Since the 1820s, the Athenaeum has been collecting contemporary European and American art works to form a permanent collection. The collection now numbers more than 550 19th and 20th century paintings and sculptures.
Docent-led, hour-long tours focus on the architectural history of the Athenæum’s building and on the institution’s fine arts collection.
The Athenæum’s collection of fine art is one of the most significant to have been formed in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century, and many paintings and sculptures from it are on view throughout the building. Many of these are discussed during the tour. Tours are limited in size and often sell out; booking a month in advance, especially for Sundays, is recommended.
The Boston Athenæum’s Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery features three exhibitions per year. These are always open to the public during normal business hours.
Analyzes the process of acquisition through group patronage rather than the genius of the artist