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Registration for Programs

The Athenaeum Literary Award: Madeline Miller, Circe

Thursday, May 23, 5:30 PM

In Homer’s Odyssey, Circe is a witch who turns Odysseus’ men into pigs. She’s long been remembered as a villain, but in Homer her portrait is much more nuanced than that. Madeline Miller talks about Circe’s long literary history, and what inspired her own interpretation of Western Literature’s first witch. Miller will also touch on other famous characters who make an appearance in her novels, including Odysseus and Penelope.

Madeline Miller earned her BA and MA in Classics from Brown University, and has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare for nearly twenty years. Her novels The Song of Achilles and Circe were both New York Times Bestsellers, and she won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her works have been translated into over 25 languages.

Free. RSVP: Call 215-925-2688 or email

This event has received generous support from The Charles Wharton Stork Lecture Fund

Larry Platt, "Reinvigorating Citizenship in the Birthplace of American Democracy"

Wednesday, May 29, 3:00 PM

Public discourse is at an all-time low and civic engagement is in peril. Larry Platt, former editor of Philadelphia Magazine and the Philadelphia Daily News and co-founder of The Philadelphia Citizen, a non-profit, solutions-oriented news site, suggests the city needs a new narrative, one that goes beyond the usual litany of grievances, that focuses on the ideas that can move us forward,  and that explores ways to elevate our public conversation in these fractured times.

Robert Hauser, "The Past, Present, and Future of the American Philosophical Society"

Monday, June 3, 3:00 PM

Executive Officer Robert Hauser will share the story of the American Philosophical Society’s transformation from a small club that met in Benjamin Franklin’s house into an organization of international reach. Today, the Society provides over $1.3M annually in grants to young researchers in every discipline, operates the oldest scholarly press in North America, sustains a membership of 1,000 eminent scientists and scholars, hosts regular scholarly meetings of international renown, and supports a library and museum that houses over 13 million pages of manuscripts and welcomes more than 130,000 visitors each year. Dr. Hauser will also discuss how this dynamic institution continues to evolve in the 21st century -- by embracing collaborations near and far, adopting new technology, and creating innovative programs that reach a growing and diverse audience.

Robert M. Hauser, Executive Officer of the American Philosophical Society, is a sociologist, demographer, and social statistician. He has formerly served as Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Executive Director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  

Free. RSVP: Call 215-925-2688 or email

Ted Maust, "The Evolution of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society"

Thursday, June 6, 6:00 PM

One of Philadelphia’s most venerable institutions, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society began in 1827 as a gentleman’s society to share information about gardening and to exchange plants. Almost two hundred years later, PHS plays a key role in the fabric of the city and in a regional identity shaped by a tradition of horticulture. Researcher Ted Maust discusses the evolution of PHS from a private gentleman’s club to an organization pursuing community development through the practice of horticulture and greening, as well as how from its inception in 1829, the Philadelphia Flower Show has become established as one of the most enduring and beloved institutions in our region.

Preceding the lecture, guests are invited at 5:00 pm to a historical marker dedication at 717 Chestnut Street, commemorating the first Philadelphia Flower Show. 

Free. RSVP: Call 215-925-2688 or email

Anna Pitoniak, Necessary People

Friday, June 7, 3:00 PM

Stella is beautiful, privileged, and reckless. Her best friend, Violet is hardworking, laser-focused, and always there to clean up the mess that Stella leaves in her wake. Necessary People is a novel about the intersections of ambition, privilege, and the high price of wanting it all. As their careers and fates become deeply intertwined, Stella and Violet plunge toward a dangerous and violent ending that may destroy them both. This novel takes on issues of class, the thin line between friendship and jealousy, and the anxieties that lurk beneath the surface of everyday life.

Anna Pitoniak grew up in British Columbia and now lives in New York City. She worked for many years in book publishing, most recently as a Senior Editor at Random House. Her first novel, The Futures, received strong reviews in Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, The Village Voice, and other publications.

Free. RSVP: Call 215-925-2688 or email

Peter Conn, Executive Director, The Athenaeum of Philadelphia,
"The Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the History of Libraries"

Wednesday, June 12, 3:00 PM

Writing is widely regarded as one of the two or three most important of all human inventions. Writing made possible a profound transformation, an escape from societies in which knowledge had to be shared in face to face encounters, and history consisted of individual memories passed down orally from one generation to the next. It is not too risky to speculate that without writing – which probably emerged unglamorously as an aid to keeping track of jugs of wine and bales of wool – humans might still be living in scattered agricultural communities.

In a surprisingly short time after the emergence of writing, several literate societies made their next leap forward by inventing libraries. By centralizing manuscripts (and later, books) in specially designated places, the accumulation, transmission, and expansion of knowledge was increased by orders of magnitude. While most of us probably tend to take libraries for granted, they should be considered another transformational invention. Libraries have a long and eventful history, reaching back over four thousand years. In the course of that history, libraries have been organized in all sorts of different ways, to serve all sort of different purposes.

After a brief review of some of those libraries, Peter Conn will describe the development of libraries in Philadelphia, with special attention to the Athenaeum, founded in 1814. He will conclude with some questions about the future of libraries in the age of the Internet.

Peter Conn retired from the University of Pennsylvania as Vartan Gregorian Professor of English and Professor of Education. His many publications include Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography, which was named a "New York Times Notable Book.” Conn's most recent book is Adoption: A Brief Social and Cultural History. A John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, Conn also received several awards for distinguished teaching. Since 1993, Conn has served as visiting professor at the University of Nanjing, in the People's Republic of China. In 2011, and again in 2013, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Conn lectured in West China on topics in American studies.

Free. RSVP: Call 215-925-2688 or email

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