Look, Listen, Learn
Welcome to the 19th Century, our docents sometimes say, with a smile, to guests entering the Athenaeum gallery. The collection of Hudson River artists, genre paintings, and reproductions of Renaissance and Baroque masterworks, displayed in ornate frames and hung in the original salon style, does evoke that earlier era. There is a calm beauty to the magnificent space. And there is, too, the urgency of the moment in this 21st century Athenaeum.
The massive The Domes of Yosemite, celebrating its sesquicentennial next year, invites you to reconsider the westward expansion of the 1800s. Looking up to the skylight one marvels at the Arts and Crafts-like detail in the upper regions of the ceiling. Leaving the gallery the docents may discuss the beautifully detailed balconies and other features of the interior, and direct you to a newly installed contemporary exhibit featured in the Athenaeum Hall gallery on the second floor. The Director may be there to greet you to discuss the compelling, challenging art that is a counterpoint to the permanent collection.
Our librarians will introduce you the print and electronic collections which proudly features actual books from the 18th to the 21st Century along with their downloadable kin. Computers are connected to a fast fiber-optic internet source, the wireless is beefy, and the seating comfy. Visit the Youth Services Library for all that you would expect there from games and picture books, to craft activities and summer-time lunch for kids. Take in the WPA-era murals of classic children’s favorites.
In the evening you might enjoy one of our many public events; a poetry reading, a Vermont Humanities Council lecture on politics, or music or writing, or a talk from our own Acts and Culture Series on painting, or post cards, or a discussion by a local writer.
I enjoy explaining to visitors, unfamiliar with the term, that Athenaeum is not just the fancy name for a decorative library. It is from the goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom. This is a gathering place for those seeking wisdom. We have been, as we say, Promoting Lifelong Learning Since 1871.
Welcome to the 21st Century!