Adams Lecture: David Blight
Nov 18 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Historian David Blight, author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize in History, is the 2019 Adams Lecturer. In his remarkable biography, Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historians have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers. Blight tells the story of Douglass’s two marriages and his complex extended family. Not only an astonishing man of words, Douglass was a thinker steeped in Biblical story and theology. There has not been a major biography of Douglass in a quarter century. David Blight’s Frederick Douglass affords this important American the distinguished biography he deserves.

David W. Blight is the Sterling Professor of History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University. He is is a leading expert on the life and writings of Frederick Douglass and on the Civil War in historical memory and the author or editor of a dozen books, including American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory; and annotated editions of Douglass’s first two autobiographies. He has worked on Douglass much of his professional life, and been awarded the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize, among others. Blight has appeared in several PBS films about African American history and works extensively with museums and other public history projects.

Art in Bloom
Dec 4 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

The MFA “Art in Bloom” roadshow makes a stop at the Salem Athenaeum to create a holiday floral arrangement inspired by a famous painting. The presentation is an hour long, featuring half PowerPoint, half live floral demo, and 100% stunning results.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was the first museum in the United States to introduce the public to a show of art and flowers – Art in Bloom – over 40 years ago. During a four-day period every spring, about 50 of the Museum’s art objects are interpreted through floral arrangements. Many other events happen during Art in Bloom, including lectures and Master Classes led by world-renowned floral designers, ongoing demonstrations of flower arranging, activities for children, and more. Art in Bloom is free to members, and is the busiest week of the year for the Museum. This presentation will give you some of its background and many examples of AIB designs.

The flower arrangement made at this event will be raffled off to an audience member.

Samples of 2019 Art in Bloom installations at the MFA. What will they bring to the Athenaeum?


CANCELLED—Rachel Slade: Into the Raging Sea
Mar 31 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm


Boston-based journalist and author of national bestseller Into the Raging Sea, Rachel Slade, tells the gripping account of the sinking of the American cargo ship El Faro.

On October 1, 2015, Hurricane Joaquin barreled into the Bermuda Triangle and swallowed the container ship El Faro whole, resulting in the deadliest American shipping disaster in 35 years. No one could fathom how a vessel equipped with satellite communications, a sophisticated navigation system, and cutting-edge weather forecasting could suddenly vanish—until now.

Relying on hundreds of exclusive interviews with family members and maritime experts, as well as the words of the crew members themselves—whose conversations on the bridge were captured for a remarkable 26 hours leading up to the sinking by the ship’s data recorder—journalist Rachel Slade unravels the mystery of the sinking of El Faro. Taking a hard look at America’s aging merchant marine fleet, Slade also reveals the truth about modern shipping—a cut-throat industry plagued by razor-thin profits and ever more violent hurricanes fueled by global warming.

A richly reported account of a singular tragedy, Into the Raging Sea takes us into the heart of an age-old American industry, casting new light on the hardworking men and women who paid the ultimate price in the name of profit.

CSEM: Luc Beauséjour
Apr 4 @ 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm


Harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour plays Les Rappel des Oiseaux 
(The Calling of the Birds) featuring music about European songbirds by French composers.

CSEM: In Stile Moderno
May 30 @ 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm


The ensemble In Stile Moderno presents, Come Again: 
Lute songs of John Dowland and his contemporaries, with four singers and a lutenist.

Online Talk with Isa Leshko and Keri Cronin: A Salem Lit Fest Fundraiser
Jul 31 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

New Date!

Fundraiser to benefit Salem Literary Festival

Join us on our new date for a special online conversation about the role of images in advocacy with Isa Leshko, author/photographer of Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Animals from Farm Sanctuaries, and Keri Cronin, art historian and author of Art for Animals: Visual Culture and Animal Advocacy, 1870–1914. Cronin’s research focuses on the history of visual culture and on human-animal histories.

Learn more about Isa’s work.

Learn about Keri’s work.

Copper Dog Books is selling copies of Allowed to Grow Old.
Pre-order the book with Copper Dog.

Tickets: $5-20


Keri Cronin is Associate Dean, Research & Graduate Studies, in the Faculty of Humanities at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She is also a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and a founding member of Brock University’s Social Justice Research Institute. Her research focuses on the history of visual culture and on human-animal histories. Her most recent book, Art for Animals (Penn State University Press) looks at the ways in which animal advocacy groups in the late 19th and early 20th centuries used art and other images in their campaigns.

Isa Leshko is an artist, writer, and activist whose work examines themes relating to animal rights, aging, and mortality. She has received fellowships from the Bogliasco Foundation, the Culture & Animals Foundation, the Houston Center for Photography, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Silver Eye Center for Photography. She has exhibited her work widely in the United States, including shows at 516 Arts, the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Houston Arts Alliance, the Houston Center for Photography, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Photographic Resource Center, and the Silver Eye Center for Photography. Her prints are in numerous private and public collections including the Boston Public Library, Fidelity Investments, the Harry Ransom Center, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Isa’s images have been published in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, The Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times, and Süddeutsche Zeitung. In May 2019, the University of Chicago Press published her first monograph, Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Rescued Farm Animals, which included essays by activist Gene Baur, author Sy Montgomery, and curator Anne Wilkes Tucker. The book, which is now in its second printing, was selected by Buzzfeed as one of the best photography books of 2019, and was a coffeetable book recommendation for The New York Times 2019 Holiday Gift Guide.







Mira Ptacin: The In-Betweens
Oct 22 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna

“They believed they would live forever.” So begins Mira Ptacin’s haunting account of the women of Camp Etna—an otherworldly community in the woods of Maine that has, since 1876, played host to generations of Spiritualists and mediums dedicated to preserving the links between the mortal realm and the afterlife. Beginning her narrative in 1848, with two sisters who claimed they could speak to the dead, Ptacin reveals how Spiritualism first blossomed into a national practice during the Civil War, yet continues—even thrives—to this very day. Immersing herself in this community and its practices—from ghost hunting to releasing trapped spirits to water witching— Ptacin sheds new light on our ongoing struggle with faith, uncertainty, and mortality. Blending memoir, ethnography, and investigative reportage, The In-Betweens offers a vital portrait of Camp Etna and its enduring hold on a modern culture that remains as starved for a deeper sense of connection and otherworldliness as ever.

Mira Ptacin, the author of the acclaimed memoir Poor Your Soul, has written for NPR, Guernica, New York, Tin House, and Vice, among other publications. She teaches memoir-writing to women at the Maine Correctional Center and lives on Peaks Island, Maine.