The Boston Athenaeum, ca.1900.
The Boston Athenaeum is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. It is also one of only sixteen extant membership libraries, meaning that patrons pay a yearly subscription fee to use the Athenæum’s 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.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “athenaeum” as:
- An association of persons interested in scientific and literary pursuits, meeting for the purpose of mutual improvement; a literary or scientific club;
- A building or institution in which books, periodicals, and newspapers are provided for use; a literary club-room, reading-room, library.
Just as a museum is a place for the muses who inspire art, so an athenæum is a place for Athena, the goddess of wisdom who inspires intellectual pursuits.