NEWS: June 2010

Vol. 3, No. 6

In This Issue:

Banner Image: The Athenaeum, c. 1923



The dog days of summer are approaching, and we here at the Athenaeum are turning our attention to many of those activities which cannot be accomplished while we have a full program schedule during the fall, winter, and spring sessions: continuing the building repair, record keeping, and planning programs for the coming season. The work on the south wall remediation should be finished early in June, but we have submitted a "Save America's Treasures" grant to the National Park Service to continue the repairs on the building. Since this is a 1:1 matching grant, we must survey local foundations and donors for possible matches for the work; and if any of you have suggestions, all of those would be most gratefully received. The decision on "Save America's Treasures" will not be announced until December. 

This summer will also find us beginning the plans for our bicentennial celebration. We have watched with considerable enjoyment the festivities this year up in Salem, MA, where they marked their 200th birthday with a symposium, special exhibition, and dinner featuring both menu and costume from 1810. We may be contacting you over the summer and fall as we gather a program committee and as our Board Development Committee solidifies its plans.

Banner Image: The Athenaeum, c. 1923.


New Books for June

Athenaeum Bookshelf  06-2010

American Place: The Historic American Buildings Survey at Seventy-Five Years

Originally created by and for the Department of Interior Museum, this exhibition of measured drawings and photographs is a celebration of the diamond jubilee of one of the most successful and long-lasting WPA programs of the New Deal.  The Athenaeum is a particularly appropriate venue for the exhibition given that long-term member, Charles E. Peterson, FAIA , was founder of the HABS program.


May 21-July 30, 2010

Free Admission




Above:  Eastern State Penitentiary.  Photo by Jack E. Boucher, 1996.  HABS No. PA-1729.

150th Anniversary 'East Meets West' Chess Event

In June 1860 the first ever Japanese diplomatic delegation to the U.S. visited several East Coast cities. In Philadelphia, members of the delegation were invited to the Philadelphia Chess Club. The Japanese turned up in full samurai regalia including swords and proceeded to demonstrate the hitherto unknown Japanese version of chess, or Shogi, to the city's top chess players. This is the first recorded game of Shogi ever to be played outside of Japan.

To mark the 150th anniversary of this historic meeting of the Eastern and Western forms of chess, we will be bringing together Shogi experts and representatives of the Philadelphia chess community, including former U.S. Champions in both Shogi and chess. The Athenaeum was home to the main chess club in Philadelphia during the first half of the 19th Century, and various chess-related books and equipment from the Athenaeum collection will be on display. There will also be the opportunity to learn the rules of Shogi, to find out more about the historical background of the 1860 Japanese visit, and to observe and participate in games of Shogi with visiting Japanese players.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

RSVP to Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or

Above:  Members of the first Japanese diplomatic delegation to the U.S., 1860.

PHMC Grant

The Athenaeum is pleased to announce that it has received a grant of $6,800 from the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Commission in the category of General Operating Support Grants for Museums. Although the Pennsylvania State budget has been embattled, the PHMC has still managed to award grants to help museums continue to operate in these rather trying economic times. This grant will go specifically to help support gallery staff salaries so when you are visiting our gallery during the coming months, think kindly of the PHMC!

Member Critics

Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman. Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and its Aftermath. New York: Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2009.  (Also about the Bataan Death March: Hampton Sides. Ghost Soldiers. New York: Doubleday, 2001).


The earlier book focuses on the wretched camp where the American POWs were held prior to the Death March, the March itself, and the return to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco.  It is a excellent book and is appropriately sickening.


The Normans' book covers more history both before and after the March, contains much material on the Japanese side of the warfare, and is not quite as sickening, even managing to squeeze out a little sympathy for one of the Japanese generals.  Of note is a series of drawings based mostly on the recollections and skill of a U.S. soldier.


By chance your correspondent had been assigned to Letterman General Hospital to join a team (Rehabilitation of Allied Military Personnel) assembled to evaluate the physical and mental status of the survivors at the time of their return to the U. S.


Submitted by Dr. Harold Rashkis.


Do you have a book that you loved (or hated), and would you be willing to share that opinion on the Athenaeum e-newsletter?  If so, please send your short essay to


Save the Date:  

June 2: Jennifer Lee Carrell Lecture, 5:30pm

June 5: First Saturday, Athenaeum open, 10:00am-2:00pm

June 5: East Meets West Chess Event, 11:00am

June 7: Coffee Day in Members' Reading Room, 9:30am


See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.

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