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Boston Athenaeum, Boston

#17 of 36 in Museums in Boston
Art Museum · Hidden Gem · Library
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.

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75 reviews
  • 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 »
  • One can take a tour or just walk through--there is a cost of admittance, but we were happy to pay it in support of such a noteworthy organization---as it is one of the oldest independent libraries in....  more »
  • 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.
  • I dream of the day I could live in this beautiful city and visit this special place often! We took advantage of the late Tuesday opening today, and unfortunately missed the last tour. But the staff is very kind and helpful, and full of helpful information! Thank you to Fritz, Molly, and the front desk crew for making our visit extra special. What a gorgeous place!!

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