By Tom Hardiman, Keeper & Executive Director


If you have not seen the current exhibit in the Randall Gallery, Peace, Love, and Portsmouth, Celebrating the City’s Cultural Renaissance Through the Lens of J. D. Lincoln, you are missing a real treat. Exhibit Curator and Athenaeum Photo Collections Manager James Smith has opened a window onto a narrow slice of time when Portsmouth was transforming physically through urban renewal and new urban planning, and changing demographically and economically as the city became a hub of arts, theater, music, and destination dining, a transformation that continues to this day.

One of the iconic images from the exhibit and from Lincoln’s book shows a group of roustabouts working, straining muscles, to raise a center tent pole for the Prescott Park Arts Festival in 1974. Great undertakings usually require a little help. In the exhibit acknowledgements, James thanks Richard Candee, Robert Chase, Mary Coombs, Ronan Donohoe, Elizabeth Farish, Ron Fortier, Roland Goodbody, Paula Lewinski, Carolyn Marvin, Ben Menard, Beverly Nemetz, Robin Silva, Anne Weidman, and Sherry Wood. Many hands make light work and the audience thus far has been very appreciative of the effort.

Two blocks away from the gallery, we are working to set up much needed offsite storage for collections. Again, help is coming to the rescue. Dick Adams, Craig Steidle, and Ken Wolf of the fearless Athenaeum Building Committee have begun reassembling shelving units moved from our previous storage facility. [ABOVE] Proprietors Jon Wyckoff and Steve Fowle have taken on the monumental task of sorting the many hundreds of bound historical newspapers by title and date and arranging them on the newly erected shelves. The initial critical phase of implementation should be completed by fall. Meanwhile, our indispensible Librarian, Robin Silva, is working with staff and volunteers to assess what is stored offsite. At the same time, Proprietors Peggy Hodges and Barbara Moore are leading a team of international experts to analyze how the space on State Street might be optimized to solve our longer-term collections issues.

Just as in the 1970s, we are in a time of upheaval, uncertainty, and change. As then, we could use a little peace, a little love, and a lot of help and we’ll make it better.

Images: [TOP] Raising the tent at the first Prescott Park Arts Festival, 1974. Photograph by J.D. Lincoln (1933-2022); [BOTTOM] Courtesy of Tom Hardiman.