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Libraries & Literature
Books were always so abundant and access to them so easy in Philadelphia, that scores of libraries and archives preserving national treasure have long offered their own brand of memorable visits.
Encountering a pamphlet that changed history, or discovering a long-ignored fact about the life of an ancestor can be both educational and life affirming.
You can sample these experiences over the course of a day or two, and many older repositories can be found in vintage landmark buildings, on public squares, on side streets, and tucked away on college campuses.
All things Quaker on a quiet Main Line campus
Ever since the Quaker founders of Haverford College set to work here in 1833, the library has grown into a dedicated repository for exceptional collections. In addition to materials that are just simply rare (Benjamin Franklin’s classic printing of Cicero’s Cato Major) Haverford’s Quaker Collection manages the office of the Friends Historical Association.
Revolutionary War documentation on sacred historical ground
The David Library was founded by Sol Feinstone (1888-1980), a businessman and collector who dreamed of turning his Washington Crossing farm into a library devoted to the study of the Revolution. The library, opened in 1974, contains Feinstone’s personal collection, which continues to grow through the nonprofit foundation he established to support it.
Preserving and interpreting the American Jewish experience
Rising five stories above Independence Mall, in the heart of historic Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History brings to life the 360-year history of Jews in America.View More
Let the Germantown Historical Society welcome you
The Germantown Historical Society has preserved and interpreted Germantown’s nearly 350-year history since 1901.View More
William Penn’s powerful agent-secretary, James Logan, made Stenton his country seat
Ben Franklin thought it was worth the trip to Germantown’s Stenton, one of the grandest houses of its time.View More
A daylong celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses
This year marks the 106th anniversary of Leopold Bloom’s fictional journey through the streets of Dublin, as imagined in James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, with the Rosenbach Museum’s day-long celebration of Bloomsday.View More
A place for pens at Penn
Penn students, faculty, staff and alumni founded this gathering space for writers inside an actual 13-room house on campus. Each semester, the staff hosts around 150 public programs and projects that include poetry readings, film screenings, seminars, dinners, workshops, art exhibits and musical performances.View More
First Western Islamic museum of its kind
Dedicated to preserving the history of Islam in the West, this is the first museum of its kind in the country.View More
Literary retreat on Fabric Row
Rare first-edition poetry tomes and brand-new graphic novels populate the wooden shelves of this Fabric Row shop. With creaky floors and a quiet atmosphere, it’s a great spot to discover a fondness for Edward Gorey or to rediscover that once-obsessed-over children’s book.View More
Center of attention
More neighborhoods need a pace like the A-Space, an anarchist “infoshop” that focuses on the enrichment of its community. Come for the free books, art shows and vegan potlucks, stay for the anti-war think tanks and NORML meetings.View More
Incredible collection of rare books, special collections and media
A stunning Beaux-Arts building along the culture-heavy Benjamin Franklin Parkway serves as the hub for the Free Library of Philadelphia, which includes 50 branches around the city.View More
Celebration of the joy of reading
Now in its eighth year, the annual Philadelphia Book Festival hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia is a city-wide celebration of the written word.View More
Home of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Community Design Collaborative
The Center for Architecture offers walking tours, exhibitions, lectures, kids workshops, films, book talks and other events on the topics of architecture, urban planning, and design.View More
A fun, sophisticated store selling architecture books, unique designer gifts, and creative children’s toys
The AIA Bookstore & Design Center is a recognized leader in architecture books, unique designer gifts, and creative children’s toys. The bookstore is operated by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, one of the oldest Chapters of the AIA.View More
Frank Furness (1888-90)
On the University of Pennsylvania, Frank Furness (1888-90)View More
Second oldest library in the state, twelfth oldest in the country
This library began in Hatboro’s Crooked Billet Tavern in August 1755, when 38 local citizens met and signed an “Instrument of partnership” to create the “Union Library Company of Hatboro.” The library, albeit with a shortened name, continues to operate under its original charter, making it the second oldest in Pennsylvania and the twelfth oldest in the United States.View More
A national center to collect and reflect on Presbyterianism
The Presbyterian Historical Society was founded in 1852 to “preserve and service materials relating to the history of the Presbyterian Church.” Today, it serves as the national archives and historical research center of the church. The society’s Lombard Street headquarters, opened in 1967, is located in the same neighborhood where Philadelphia’s Presbyterian congregation gathered in the 1690s.View More