Day Tripping: The Boston Athenaeum

Have you ever been to the Boston Athenaeum? If you haven't, I highly recommend it. A couple weeks ago, two friends and I went to their open house, toured around, and loved it so very much that we got memberships (at 20% off! Score!). 

An athenaeum is a library. defines it as:

athenaeum or atheneum
[ath-uh-nee-uh m, -ney-] 
1. an institution for the promotion of literary or scientific learning.
2. a library or reading room.
3. (initial capital letter) a sanctuary of Athena at Athens, built by the Roman emperor Hadrian, and frequented by poets and scholars.

In Boston, it's definition #2. The Boston Athenaeum is a private library on Beacon Hill (10 1/2 Beacon Street, in fact). It overlooks the granary burial grounds (where Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock are buried). 

It has 5 floors and is incredibly beautiful--walls of windows, tons of books, the basement houses a book restoration program (I was handling books from the 1800s and earlier!) to keep it's collection in circulation.

Now mind you, not every book is in circulation. A collection of books, King's Collection, from the 1600s is locked away, but you can still take a peak. It's from King's Church, down the street. The church asked the Athenaeum to house the books and eventually gave them to the library. Pretty neat.

That's me in the reflection!

I particularly loved the top floor--the fifth floor. There are balconies full of books, and so much natural light pouring in--the rugs are beautiful and the tables and leather chairs, just so much fun to cozy up at. Though I haven't seen it for myself. Apparently there is a terrace on this floor where you can sip tea while reading. How wonderful!

My friend Mandy was chatting with some of the docents who said that the Dewey Decimal system is not in use here--it's a particular brand of cataloging that a member came up with MANY years ago. 

There are rooms for book discussions--they have Shakespeare discussions, fiction discussions, Proust, Dickens, Mystery, Military, History discussions... so many great groups. 

And I couldn't forget to mention the art--the ever-growing collection of art at the Athenaeum is absolutely amazing. Sculpture, paintings, prints, and photographs, just very impressive stuff. 

I can't recommend highly enough--check out the Athenaeum next time they have an open house. I bet you'll fall in love with it, too.

*all pictures are my own


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