Past Exhibitions

Spring/Summer 2016
Celia’s Salon: America’s First Artists’ and Writers‘ Colony

Celia Thaxter (1835-1893) was the most popular American woman poet of her time and the hostess of a summer salon on the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of NH. Her salon attracted America’s finest writers and artists, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, John Greenleaf Whittier, Sarah Orne Jewett, William Morris Hunt, Ross Turner and Childe Hassam.
Celia’s Salon features early published work by Celia Thaxter and Childe Hassam in the children’s magazines Wide Awake and St. Nicholas and well-known works from later in their careers; a bowl hand-painted by Celia Thaxter with olive boughs, on special loan from the Portsmouth Athenaeum; delicate floral-decorated china painted in the style of Celia Thaxter on loan from a private collection; rare works by authors who were part of Celia’s salon and more!Salon regulations were simple. Open hours were stated, and unless you had a personal invitation, seating was not guaranteed—even on the floor!Appledore House, home base to many Celia’s visitors, was one of the first seaside resorts in the United States. Peruse our Appledore Hotel “Registry” and learn about noteworthy poets, painters, journalists and presidents who visited this island retreat. Examples of local culture, including a seaweed scrapbook and eggshell seed starters, round out the picture of island life.Salem Athenaeum celebrates Celia’s Salon, and our common mission to encourage creativity, and share literature, music and art. In the summers, like Celia, we enjoy a lovely garden and our Friday Salons. Come experience an ambiance of art and literature “in the key of sea.”
Curated by Elaine von Bruns.


Fall 2015/Winter 2016

Samuel Hall: Patriot-Printer of the Revolution
Curated by Dr. Matteo Pangallo, a Junior Fellow of Harvard University, the Athenaeum’s new Fall/Winter Exhibition, “Samuel Hall: Printer-Patriot of the Revolution,” provides an in-depth exploration of the life and work of Salem’s first printer. Included in the exhibit are many of Hall’s publications, such as books, pamphlets, almanacs, newspapers, and more, from a private collection and the Salem Athenaeum.

Samuel Hall was a leading member of America’s printing and publishing industry in the colonial and early republic era. After apprenticing with his uncle, the first printer in New Hampshire, he married into the family of Benjamin Franklin. In 1768, Hall set up the first printing shop in Salem, Massachusetts and remained in Salem until 1775, when the Provincial Congress asked him to move to Cambridge to aid the patriot cause.

In later years, Hall printed in both Salem and Boston, became a respected community leader, and was one of the nation’s leading publishers of sermons, children’s books, science, and literature. An outspoken advocate of independence and a dedicated Federalist, abolitionist, and promoter of the art of printing, Hall is one of the many individuals who can rightly be counted among the founders of the nation.

Dr. Pangallo presented a lecture about the exhibit on Friday, February 12, 2015.



Spring/Fall 2015

Early Birds: Portraits by the Fathers of American Ornithology

John James Audubon may be America’s best-known ornithologist, but he was not the first to catalog birds.  Before Audubon, there was Alexander Wilson.  Both men are considered to be the Founding Fathers of American Ornithology.  Wilson, a Scot, and Audubon, a Frenchman, sought to create portraits and biographies of all the bird species of their adopted country.  Curator Elaine von Bruns presents an exhibit that celebrates both men and their contributions to nature study.

Wilson’s American Ornithology (1808-1814) and Audubon’s Birds of America (1827-1838) gave Americans and Europeans pictures and information about the wonders of what both men termed “the feathered tribe” of America. The Athenæum’s nine-volume set of American Ornithology is the focal point of the exhibit. These oversize books are a rare treasure not often on view and include hundreds of hand-colored illustrations.
In addition, Early Birds displays Audubon’s first published bird illustration, and several important volumes from the Athenæum collection that have connections to early ornithological studies in the United States. When you visit, also take note of the newly framed page from the Audubon’s Birds of America now on permanent display the exhibit room.

Upcoming Events

View Entire Calendar