In 2018, the Library Company of Philadelphia launched our seminar series to offer community members an opportunity to explore the rich historical records of our collections. More than an exhibition of treasures, each seminar provides participants with access to carefully-curated materials such as historical documents, books, and prints, together with conversation guided by experts in a learning experience that promotes discovery, discussion, and reinterpretation.

In Spring 2020, we will offer two seminars at our most accessible pricing ever. Both seminars will unfold over three sessions with interactive presentations and curated access to collection items in the Library Company reading room. Tuition is $149 for the general public and $99 for members and shareholders. Need-based scholarships are also available. Students, artists, and first-time participants, in particular, are encouraged to inquire with the program director, Will Fenton.

To register for the seminar, please use the Eventbrites below or contact Dayjah Brock, Events & Programs Coordinator, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 149. For more information about the seminar series, contact Will Fenton, Director of Scholarly Innovation, at or 215-546-3181, ext. 119.

From the LCP Blog…

About the Director of Scholarly Innovation

Ghost River in the Making

Convenes 5:30-7:00 p.m. on January 30, February 13, and February 27, 2020

During the Paxton massacres of 1763, a mob of white settlers, so-called “Paxton Boys” murdered 20 unarmed Conestoga People in a genocidal campaign that reshaped Pennsylvania settlement politics. Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga reimagines this difficult history through an educational graphic novel that introduces new interpreters and new bodies of evidence to highlight the Indigenous victims and their kin.

Join Editor and Curator Will Fenton on a behind-the-scenes exploration of the Library Company’s public art exhibition and first graphic novel. In addition to hands-on access to eighteenth century materials that inspired this story, participants will have an opportunity to learn about the collaborative process from author Lee Francis IV (Laguna) and artist Weshoyot Alvitre (Tongva). All participants will also receive a signed, first edition copy of Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga.

Domesticating Revolution: Founding Women, Material Culture, and Politics at Home

Convenes 5:30-7:00 p.m. on March 11, March 25, and April 22, 2020

In 1781, a British newspaper reported that a British officer stationed in the United States “told Lord Cornwallis …that he believed if he had destroyed all the men in North-America, we should have enough to do to conquer the women.” The fierce patriotism of American women was noted on both sides of the Atlantic in the revolutionary era, but has received far less attention in histories of the war told after the conflict ended.

Led by Dr. Zara Anishanslin (Associate Professor of History and Art History and Director, History of American Civilization Program, University of Delaware), this material- and visual culture-centric seminar series fills that historical gap, using Library Company’s collections to look at how Philadelphia women used their homes–and the things in those domestic spaces–to create revolutionary fervor and shape founding era politics from the mid-1760s through the 1790s. During and after the American Revolution, Patriot women from North to South used material culture to domesticate revolution. They used things–things they bought, things they made, and the architectural spaces of their homes–first to wage, and then to come to terms with waging, the war. American women made and used objects to “domesticate” the war in multiple senses: to bring battle into the home and home into battle, to make something public and communal private and intimate, to create an American political culture, to produce and consume goods related to the Revolution in the American marketplace, and, eventually, to tame memories of a violent Patriot.

Past Seminars

Victorian Sweets: Exoticism & Agrarianism in Local Confectionery

Led by Eric Berley and Ryan Berley, Co-Owners of The Franklin Fountain and Shane Confectionery and  Kevin Paschall, Head Chocolate Maker at Shane Confectionery

Convened on November 21, December 5, and December 17, 2019

Using 19th century advertisements, photos, packaging, and broadsides from the Library Company of Philadelphia’s rich collections, co-owners of The Franklin Fountain Eric Berley and Ryan Berley and head chocolatier of Shane Confectionery Kevin Paschall will explore the written and visual culture of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century trades of confectionary, chocolate, and ice cream.

Mirror of a City: Images of Philadelphia, 1780-1950

Led by Erika Piola, Director of the Visual Culture Program and  Sarah Weatherwax, Curator of Print and Photographs, Library Company of Philadelphia

Convened on September 26, October 10, and October 24, 2019

The Print and Photograph Department at the Library Company of Philadelphia holds one of the few public historical, American popular graphic arts collections in the country. With a focus on the visual history of Philadelphia from the era of the early nation through post-World War II, the graphic materials chronicle the evolution of the city and the story of their creators, collectors, and distributors like few others.

Designing Afrofuturism: Imagining Black Futures through Art, History, and Literature

Led by Dr. Walter Greason, Monmouth University

Convened on January 24, January 31, February 28, and March 21, 2019

This seminar examined the surviving art, architecture, and technology from indigenous civilizations across the African diaspora. Complemented by the upcoming Library Company exhibition “From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures: Black Creative Re-Imaginings,” this seminar, led by Dr. Walter Greason, explored how historical African American leaders envisioned the future. Designing Afrofuturism drew upon the Library Company’s prodigious African American History collections, including rare Afrofuturist literature and drawings, poems and songs, and speeches and protests.

Benjamin Franklin & Immigration

Led by Dr. Carla J. Mulford, Pennsylvania State University

Convened on March 6, 2019

Franklin’s ideas about immigrants and immigration evolved as his career moved from being a colonial leader in Philadelphia to a citizen of the world. Dr. Carla Mulford, a leading scholar on Franklin, curated records that reveal Franklin’s shifting views on immigration, demographics, economics, and the environment. Drawing upon documents from Franklin’s time in Philadelphia, London, and Passy, participants traced how local circumstances shaped Franklin’s early thinking and how later experiences encouraged him to fashion a more global vision about immigration problems, goals, and strategies.

Graphic Materials: Early American Political Cartoons and Propaganda

Led by Dr. William D. Fenton, Library Company of Philadelphia

Convened on October 23, November 8, November 20, and December 4, 2018

This seminar excavated the broadsides, engravings, political cartoons, caricatures, and ephemera that transformed early American politics. Canvasing the African Americana, John A. McAllister, and Political Cartoon collections, Fenton offered participants hands-on access to the Library Company’s vaunted visual culture materials. In addition to an eye-opening companion to election-year politicking, Graphic Material connected participants with leading practitioners, including award-winning editorial cartoonists Signe Wilkinson, Dwayne Booth, Ben Passmore, and John Cole.