Jenn Pellecchia’s journey from discovery to community at the Athenaeum
Excerpts from an interview with Jenn Pellecchia, 13-year member
What drew you to become a member of the BA?
Jenn: I found out about it through Wikipedia. I think I was looking at the page for John Adams or John Quincy Adams, that’s how I found out they were both members. I thought, there’s no way this still exists, but there was a link to the website, and I saw that it was a member library that anyone could join. I showed it to my husband and was like, we have to do this.
What’s your favorite spot in the building?
Jenn: I love to browse the new books. It’s so nice to not have to be in a huge queue and reserve everything, just to be able to browse, like a bookstore, but not have to pay for anything. And when I actually need to get some work done I like to go to the basement, especially in the summer. It’s really nice and cool, and if I want to take a break, I can check out the art books. And the views are great down there. It’s a nice, quiet place.
What are you working on at the BA currently? What do you bring with you to work on? Do you work, or do more reading?
Jenn: I like to do both, work and read. This is a great place to try to get stuff done. I work from home, and my discipline there kind of varies, but I’m a bookbinder and a book conservator, so this is a great place just to be.
How has the BA helped support your interests? Is there anything you’ve discovered here that you’d want to share?
Jenn: I discovered book conservation as a career! Through a lot of the exhibitions I’ve learned about other bookbinders and book artists. It’s great that Special Collections is buying from current artists and has an interest in contemporary book artists and bookbinders. I’m discovering people all the time, and even older works from people I actually know or have heard of.
And also it’s fun to have people you can talk about things with. You know, it’s great to just ask John [Buchtel, Athenaeum Director of Special Collections], “Are you shopping, what are you excited about, what have you acquired?” and then being able to make an appointment and go look at stuff. I’ve been able to do a lot of learning that way.
What’s your favorite perk of being a member at the Athenaeum?
Jenn: I love the events. It’s nice that there’s such a range of people that the BA attracts, different ages, different careers, coming from different areas of the country and sometimes the world. There’s been so many fascinating people working here too. You can have a good conversation anytime you come to the building.
I’ve never been to something that I thought wasn’t interesting. There’s always a level of quality, and there’s always something to learn, and the speakers do such a great job that any time you end up here for an event, you’re going to come away with something. It’s like, “I’m free, is there something happening?” And there usually is. I think being in a room full of people who are learning things together, you can’t really top it.
If any, what fictional character or historical figure would you expect to find in the Athenaeum?
Jenn: I know that Louisa May Alcott was a member, so I’d like to think of Jo March, or really anybody in the March family, having access to this. Not just Jo, but all of the sisters. Music for Beth, and art for Amy, and maybe some social events for Meg. It’s really easy to picture them fitting in here. I always like that this is a family place, too, so it makes me happy to think about the March family being able to visit as a group.