Reading Society of Corfu
The Reading Society of Corfu was established in 1836, -it is the oldest cultural institution of modern Greece- according to the prototype of the Reading Society of Geneva, member of which was I. Kapodistrias, A. Kalvos and many other Eptanisians. The funding fathers of the Society were graduates mainly of French universities and were expelled from Italy as Carbonari.
The basic aim of the Society was to purchase from Western Europe, mainly France, England and Italy, newspapers, magazines and books in order to get the members of the Society in contact with the literary, scientific and political movements of Western Europe
Pertos Vrailas-Armenis, the later renowned scholar, philosopher, diplomat and politician, was chosen first President of the Society. Vrailas-Armenis stood for many years as the creative spirit, the soul and the driving force behind the Reading Society.
Prominent Corfiots for their literary, political and social activities, distinguished doctors, writers, politicians and hierarchs succeeded Petros Vrailas-Armenis in the presidency of the Reading Society. During the first years of work the Society was identified with the liberal and liberating wave that had swept Europe. Thus the Reading Society became protagonist or solidarist in every national and political demand of the Eptanisians, like the constitutionalization of the freedom of the press and the demand for the enforcement of the Greek language as the official language of the "United State of the Seven Islands". Virtually the Society stood in front of the general movement that ended with the Unification of the Seven Islands with Greece.
Since the first years, as members were chosen the Eptanisians and foreigners that were distinguished in the literary world. Thus during the first 100 years many distinguished citizens became members like: the Archbishop of the Union Athanasios Politis, Angelos Kogievinas, Counts Viaros and Augustinos Kapodistrias, Andreas Kalvos, the Greek National Poet Dionysios Solomos, Iakovos Polylas, Gerasimos Marcoras, Georgios Theotokis, Nikolaos Tomaseos, the composer of the National Anthem Nikolaos Mantzaros, Spyros Samaras, Lorenzos Mavilis -secretary of the Society until his heroic death on the mountain Driscos- Dinos Theotokis, Angelos Gialinas, the Bishop of Corfu and the later Ecumenical Patriarch Athinagoras and many other prominent members of the Corfiot society.
The Reading Society apart from the general library -of about 50,000 volumes- that also works as reading room, houses the priceless specialized Ionian Library -of about 7,000 volumes- unique of its kind, collections of paintings, old maps and engravings, old magazines, old printed material, documents, letters, newspapers and photographs. For all these a special enlistment and classification has been done, with automation of the catalogues.
The Society organizes or hosts many personal, group or retrospective artistic exhibitions, lectures, seminars and scientific conferences. The Society also publishes an annual newsletter of essays on scientific, Eptanisian and mainly Corfiot issues
The Reading Society is interested about the world of music and organizes mainly chamber music concerts, privet of public musical events, in her premises, in churches or other characteristic spots in the Old City of Corfu.
The Society has permanent relations with Greek and foreign Scientific Institutions and Universities like the archaeological School of Louvain, the University of Pisa, the Ateneo of Venise, the Pontaniana Academy of Naples and the Ionian University of Corfu. Since 1978 the Reading Society became member of "Europa Nosta", the pan-European federation of more than 200 non-governmental heritage organisations that works for the protection and the preservation of the architectural heritage of the European countries. On the context of this activity the Reading Society restored the house and the church of the first Greek National Benefactor Thomas Flanginis. Also renovated the faces and reconstructed the roof of the historical building were the premises of the Society are and in addition studies, follows and proposes subjects of Corfiot interest. Finally the Reading Society has placed a series of dedicatory plates on the faces of Corfiot buildings where historical personalities spent their lives.