Inside the Providence Athenaeum
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
1. A card catalog. A real card catalog. Sitting proudly in the center of the Athenaeum's central room, a broad and in-use cabinet of real curiosities: hundreds upon hundreds of paper cards with notations on books in the Athenaeum's collection. Some cards are typed (odd enough to young eyes), but many are handwritten in script that reveals 19th century style and pens. Every child who has
2. Poe. Yes, it's true. Edgar Allen Poe really did live in Providence for a time, he really did fall in love with Sarah Whitman, a free-thinking transcendentalist who lived at the north end of Benefit Street, and he really did court Whitman in the summer of 1848 on the steps of the Providence Athenaeum. The two were even engaged, but broke off the engagement over Poe's lack of promised sobriety. He died in Baltimore (she is buried in Providence's North Burial Ground).
3. Programs. Some of Providence's most inspired, interesting, and fun cultural evenings uncork (along with wine) on select Friday evenings in the Athenaeum at the beloved Salon series (which resumes in October). It's worth the annual membership (from $35 for students to $195 for a household) just to get access to these incredible evenings.
5. Public. While the Athenaeum is indeed a private library, and in fact is one of the oldest in America, its doors are open to the public. You can enter, read, and enjoy the nooks and crannies that 18th century poetry as well as modern detective novels. And the children's library is one of the best resources in the city for families.
Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit St, Providence, 421-6970. For more information on programs and membership, go to the Athenaeum's Web site, here.