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Providence Athenaeum bulletins (Arch-006)

Providence Athenaeum

251 Benefit Street
Providence, RI, 02903
telephone: 401-421-6970
email: info@provath.org
website: www.provath.org

Scope & content

This collection consists of the Providence Athenaeum's bulletins, dating from 1895 to 1995. The three Bulletin publications in this collection are:

  • Series 1. The Providence Athenaeum Bulletin, 1895-1899 (old series, published monthly)
  • Series 2. The Providence Athenaeum Quarterly Bulletin, 1903-1905 (published quarterly)
  • Series 3. The Athenaeum Bulletin, 1928-1995 (new series, published occasionally)

The final issue of the Bulletin was published in Summer 1995. After that date the Bulletin was replaced by several newsletters: The Owl (September 1995 to Spring 2000), and then The Universal Penman (2000 to present). See Archives Collection Arch-007 for these newsletters.

In addition, the Owlet (a children's services flyer, to announce programs and story hour readings) and several earlier children's room newsletters have been issued since the 1980s. See Archives Collection Arch-008 for the children's library newsletters.

Series 1. The Providence Athenaeum Bulletin (old series), 1895-1899: Published from 1895-1899, this first set of bulletins is comprised of four volumes (41 issues in all); the masthead states the frequency as "published monthly, October to July". The first page of each issue lists officers, directors, and staff. Board Presidents during these four years are Joseph C. Ely, Royal C. Taft, and Alfred Stone; staff members include J.L. Harrison, librarian and Grace F. Leonard, cataloger. Library hours were weekdays 9 am to 10 pm, with shorter summer hours.

The bulk of each issue's content is a list of recent additions to the collection, by categories, such as "General works", "Religion", "Sociology", "Useful arts", "Fine arts", "History", "Literature" (English, French), "Biography", "Fiction", "Juvenile", and others. General works added to the collection September 1895 included the American Library Association's List of subject headings for use in dictionary catalogs (1895), and Melvil Dewey's Decimal Classification and relative index (1894). This may reflect the fact that the first professionally trained cataloger had been recently hired. In addition, the first issue (Nov. 1895; Vol. 1, No. 1) includes a list at the end of 18 "Regulations" for library use on the last page.

Series 2. The Providence Athenaeum Quarterly Bulletin, 1903-1905: After an apparent gap of four years in the bulletins, the Quarterly Bulletin began publication in January 1903 (Vol. 1, No. 1) and continued through April-June 1905 (Vol. 3, No. 3). This second set of bulletins is comprised of three volumes (11 issues in all), each 4 pages in length except the first which has 6 pages. Once again, the first page of each issue lists officers, directors, and staff. The Board President during these three years is Alfred Stone, and J.L. Harrison is listed as librarian. As with the "old series" of bulletins, the bulk of content in these quarterly bulletins is a list of recent additions to the collection.

Series 3. The Athenaeum Bulletin (new series), 1928-1995: The new series of the Athenaeum Bulletin began publication in June 1928 and continued until Summer 1995. There are 66 volumes in all.

Content of the new series Bulletins: The content of early issues of this 3rd set of bulletins echoes the previous bulletins, consisting almost entirely of a list of additions to the collections. But over time, the content changes significantly. Narrative articles begin to appear, there is an emphasis on programming and community engagement. Upcoming social events, special programs, and trips for members are also included. There are short articles, only a few highlighted new additions to the collection, but no longer full listings. Photographs, illustrations and designs abound, and the "Athena" logo (surrounded by 3 owls and the date 1753) begins to appear with the September 1975 issue.

Format of the new series Bulletins: The length of earlier bulletins (1895-1899 and 1903-1905) are generally 4-6 pages and 15 cm. in height. This format continues through Vols. 1-24 (1928-1952) of the Bulletins (new series). Beginning September 1953 the paper became glossier. With the June 1971 issue (Vol. 44, No. 1) heavier stock covers appear and internal pages are printed on color paper, with illustrations. Beginning with the June 1979 issue (Vol. 51, No. 1) the page height increases to 25 cm. and between 1973-1978 decreased to 23 cm. While the number of pages remained 4-6 through 1968, the length began to increase in subsequent issues to as many as 36 pages (issues between 1973-1978 varied from 12-20 pages in length). Earlier bulletins were printed in black and white, whereas color ink and varied typography is added in this new series.

Frequency of the new series Bulletins: On the masthead of Vol. 1, No. 1 (June 1928) the frequency is stated as "published occasionally". Volumes published from 1928-1937 are issued 4 times per year; from 1938-1978 there are 4-5 issues per volume, sometimes including a separate issue for the Athenaeum's annual report; from 1979-1995 this third set of bulletins has only one issue per volume.