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.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU VISIT
Backpacks, briefcases, handbags larger than 11 x 15 inches, packages, and similar items are not permitted beyond the vestibule. Members and visitors are responsible for storing such items in the complimentary, key-operated day lockers located in the vestibule. Limited storage space may be available for items too large to fit into a locker; please ask a security guard for assistance. Clear plastic bags are available to hold personal belongings (such as wallets, notebooks, and laptop computers) carried into the building.
The lockers are provided for temporary, on-site use only. Patrons are expected to empty all lockers and return all keys before leaving the building. At the close of business each day, security staff will open and remove the contents of any locker lacking a key. A replacement fee of $100 will be assessed for any lost key.
For security reasons, the contents of any locker may be subject to inspection at any time. The Boston Athenæum is not responsible for lost or stolen items.
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
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.
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 the phone. Speakers must be silenced on all electronic devices, including cell phones. Cell phone calls are permitted in the main vestibule or in one of the two phone booths located on the first floor near the restrooms.
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.