An athenaeum is defined as "an association of persons interested in scientific and literary pursuits, meeting for the purpose of mutual improvement; a literary or scientific club." The Boston Athenaeum was founded in 1807, placing it among the oldest independent libraries in the country. For more than 200 years, it has proven a vital cultural and educational institution for the city. Today it houses more than 600,000 titles, including a sizable circulating collection, a children's library, multiple reading rooms for newspapers and magazines, and ample quiet spaces.
The public is welcome to view the first floor and exhibition gallery, while a membership is required to visit all remaining floors.
Non-members interested in exploring and learning more of the building's history can take a weekly Art and Architecture Tour which is open to the public. The 40-minute tour focuses on theimportance of the Athenæum’s architectural history as well as its fine arts collection. The building has been moved, expanded, and renovated multiple times over the past two centuries, including most recently in 1999-2002.
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