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

Athenaeum activities 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.

Our thanks to season sponsor Campus Fine Wines.

Guests Enjoy a Night at the Athenaeum

A Lecture at the Athenaeum

Music at the Athenaeum

Athenaeum Programs and Events

The Providence Athenaeum is committed to cultural programming and events for adults and children that accentuate and expand the strengths of the collections and mission of the institution. Exhibits are open to the public. Programs are free unless otherwise noted.

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Current Programs (November 2015)


Thur 11/5,  5:15-7pm: Library Orientation, Tour, and Reception (reception 5:15-5:45pm; presentation 5:45-6; building & Special Collections tours 6-7). All welcome, whether potential, new, or longstanding members; join us for any portion of the evening you can. Please RSVP to Danielle Kemsley at or 421-6970 x15.

Fri 11/6, 5-7pm: SALON: Designer and design historian Matthew Bird on “Expanding a Point of View: What is Good Design?” We all know what is good, but each of us uses different factors to arrive at our decisions and opinions about design and taste. Bird will share revelations brought home from a month-long summer seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and present different methods to ad layers of thinking to deepen and expand our interpretations. He will consider culture, gender, geography, history, and other factors that make us instantly certain we are correct in our decision making, and nearly always wrong.

Thurs 11/12, 5-7pm: PROUSTFEST, Part 1: Writer Lisa Cohen on “’Medicine is Not an Exact Science’: Evidence, Grief, and Style in Proust.” Proust’s interest in and irony about medicine is a well-documented aspect of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Cohen, the author of the highly acclaimed 2012 group biography All We Know: Three Lives, will explore some of the relationships among biographical research, medicine, and the workings of grief in Proust and in her own work. What does Proust tell us about the temporalities of illness, of reading, and of error? And what does his interest in these questions have to do with genre, particularly the relation between fact and fiction?

Fri 11/13, 5-7pm: PROUSTFEST, Part 2: Harvard University Professor of Philosophy Richard Moran on “Proust and the Limits of the Will.” ‘Involuntary memory’ is the most well-known theme of all in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In this talk, Moran, who has written on and taught Proust for many years, teases out what the importance of its being ‘involuntary’ could be in the context of the novel. 

Sat 11/14, 4pm talk, 5:30pm cocktail reception: Goat Hill Writers presents: “The Publishing World,” a conversation between author and publisher Kaylie Jones and novelist Taylor Polites. Jones has had a 25-year career as a novelist and writer of memoir. Two years ago, she began her own imprint, Kaylie Jones Books, with Brooklyn-based publisher Akashic Books. Jones will talk with Polites about the publishing world as she sees it from both sides of the table. Ample time will be allowed for questions and a cocktail reception will take place immediately after the talk.

Fri 11/20, 5-7pm: SALON, co-presented with FirstWorks and ecoRI News: Brown University Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences Terry E. Tullis, Chair of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, on “Fracking, Earthquakes, and Carbon Disposal.” While fracking has lowered current gas prices and made us less dependent on foreign oil, it has some negative consequences.  Ground water can be contaminated, and a dramatic incidence of small earthquakes has resulted from the injection of waste fluids produced by fracking. For example, Oklahoma now has a rapid acceleration of earthquake occurrences and more earthquakes than California. We understand why these earthquakes are occurring from laboratory and field experiments. The potential for more, even larger man-induced earthquakes looms as the Department of Energy begins “carbon sequestration” - pumping carbon dioxide down disposal wells to attempt to reduce future climate change. Join us to discuss the potential effect of our present practices on our future. We encourage Salon-goers to attend the FirstWorks presentation at the Columbus Theatre the following evening, Sat 11/21, of Half-Life, a multi-media event by L.A. performance group Cloud Eye Control, examining the psychological fallout of global disaster and exploring themes of human adaptation in a technological world (tickets available at Attendees are also encouraged to attend the Salon presentation on Fri 11/27 for a conversation building on the experience of these two evenings.

Fri 11/27, 5-7pm: SALON, co-presented with FirstWorks and ecoRI News: RI Artists on Environmental Practice. As demonstrated in the Cloud Eye Control performance on 11/21, artists have always engaged with, responded to, and reflected their environment in their artwork, whether inspired by pristine wilderness or the densely built city. Join us for a conversation with RI artists, including photographer/sculptor Scott Lapham and writer Kate Schapira, whose work addresses a variety of environmental issues and instigations, and learn how they use their work to calibrate, celebrate, test, and protest the evolving consequences of human interaction on the physical environment. Check out Lapham's projects Perfectly Preserved Sea Shore and Demolition, as well as Schapira's blog about Climate Anxiety Counseling.