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Current Exhibition

Useful Arts and Useful Knowledge: The Founding of the Athenaeum

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia began at the end of 1813 with a simple meeting  of a  group of young men, most of whom were University of Pennsylvania graduates and already or soon-to-be members of the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company, and the Philadelphia Society for the Promoting of Agriculture.  Their goal was to establish “Reading Rooms.”  On the 9th of February 1814 the group adopted the  Articles of Constitution and elected a slate of Officers and a Board.  William Tilghman would serve as President, with James Mease, M.D., Vice-President, and Roberts Vaux, Treasurer.  The Board of Managers included, among others, Nicholas Biddle, Robert Hobart Smith, Thomas Isaac Wharton, and Benjamin Chew, Jr., all names prominent in their professions.  At this February 9th meeting the organization was formally titled “The Athenaeum of Philadelphia,” using the title that had become popular for membership libraries  with its connection to Athena, Greek Goddess of Wisdom.  On March 7, 1814 the rooms formally opened.  Employing the Athenaeum's rich archives, "Useful Arts and Useful Knowledge" focuses on the early days of the Athenaeum, its officers, and the first books and magazines purchased.  

Free Admission

Exhibition Dates: April 7-May 17

Special Events: Saturday, May 3, 2014, 1:30pm.  Gallery talk with Jena Osman featuring her book Useful Knowledge: A Genealogy of Shares. Free.  RSVP to or call 215-925-2688.

2014 Celebration of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia 200th Anniversary: Art Exhibition

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia brings you an art competition and exhibition focusing on historic buildings, including the stately exterior and majestic interior of the Athenaeum itself.  Click here for entry information.

Exhibition Dates: July 29-August 8

Treasures of the Athenaeum: 200 Years of Collecting

Exhibition Dates: September 12-November 15