The Athenaeum lecture series continues to celebrate our city’s significant anniversaries in Portsmouth’s quadricentennial year. This year, the talks shine a light on Portsmouth’s commerce over 400 years, the historic interiors of those who lived here, and finally, the impact of climate change as evidenced at Strawbery Banke.

Each program begins at 5:30 p.m. in the third-floor Shaw Research Library.

Attendance is free for Athenaeum Proprietors, Subscribers and Friends. Guests and members of the public are welcome to attend the entire 2023 series by becoming a Friend of the Athenaeum (see link below) for as little as $25 per year, payable at the door. Admission to an individual program is $10.

Space is limited and reservations are required. Please call (603) 431-2538 to reserve your spot(s) today. If unable to keep a reservation, please call again to release the seat for someone else. Reserved seats are honored until five minutes before a program begins.


2023 Speakers

UPDATE: Due to weather and unexpected illness, the lecture, “Save the Date!” Anniversary Celebrations in Portsmouth, has been postponed until Wednesday March 29th. The time will still be 5:30 and the Zoom link previously sent will still work on the 29th.

The 2023 Athenaeum Lecture Series, “Portsmouth, NH: Evolution 1623-2023 Part 2,” begins on March 15 March 29 with “Save the Date!” – Anniversary Celebrations in Portsmouth by Tom Hardiman Jr., Keeper and Executive Director of the Portsmouth Athenaeum and an Athenaeum Proprietor. Mr. Hardiman has more than 30 years of experience in the museum, library, and historic preservation fields. He has been Athenaeum Keeper since 2000 and was previously curator of the Saco Museum. In addition to museum administration, Mr. Hardiman has significant experience with the management, exhibition and conservation of art and artifact collections and with the sensitive conservation of historic buildings. This presentation, in the words of the presenter, “recounts Portsmouth’s relentless obsession with 1623 and other dates that usually require an asterisk and a footnote to justify the celebration.”



On April 19, Proprietor Sam Reid presents The Life, Near-Death, and Revival of Wood Island Station. The Wood Island Life Saving Station sits on a small island next to the Maine/New Hampshire border where the Piscataqua River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Built in 1908 and decommissioned in 1948, it housed the brave men, called “surfmen” or “storm warriors,” who rowed out to save mariners in distress. Hundreds of rescues were performed and hundreds of lives were saved. 5:30 in the Shaw Research Library and via Zoom.



On May 17, join us for An Abundance of Cod: Fueling the New World. Ann Beattie will take you a step back in time to the early 17th century when Europeans began to sail to the New World and carry home tales of wondrous riches in the form of the obliging cod fish.





On June 21, Sandra Rux presents Before “Live Free or Die”: The Wentworth Oligarchy 1715-1775, during which period the family dominated Portsmouth and the New Hampshire colony. The talk is part of the Athenaeum lecture series and accompanies the Wentworth Takeover exhibit in the Randall Gallery.





After a summer break, the 2023 lecture series returns on September 20 with Ed Caylor’s Trading on the Gundalow. For more than 200 years, gundalows sparked the economic growth of the Piscataqua region. One hundred years after their appearance here, they were also in use in southern New England, the Delaware Bay, and the Chesapeake. They were instrumental in three American victories in the Revolutionary War. They were the key to America’s expansion across the Appalachian Mountains and into the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. Even in 2023, the gundalow is still a force for the environment and for education in the Piscataqua region.





On October 18, Proprietor Jane C. Nylander, a long-time student of New England interiors, delivers the lecture At Home in Portsmouth, 1750 – 1850. The talk will weave together a host of primary sources to expand our understanding of the appearance and functioning of domestic spaces in Portsmouth during the years 1750 – 1850.





The 2023 lecture series concludes on November 15 when Proprietor Rodney Rowland presents Water Has a Memory: Sea Level Rise, Our Past, Our Future. Strawbery Banke Museum is confronting the impacts of and damage from sea level rise right now. The 10-acre campus incorporates the Puddle Dock neighborhood; it is the lowest point in the city and just 150 yards from the Piscataqua River. The impacts are from both surface flooding caused by rainfall and groundwater intrusion from upwelling (the forcing up of the water table by, in this case, salt water.) This talk tells the story of the work to protect this historic site while we look to our past to help influence our future.

Written by Irene Bush.

The 2023 Lecture Series is sponsored by UBS Financial Services, Inc.