The Boston Athenaeum Is Having an Open House on Saturday

Voluntarily hit the books this weekend.
boston athenaeum open house

The fifth floor reading room / Photo provided by Boston Athenaeum. Anton Grassl 2015.

Book lover’s heaven is opening its red leather gates for a day.

The esteemed Boston Athenaeum is hosting an open house this Saturday, September 12, offering tours of one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. To be frank, it’s a magical place reminiscent of the Boston Brahmin aesthetic, meaning it’s filled with rare books, art, architecture, and a lot of marble busts.

Normally, the Athenaeum only gives tours to non-members on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 p.m., but it’s dedicating an entire day for you to peruse members-only areas that aren’t typically open to the public.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for members and the general public to come and learn more about the institution, the collections, the services we offer, and the programs we have,” says Michael Jugenheimer, the Athenaeum’s Director of Annual Giving and Membership. “We have all of these wonderful collections here, and it would be a shame if we had them and didn’t share them.”

Open house visitors will follow a self-guided tour through six levels of the building, beginning with the iconic fifth-floor reading room. Curators will be stationed around the building to help guests understand what they’re looking at, whether it’s the King’s Chapel Collection—the oldest colonial library in Boston—or John Singer Sargent paintings. Jugenheimer says he encourages visitors to browse the Athenaeum’s open stacks, pull books, open things, and explore.

“We’re hoping people will not only come and look, but will also touch,” he says.

It’s evident that the Athenaeum isn’t any ordinary library; an athenaeum is defined as a membership library dedicated to research and the promotion of learning, named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena. Boston’s Athenaeum was founded in 1807— it has more than 500,000 books, including the largest portion of George Washington’s collection in the country, and a book bound with human skin.

Free, Saturday, September 12, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 10 ½ Beacon St, no admittance after 3 p.m.,