeare. Collection of the Athenaeum.


Athenaeum Receives PHMC Grant for D'Ascenzo Project

The Athenaeum has received a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Archives and Records Management program to support a one-year project to inventory, re-house, digitize, and mount on the web, the Nicola D'Ascenzo Stained Glass Studio Photograph Collection. 

Nicola D’Ascenzo (1871-1954) was an Italian-born artist who established the most successful stained glass studio in Philadelphia. Working in the medieval guild tradition, but unafraid to incorporate modern content into his designs, D’Ascenzo developed a nation-wide clientele and designed windows and murals for ecclesiastical, academic, residential and commercial structures. The diversity of his designs are represented in commissions such as the Valley Forge Memorial Chapel, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC and scores of Horn & Hardart automats. The Athenaeum acquired The D’Ascenzo Studio archive over a period of years between 1979 and 1987, including 40 cubic feet of business records, 3000+ black and white photographs, 200 hundred glass lantern slides, thousands of full-size cartoons and approximately 7500 watercolor renderings of window and mural designs. 

Athenaeum conservation technician, Denise Fox, will catalog, digitally scan and re-house the photographic portion of this enormous collection. In addition, the data and images collected through this project will be made available through the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Website (PAB) Over the next 12 to 24 months the Athenaeum will seek support from other funders to process and digitize the 7500 renderings, thereby creating a model for providing access to craft collections, just as the PAB has already provided a model for a digital database of architectural materials.

Above: Conservation Technician Denise Fox with photographs from the D'Ascenzo Collection. Photo by Jim Carroll.


February 6: Robert Roper Lecture at Benjamin Franklin Hall, 5:30PM

February 7: First Saturday (Athenaeum Open 10:00-2:00).

February 10: Socrates Cafe, 11:00AM

February 16: Closed for President's Day


See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday and 10:00AM-2:00PM on the first Saturday of each month. 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.