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Penn Libraries News

Penn Libraries and the Athenaeum of Philadelphia Announce a Transformative Integration Agreement

Watercolor of Athenaeum building.

The Penn Libraries proudly announces a new partnership with the Athenaeum of Philadelphia that will transform access to this independent library’s historically rich research collection. The Athenaeum of Philadelphia is a venerable institution founded in 1814 to collect materials connected with American history, antiquities, and arts for public benefit. The Athenaeum’s collections both complement the depth and breadth of Penn’s collections. The new relationship between the two institutions provides greater visibility for the Athenaeum and access to their collections by Penn researchers and the wider scholarly community.

A team of library professionals integrated the significant holdings of the Athenaeum into Penn’s library management system, making these items visible when searching among library holdings. Users of the Penn Libraries are also able to receive general collections materials from the Athenaeum through delivery to any of our campus libraries and request as well as to consult special collections materials in the Athenaeum’s reading room.

For Athenaeum members, the Penn-Athenaeum agreement confers borrowing privileges for the millions of volumes held by the Penn Libraries, with circulating books delivered on request to the Athenaeum.

“The partnership between the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and the Penn Libraries confers exceptional benefits on both organizations,” says Peter Conn, Executive Director of the Athenaeum. “Penn’s faculty and students now have access to the Athenaeum’s remarkable collections of architecture, photography, maps and books. And Athenaeum members can borrow books from one of the finest and most comprehensive libraries in the United States.”

According to Hannah Bennett, Director of Penn’s Fisher Fine Arts and Museum Libraries, the new partnership “offers researchers a deeply rich convergence of collections, enhancing our standing as vital centers of study for architectural history and the city of Philadelphia. It is rewarding to see our collections unlocked for each other and used in this wonderfully streamlined manner and I am sure it will usher in new areas of collaboration going forward.”

In addition to serving as a boon to the public, this partnership will also deeply benefit a wide variety of academic programs at Penn. The Athenaeum’s strong holdings in art and architecture provide an invaluable lens into the past that will serve as an essential historical component of Penn’s Architecture and Historical Preservation graduate programs.

“No city on earth is better equipped to understand the past and prepare for the future,” believes David Brownlee, Penn’s Frances Shapiro Weitzenhoffer Professor of Nineteenth-century European Art. “Philadelphia’s fabulous compendium of architecture from every period – colonial, Greek Revival, High Victorian, Arts and Crafts, modern, and post-modern – has long been a laboratory for Penn research and innovation. Our new library partnership with the Athenaeum of Philadelphia makes easily accessible the Athenaeum’s unmatched collection of historic architectural publications and other documentation for the study of this rich legacy.”

The Penn-Athenaeum partnership serves as an excellent example of the network that Constantia Constantinou, H. Carton Rogers III Vice Provost and Director of Penn Libraries, seeks to grow. “The Penn Libraries is committed to developing a deep network of collaboration to ensure greater access to once hidden or remote collections,” she says. “Through partnerships, we foster greater access to future research with greater commitment to collections, technology innovations, and discoverability.”