Home Hours/Directions History Programs Membership Donate Contact Index

Athenaeum Programs

General Information

Calendar of Events

Programs by Month:

Children's Events

Current Newsletter

About Salons

Reading Groups

Thank you to Campus Fine Wines, 2013-14 season sponsor of Athenaeum programs!

Programs are made possible in part by a grant from the RI State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the RI General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Programs are made possible in part through major funding support from the RI Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Guests Enjoy a Night at the Athenaeum

A Lecture at the Athenaeum

Music at the Athenaeum

March 2014 Programs


Sun 3/2, 3-5pm: An afternoon with Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective.

The Wall Street Journal has called her "the nation's foremost historical photo detective." Maureen Taylor is an internationally recognized expert on photograph identification and genealogy, bringing together her knowledge and skills in history and research into family stories while giving insight into the invention and development of photography itself. Through private consults and group seminars, Maureen helps people solve a range of photo-related mysteries, from dating a Civil War era daguerreotype to organizing gigabytes of family photos from a digital camera. Maureen finds clues in photographs as if she were a private detective out to solve a case. She discovers stories behind family pictures by sometimes following the most mundane clue: a hat, the shape of a woman's sleeve, or a sign in the background. If you've inherited a box of family photos, you'll want to listen in as Maureen talks about photographs and family history. Learn more about Maureen Taylor at her website: RSVP to Stephanie Knott: or 421-6970 x14.

Sponsor: Jillian Siqueland of Residential Properties, Realtors

Wed 3/5, 5pm social hour; 6pm lecture and panel discussion: The Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism presents the annual Senator Pell Lecture on the Arts and Humanities: writer, speaker, and social activist Arlene Goldbard on "The Culture of Possibility for Providence," co-presented with Community MusicWorks, the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. 

Goldbard, activist and author of books including The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future and The Wave, imagines the possibilities for Providence in 20 years if its citizens understand how art and culture are essential to a sustainable future, and if they have the foresight to weave art's transformative power into every aspect of public and private life. Her talk will include interludes with Providence artists Holly Ewald (visual arts), Sokeo Ros (dance/choreography), and Erik Ehn (playwriting/directing) telling their own stories of past inspiration and future vision, culminating in a conversation with audience members. This annual lecture honors the late Claiborne Pell (1918-2009), who represented Rhode Island in the United States Senate from 1961-1997. He is best remembered for being a champion of education, the arts and humanities. Senator Pell was the main sponsor of the Pell Grant, a financial aid program for U.S. college students, and he played a major role in the establishment of both the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. More on Arlene Goldbard:

NOTE: This event, which takes place at the RISD Museum’s Metcalf Auditorium, 20 North Main St., is sold out.

Thurs 3/6, 6pmPennsylvania State University Professor of Jewish and French Studies Willa Z. Silverman on "The End of Books? French Fin-de-siècle Imaginings of the Future of Print," part 2 of a 2-part mini-festival, Octave Uzanne: "Bohemian Gentleman, Bibliophilosophe," co-presented with the John Carter Brown Library's Watts History and Culture of the Book Program and the John Russell Bartlett Society. 

In an era of dramatic technological changes bearing similarities to our own, authors, publishers, critics, and bibliophiles in fin-de-siècle France were preoccupied with the effects of these transformations on print culture.  How might developments in photomechanical printing and binding, the advent of electricity, and even the phonograph, for example, change the material form of the book? How would mass-produced books be distributed?  Would the nature of copyright change? What would libraries of the future look like? How would the acceleration of the pace of modern life impact reading practices? A champion of the revival of book arts in fin-de-siècle France, Octave Uzanne was but one figure who, in his Contes pour les bibliophiles (Tales for Bibliophiles, 1895), prophesied "the end of Books and their complete transformation." (See 2/28 for part 1.)

NOTE: Talk takes place at the John Carter Brown Library, on the Main Green of Brown University. 

Fri 3/7, 5-7pm: Salon: RISD Associate Professor of Art + Visual Culture Daniel Harkett on "A Nineteenth-Century Giraffe and Her Keepers: Exoticism and Fantasy Then and Now," part 2 of 'What use is the giraffe?' – The Evolution of Science, Society, and Spectacle in the Cosmopolitan 19th Century, a series on the giraffe who went to Paris in 1827 (learn more about the story of the giraffe here:

Arriving by ship from Egypt in October 1826, King Charles X's giraffe and her keepers were the focus of public attention in France even before they disembarked in Marseille. Their subsequent overland journey to Paris was followed assiduously in the press and their arrival in the capital was a major cultural event. French viewers, avid consumers of Egyptiana since the Napoleonic military campaign in the Near East in the 1790s, treated the exhibition of the giraffe as a space of exotic fantasy. In texts and images, they speculated wildly about the origins and character of both the giraffe and her keepers, reflected on signs of difference, and explored the possibilities of crossing cultural boundaries. No less interesting than the initial reception of the giraffe is its afterlife in France and the United States. The subject of numerous recent books and articles, for adults and children, as well as an animated film, the giraffe continues to attract curiosity. In addition to posing historical questions, we might ask: what is the use of the giraffe for present audiences? 

Sponsor: Dr. Joseph A. Chazan

Made possible in part by Susan Jaffe Tane and several friends of the Athenaeum who wish to remain anonymous.

Tues 3/11: 5:30-7pm (5:30pm reception, 6pm program), co-presented with RI Public Radio: Policy & Pinot, a timely conversation series on vital issues facing our state: "Killer Drugs: Tackling Opioid Addiction and Overdose in RI." 

RIPR Health Care Reporter Kristin Gourlay is joined by Captain Joseph Coffey, Patrol Division, mental health crisis response unit, Warwick Police Department; Jim Gillen, LCDP, CCJP, RCS, Associate Director of Recovery Services, Providence Center, Director of the Anchor Recovery Community Centers; Traci Craig Green, MSc, PhD, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology, Brown University, Researcher, Rhode Island Hospital; Josiah D. Rich, M.D., M.P.H. Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Brown University, Attending physician, infectious disease and internal medicine at The Miriam Hospital; and Abbie Stenberg, in long-term recovery.

Free and open to the public, reservations required: reservations can be made starting on Tues 1/28 to Danielle Blasczak: or 351-2800. More:

Fri 3/14, 5-7pm: Salon: Providence Organizer Nate Storring, Brown University Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and American Studies Samuel Zipp, and others discuss Jane’s Walk, a nationwide celebration (held on 5/3 & 5/4) of the ideas and legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs, getting people to explore their neighborhoods through free walking tours led by locals.

Jane's Walk honours the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane's Walk often takes Jacobs' ideas to communities unfamiliar with her ideas, in order to advance local engagement with contemporary urban planning practices. The walks helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community and encourage civic leadership. Storring brought the walk to Providence in 2013 and will organize the 2014 walk as well. Zipp has written widely on Jacobs's work. Join both for a conversation about Jacobs, her legacy, and Jane's Walk. More:

Sponsors: Tripp Evans and Ed Cabral

Tues 3/18, 12-1:30pm: Poetry Aloud series: Love Poetry, Part 2: Partings and Loss.

We are reviving the much-missed Poetry Aloud series, and it is now an intimate lunchtime gathering in the Bound, focusing on a different theme each time. Bring a poem you love (or even one you've written!), or browse our poetry shelves that morning, and we'll take turns reading aloud. We hope everyone will discover/re-discover some wonderful poems and poets! Attendees are welcome to bring brown bag lunches. RSVP to Danielle Kemsley: or 421-6970 x15.

Wed 3/19, 6pm: Athenaeum Annual Meeting. 

Business to be conducted includes the President’s report, greetings from the Executive Director, the Treasurer’s report including financials, other committee reports, and elections. All are welcome to join us for an informative evening. 

Fri 3/21, 5-7pm: Salon: Community MusicWorks violinist Chase Spruill on "Nyman & New Music," with musical accompaniment by the Community MusicWorks Players, the opening event of CMW's Nyman North American Premiere Weekend (3/21-23) featuring the premiere of British composer Michael Nyman's String Quartet no. 5.

In 1985, British composer Michael Nyman set out to write his first string quartet, and in the words of the composer himself, his mission became almost two-fold: "To create an almost orchestral sounding chamber music… and to exorcise the impressive and oppressive history of the string quartet…"  Nyman’s career as composer has consistently evaded a proper descriptor, ranging an enormous pallet of cultural influences from the Early Baroque era to the energized stylings of Jerry Lee Lewis. His second, third and fourth quartets followed in 1988, 1990 and 1994, each capturing audible snapshots of the composer's most current and traceable intrigues. Almost 20 years later, Michael Nyman's String Quartet no. 5 emerges, and Community MusicWorks takes part in this journey by presenting the North American premiere of the work in the year of the composer's 70th birthday, offering audiences the opportunity to decide for themselves where contemporary music--as noted by Nyman--has indeed arrived. Salon will feature musical teasers of the weekend's concerts! More on CMW and concerts in the series:

Sponsor: The Peck Building

Tues 3/25, 6-8pm: Tour of RISD's Fleet Library.

If you're a Household or Individual Athenaeum member, have you ever wondered how to take advantage of your borrowing privileges at RISD's Fleet Library? Or are you simply curious to see the stunning interior architecture of the building formerly occupied by the Rhode Island Hospital Trust, and named by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of "America's Most Beautiful College Libraries?" Then join us for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Fleet with RISD librarians Mark Pompelia and Claudia Covert. Attendees will meet inside the Fleet Library (entrance at 15 Westminster Street, at the corner with Memorial Boulevard.) More on the Fleet Library: RSVP to Stephanie Knott: or 421-6970 x14.

Fri 3/28, 5-7pm: Providence Premieres producer Julien Touafek leads a discussion on "New Music for a New Century: Creative Millennials in the Creative Capital," and introduces the second annual Festival of New Music by Providence Premieres, RI's only organization solely dedicated to the commissioning and performance of new works of music, to be presented in April.

Join 23-year old Founder & Artistic Director Julien Touafek, a Juilliard-educated composer and Digital Media Innovation Fellow at New York University, in a conversation about how we define 'new music' and how it connects to the future of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship across industries in RI. How do we advance and call out Rhode Island's emerging 'Idea' industry, in addition to making way for the new ideas of tomorrow? Discover and preview some of the new voices featured in Providence Premieres' 2014 Season, and consider the future of the Creative Capital as an innovation hub where technology and the arts can thrive to distinguish a new age of Conceptual workers in RI. Preview the Providence Premieres 2014 Season visit:, or read more about Providence Premieres' innovation initiative here.

Sponsor: The Peck Building


April Programs