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Plan Your Visit

5th Floor Balcony

The Boston Athenæum, a membership library, first opened its doors in 1807.  Its rich history as a library and cultural institution has been well documented in the annals of Boston’s cultural life. Today, it remains a vibrant and active institution that serves a wide variety of members and scholars. With more than 600,000 titles in its book collection, the Boston Athenæum functions as a public library for many of its members, with a large and distinguished circulating collection, a newspaper and magazine reading room, quiet spaces and rooms for reading and researching, a children’s library, and wireless Internet access throughout its building.

The first floor and exhibition galleries are open to the public. All other floors are open to members only, however, they can be viewed on one of the weekly Art and Architecture Tours.


Security Check

Briefcases, knapsacks, cameras, oversized purses, packages, and similar items must be left with the security guard. It is preferred that all coats are checked. All articles are subject to inspection.


The Boston Athenæum permits photography on the first floor, with certain restrictions:

  • Flash photography and tripods are not permitted
  • Photography is not permitted during events
  • Photography is not permitted in the Gordon Room when readers are present
  • Photography is not permitted  in the exhibition galleries
With requests to take photographs elsewhere in the building, please contact Paintings & Sculpture:
With requests to take photographs in the building outside of open hours, please contact Events:
With rights-and-reproduction requests related to collection materials, please visit our Rights & Reproductions page for more information.

Food & Drink

During the warm months and during daylight hours, members may eat on the second- and fifth-floor terraces. Food is not permitted in other areas of the building at any time, except during special events with the exception of the Members’ Lounge on the 5th Floor. Beverages in closed containers are allowed. Food and drink are never permitted in the art galleries.

Cell Phones

Members and visitors are required to silence their cell phones upon entering the building; texting and internet use is allowed as long as the ringer is off and the user is not speaking into it. Speakers must be silenced on all other electronic devices, including computers. Cell phone calls are permitted in the lobby only. 

Wireless Internet Access

WiFi access is available throughout the building. Ask a staff member or consult the signs throughout the Library for the WiFi password.


Members are allowed to bring a well behaved dog on a leash into the Athenæum. Pets are NOT permitted, however, in the Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery at any time.

Please see our complete list of Rules & Regulations for more information.