NEWS: August 2009

Vol. 2, No. 8

In This Issue:

Capitals in Members' Reading Room.



Reminders: The Athenaeum will be closed on September 7 for Labor Day.  Also, first Saturday hours are suspended for the summer and will resume with the first Saturday in October.


By mid-August the Fall 2009 calendar of lectures should be mailed to the Athenaeum membership. Please keep that calendar. No other lecture schedule will be mailed although there will be e-newsletter reminders. If you have friends who do not have access to e-mail, please encourage them to retain their Fall lecture schedule.


Banner Image: Capitals in Members' Reading Room.

Building By The Book

As part of Philagrafika 2010: the Graphic Unconscious, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Center for the Book, is issuing this call for entries for book artists to respond to selected works from the Athenaeum’s legacy research collection of architecture and design. 

Athenaeum curators have chosen ten books from their collections that are available to view both on site and online. Artists residing in the United States are invited to submit proposals for a book that they will create in response to one of the selected books. The proposed books may be editioned or one-of-a-kind, artist books, book objects, altered books or zines. The proposal must be for newly created work, directly responding to a specific book from the Athenaeum collection.

Six of the proposals will be chosen, and these six artists will make their proposed books, which will be exhibited in the Athenaeum gallery in March and April during the Philagrafika 2010 festival. A generous grant from the Beneficia Foundation underwrites this competition and exhibition and will provide these six artists with a stipend of $500 to help offset the cost of the book production. The artists’ books will be exhibited along with their Athenaeum counterparts. 


For more information, click here


Above: Cover of Merrells, Cross & Beardsley,  Wall Papers and Cretonnes.  (New Haven: Merrells, Cross & Beardsley, c1912).


Photography Exhibit to Open Later This Month

Jacob Stelman, Architectural Photography, 1936-1970 will open in the Haas Gallery on Monday, August 31. Based on the Athenaeum’s collection of more than 5000 images from talented and prolific Philadelphia photographer, Jacob Stelman, the show features more than 100 of his best photos. While Stelman’s work included landmark structures such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Temple Beth Sholom in Elkins Park (1959), the exhibit also reveals the changing face of commercial Philadelphia at mid-century, when “downtown” was the uncontested retail capital of our region. The stores, theaters, restaurants, supermarkets and hotels depicted in the exhibit run the stylistic gamut from Art Deco to Modern to Googie to Tiki, and provide a glimpse into an era before the uniform design of corporate chains dampened the robust individuality of both commercial architecture and signage.


The exhibition is open 9:00am-5:00pm, Monday-Friday and from 10:00am-2:00pm on Saturday October 3 and Saturday November 7.


Gallery Talk

Curator Bruce Laverty will give a gallery talk on September 9 at 5:30pm.  Space is limited, reservations required.  To make a reservation contact Susan Gallo at 215-925-2688 or

Photo: Jacob Stelman exhibition poster.  The photo on the poster is the John Ellis & Bro. Coffee Co. building at 9 S. 16th St, taken by Jacob Stelman in 1945.

Athenaeum Hosts Historic Photography Program

The Athenaeum, in cooperation with the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts will host a two day program entitled Focusing on Photographs: Identification & Preservation on September 22 & 23. This two-day program is intended for collections care staff responsible for photographic collections. It will focus on the fundamentals of identifying and caring for photographic collections. Using lecture and hands-on demonstrations, topics will be intertwined over the course of the program to give participants a holistic view of identifying photographic materials, housing and caring for these collections, developing appropriate handling and display procedures, and establishing safe storage environments. For more information and registration instructions please consult or call the Conservation Center at 215-545-0613. Registration deadline is September 8.


Staff News

Years before rubber hit the bricks of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Philadelphia was annually hosting a nationally important automobile race. Last week WHYY-FM radio reporter Peter Crimmins interviewed the Athenaeum’s own Michael Seneca about Philadelphia's early twentieth century road races. Mike is the local expert on the subject, having authored The Fairmount Park Motor Races, 1908-1911. The interview took place as they retraced the century-old race course in West Fairmount Park. If you missed Mike on WHYY, you can listen to the report here:


Philadelphia Former Auto Racing Hot Spot


Photo: A postcard shows a car passing the Belmont  Waterworks on West River Drive during the 1911 race..

Save the Date:  

August 11: Socrates Cafe, 11:00am

August 31: Jacob Stelman Exhibition Opens

September 8: Coffee Day in Members' Reading Room

September 9: Jacob Stelman Gallery Talk, 5:30pm

September 16: Maggie Lidz will speak on her book The Du Ponts: Houses and Gardens in the Brandywine, 1900-51, 5:30pm


See the Event Calendar for details and additional events.

The Athenaeum is open 9:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday-Friday (First Saturday hours suspended until October). 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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