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Current Exhibition

Looking Forward: Re-Imagining The Athenaeum of Philadelphia

During its bicentennial year, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia spent much time and effort looking backward over two centuries, celebrating how far this organization has come since its humble beginnings in 1814. And as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” But anniversaries are also “fitting and proper” occasions to look forward.   In April 2014 we called on the architects of the world--both student and professional--to imagine an Athenaeum at the midpoint of the 21st century. We challenged them to imagine an organization that in its building, its collections,  and its program-- embraces new technologies while honoring centuries-old principles and mandates.   The drawings, models and digital images on exhibit here show the results of that challenge--to envision an Athenaeum in the not-so-distant future, a generation from now, in the year 2050.

Exhibition Dates: December 5-February 14

Special Events:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 6:00PM -  "Looking Backward, Looking Forward: a Comparison of the Athenaeum’s 19th & 21st Century Architectural Competitions"

Lecture by Curator of Architecture Bruce Laverty, co-sponsored by ICAA and SAH.  ICAA, SAH and Athenaeum Members Free. RSVP to or 215-925-2688.  All Others $10. Online payment.





Upcoming Exhibition

Yellowbacks: Don’t Judge These Victorian Books by Their Covers

Offered for an astounding price of one or two shillings, “yellowbacks” with their dramatic covers responded to rising literacy in England in the mid to late nineteenth century. Their eye-catching paper covers displayed dramatic scenes intended to draw the reader into the plot while the backs of the books advertised such popular products as Pears’ Soap. The Athenæum owns over 100 “yellowback” titles, first intended as cheap reading for British travel. These were acquired as they were published in England, clearly indicating a stage in the development of the Athenæum’s recreational reading collection.

Exhibition Dates: March 2 - March 31, 2015

Opening Reception: Friday, March 6, 2015, 5:00-7:00pm  RSVP to or 215-925-2688.

Upcoming Exhibition

The Atlas Imagined: A Collaborative Project

39 Members of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers made an edition of maps of a place, real or imagined. Meeting in September 2014, participating members exchanged maps to make into an individual book or house in a unique box. This exhibition will reveal the range of artistic creation brought to this collaborative effort. The Delaware Valley Chapter – one of 10 regional chapters of the Guild of Book Workers – is located in the the tri-state area with activities centered in Philadelphia. The GBW promotes interest in and awareness of the tradition of the book and paper arts. Its diverse membership includes book artists, book conservators, fine binders, calligraphers, librarians, paper marblers, teachers, photographers, printmakers, and graphic designers.

Exhibition Dates: April 10 - June 6

Opening Reception: Friday, April 10, 5:00-7:00pm  RSVP to or 215-925-2688.