Dear Friends,

The past few weeks have seemed like a climax to a season of painful and challenging times. As the protests against police brutality and racism focus our country on honest dialogue, as the country slowly re-opens and the unemployment numbers dip ever so slightly, and as Philadelphia enters the Yellow Phase, enabling us to cautiously step back outside, I hope that everyone is able to feel some hope for our present and future.

This morning, I sit at my Athenaeum desk for the first time in three months. People are biking, running, lifting weights, and walking in Washington Park. Masks and safe distancing abound. But the sun is shining and the trees that were devoid of leaves when we closed down in March provide dappled shade. It is lovely to be back.

This week, the staff is back in the building preparing for a gradual renewal of in-house services for our members and eventually the public. At this time, we remain closed to all but staff. However, we plan to begin “curbside” pick up/drop off of books and mail service (for shareholders) next week. We will continue to offer ebooks and our webinar speakers series . Please check your email and mailbox this week for further information about the variety of services we will offer in the yellow phase.

This week’s Brain Treats includes pieces by librarian Jill Lee and curator Bruce Laverty, links to our collection of Anti-Racism themed ebooks, an invitation to join the Athenaeum Book Club, news about the Athenaeum face masks (I am wearing one right now!), and reminders of the expanding Athenaeum Speaker Series (we are bringing Richard Bell back on July 15 to talk about Hamilton). 

As always, enjoy. Don’t hesitate to contact staff if you have any questions or need technical help accessing our resources. Send us your photos out and about with your Athenaeum face masks!
D Day Collections at the Athenaeum
By Jill LeMin Lee, Librarian

Saturday, June 6th marked the anniversary of D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, American and other Allied forces landed in Normandy, France. They landed on the beaches, and by air. I once listened to the speech given by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to the troops before the operation and could not imagine the emotions of those who heard it live. Sadly, many of those who participated in the Normandy invasion lost their lives in their mission to free Europe. The U.S. Army created a temporary cemetery in the ensuing days. Later, this was replaced with the Normandy American Cemetery, which is overseen by the American Battle Monuments Commission . While cataloging cemetery brochures for the Athenaeum many years ago, I learned of the ABMC. The ABMC was established in 1923 and is tasked with being the caretakers of America’s overseas cemeteries and memorials. The American Battle Monuments Commission hired French-born Paul Philippe Cret (pronounced ’Cray’) as their consulting architect, and he guided the creation of America's World War I cemeteries and was responsible for the design of the crosses and stars used as headstones for American burials overseas. After his death, his partners continued under the name of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson, later known as H2L2. This firm continued to work with the ABMC on World War II cemeteries and memorials. The Athenaeum is honored to have, as part of the John Harbeson Collection, a number of images (mostly photographs) of the Normandy American Cemetery, which you may view through the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project. For more work for the American Battle Monuments Commission from the Athenaeum's Cret Collection and John Harbeson Collection, as well as the Architectural Archives at the University of Pennsylvania, search here . As we get anxious to return to our "normal" lives, activities and comforts, I encourage you to check out the above resources, as well as the social media of the American Battle Monuments Commission , to pause and reflect on the tremendous sacrifices of June 6th, 1944.
Anti Racism Books

As a follow-up to the Athenaeum Bulletin of June 2, 2020, we have gathered some ebooks into a collection of Anti-Racist Resources. They are currently the first thing you will see on the app or on the website for our ebooks, and can be accessed at  When we are able to make print available again, we will also offer some titles as physical books. As always, contact Lois Reibach for help getting set up with eBooks!
Athenaeum Face Masks

Last week our Athenaeum face masks finally started appearing in people’s mailboxes. Now that we can finally see them in person, we can say they are just as great as we hoped! You can still order them from our Athenaeum Store , but keep in mind they have about a 15 day turn around right now. We are continuing to add more images to the site, so if you ordered a while ago, check back and see if there is something new you like!
Athenaeum Book Club

The next meeting of the Athenaeum Open Book Club on Zoom will be Thursday, July 2, at 3 pm. Registration is required in order to receive the link. The book to be discussed is Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. It is a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and is described by the Chicago Tribune as “A brilliant literary murder mystery.” We have one copy of the ebook at . Head House Books has it available as a hardback or in large print.
Curator’s Pick by Bruce Laverty
PSFS Building– “Sleek and Sheer and Shining” 

 I opened my first bank account in 1965 with a 10 cent deposit through the school banking program of the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society. Every Tuesday my 2 nd grade classmates at Julia Ward Howe Elementary and I dutifully brought our tartan-plaid passbooks and jingling deposits and handed them over to a “school bank officer.” This officer, a fellow student, counted the money, issued each of us receipts, and turned the cash and passbooks over to our teacher, Miss Kirschbaum, who took them to the bank on her lunch hour. 
When I was old enough to handle deposits on my own I got to see the building where my money went. The PSFS Logan branch was a simple, limestone lockbox that conveyed a sense of safety and security for my accumulating dimes, quarters and dollars. 

In 1980; with my first job in Center City, the iconic PSFS at 12 th & Market became my branch bank. Now I deposited not dimes, but paychecks, in a sleek, stunning banking room with enormous plate glass windows and polished black and white marble. As I learned its history I was blown away by the idea that in 1932 a Philadelphia building set the bar for the International Style skyscraper design. 88 years after its opening, PSFS still hasn’t been matched. 

A December 1932 Architectural Forum cover story described the evolution of PSFS designs and placed them in geographical, social and musical context:
“All the branches are comparatively new. Four of them are polite, quiet little buildings, unobtrusive and tasteful, designed by George Howe who has since obviously recognized many of their fundamental improprieties. If “architecture is frozen music,” the Society’s main office is a frowsy minuet, the four little branches, careful, contemporary chords. But the fifth is new; it is slick and sheer and shining, and the society, alive to the tempo of the day, has gone Gershwin.  
As the Rhapsody in Blue sets itself apart from such thunder as Siegfried , so does the Society’s new building contrast with the staid neighbors of its location. A few blocks away is the frumpy, bastioned City Hall, from the top of which William Penn looks down unsmilingly upon air conditioning equipment and a mammoth neon sign.”
Webinar Series

Don't forget to sign up for Athenaeum Webinars!
Wed, Jun 10, 2020 5:30 PM EST
Lydia Denworth on Friendship
Wed, Jun 17, 2020 5:30 PM EST
Diana Schaub on Booker T. Washington and the Lessons of Lincoln
Wed, Jun 24, 2020 5:30 PM EST
Thom Nickels on Beyond Bricks and Mortar: Real Life Stories
Wed, Jul 8, 2020 5:30 PM EST
Andrea Barnet on Change-makers: Four Visionary Women who Made a Difference
Wed, Jul 15, 2020 6:00 PM EST
Hamilton: How the Musical Remixes American History
*For this event we encourage you to read the book FIRST!
*Just announced!
I leave you with these hopeful words by renowned poet Elizabeth Alexander (who received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania!): Praise Song for the Day

With hope and care,

Beth Shalom Hessel
Executive Director