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Boston Athenaeum, Boston

4.2
#17 of 35 in Museums in Boston
The Boston Athenæum is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. It is also one of a number of membership libraries, for which patrons pay a yearly subscription fee to use Athenæum services. The institution was founded in 1807 by the Anthology Club of Boston, Massachusetts. It is located at 10 1/2 Beacon Street on Beacon Hill.

Resources of the Boston Athenæum include a large circulating book collection; a public gallery; a rare books collection of over 100,000 volumes; an art collection of 100,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and decorative arts; research collections including one of the world's most important collections of primary materials on the American Civil War; and a public forum offering lectures, readings, concerts, and other events. Special treasures include the largest portion of President George Washington's library from Mount Vernon; Houdon busts of Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Lafayette once owned by Thomas Jefferson; a first edition copy of Audubon's The Birds of America; a 1799 set of Goya's Los caprichos; portraits by Gilbert Stuart, Chester Harding, and John Singer Sargent; and one of the most extensive collections of contemporary artists' books in the United States.
The Boston Athenæum is also known for the many prominent writers, scholars, and politicians who have been members, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., John Quincy Adams, Margaret Fuller, Francis Parkman, Amy Lowell, John F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy.
Boston Athenaeum is just one of the many highlights you can arrange to see using our , custom trip planner Edition.
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Boston Athenaeum Reviews

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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
75 reviews
Google
4.1
TripAdvisor
  • Our local guide recommended that I come here when he discovered I was a LIbrarian/Library Educator as he thought I would enjoy "Required Reading: Reimagining a Colonial Library". So on Friday I...  more »
  • This is a hidden gem! My family and I did the 'Art and Architecture Tour' and it was one of the best tours we've ever done in Boston. The docent was outstanding, knowledgeable, and lots of fun. The...  more »
Google
  • We were late getting downtown and missed our tour, but the art on display had some great pieces! If I lived in the area, I would definitely look into membership.
  • This is a beautiful, historic institution that is nevertheless antiquated, elitist and limits its engagement with the general public. It is only fully open to rich people, who are willing to shell out upwards of $300 per year for membership. My 2-year old boy really wanted to visit the children's library, and was thrown out of the building without even being able to use the restroom (they also didn't allow us to pay the $10 daily fee, which we would have gladly paid). It is truly a shame, because places like this should be celebrated by being open to all who can enjoy and appreciate it responsibly. I wouldn't be surprised if their membership numbers are struggling and do not reflect the demographics of the current residents of Boston.

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