Building for Books - Philadelphia’s Libraries

Michael J. Lewis

Wagner Free Institute of Science

Thursday, June 8, 2023 6:00 pm EDT

Wagner Free Institute of Science
1700 W Montgomery Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19121

Architectural Historian Michael J. Lewis will trace the roots and development of Philadelphia’s private and public libraries.
The Quakers who founded Philadelphia believed in universal literacy and were great creators of libraries. The first was the Library Company, which Benjamin Franklin helped establish in 1731 and which was America’s first subscription library. But Quakers also believed that knowledge should be useful, and gave their libraries a pragmatic character unlike those of any other American city. This talk explores how Philadelphia’s library buildings expressed these values, functionally as well as symbolically. Among Philadelphia’s many public and private libraries, this talk will look at Frank Furness’s furiously original library at the University of Pennsylvania, with book stacks capable of infinite extension; the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway building, which masked its up-to-the-minute plan with a two-century old facade; and Philadelphia’s newest library, the Charles Library at Temple University with its computerized book retrieval system. The talk will also discuss the Wagner Free Institute of Science, and its role in the history of Philadelphia’s public libraries.
About the Speaker
Michael J. Lewis, PhD, is the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art at Williams College in Massachusetts. He writes for a variety of publications and his books include Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (W. W. Norton, 2001) and Philadelphia Builds: Essays on Architecture (Paul Dry Books, 2021). He is the architecture critic of the Wall Street Journal.
Join us afterwards for our Annual Member Reception with wine & nibbles in the Exhibit Hall, free for current Members, $15 for guests.
4:30 - 6 PM - Exhibit Hall open for extended hours
6 - 7:30 PM - Lecture in the Lecture Hall
7:30 - 8:30 PM - Reception in the Exhibit Hall
You may register for the lecture, the reception or both.
This event will be in-person and will not be recorded.
Things to Know Before Your Visit
• Walk-in visitors are welcome. Advance registration is appreciated and will speed up your entry to the museum.
• There is no coat check or place to stow personal items – please travel light.
• To protect the specimens and our historic interiors, photography is not allowed in the museum and food and drink are not permitted in the building.
•The Institute does not have a parking lot. Street parking on Montgomery Avenue and 17th Street is free and metered parking is available on Bouvier Street and Cecil B. Moore.
A dream that keeps growing…
In 1855, William Wagner had a dream of providing free science education to anyone who wanted to learn, regardless of background or ability to pay. Today, the Wagner offers more programs to more people than ever before! Your support helps us provide free education, not only through the museum, but through a wide range of courses, lectures, field trips, and children’s science programs. Donations also assist us in caring for the museum and library collections and in preserving our wonderful building, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. To learn more about what we do please visit our website.
Registration Information
In keeping with its original charter, admission is free—donations are suggested to ensure the future and quality of Wagner's free education programs and to preserve its National Landmark building and collections.
Suggested Donations for the Lecture
Free for Members!
$15/person for Guests
For any questions, please email or call 215-763-6529 x24.
If you would like to check your membership status or become a member, please email or call 215-763-6529 x11.