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Brilliant Beginnings: The Athenaeum and the Museum in Boston
On March 10, 1870, the trustees of the newly incorporated Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, met for the first time. Boston’s first art museum had no building, no collection, and very little in the way of financial resources. Where would the museum be? How would it be organized and staffed? Who would pay the bills? What was its
purpose? Who would it serve?
Organized by Hina Hirayama, the Boston Athenæum’s associate curator of paintings & sculpture, the exhibition “Brilliant Beginnings: The Athenæum and the Museum in Boston” explores what happened next. The exhibition, on view at the Athenæum’s Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery February 13 through August 3, 2013, celebrates the exceptionally close collaboration between the fledgling Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Athenaeum, which itself had collected and exhibited art since 1827.
With some 70 objects, including paintings, sculptures, watercolors, drawings, photographs, decorative arts, and documents, the show outlines how the Athenæum was a generous lender and friend, indulgent temporary landlord, mentor, and senior patron during critical years when the MFA’s very survival was sometimes in question. This historic partnership, Hirayama explains, was “exceptional in its intensity, intimacy, and informality.” It was also deeply important to both the success of the MFA and the development of American art museums. Yet its story has never fully been told before.
More About The Boston Athenæum
This membership-only library at 10-1/2 Beacon Street has been a Boston institution since 1807, and a recent membership drive is attracting a new generation of members. The 10-story building was erected in 1859 when the collection became too large for its original home.
The Athenæum has 5,000 members from all over the world. It also has about 1,000 proprietary memberships that are handed down generation to generation from the original founders of the library.
For those under 41, the yearly member fee is $115 per individual or $175 per household. For those 41 and over, the membership fee is $230 for individuals and $290 for households.
There's something for everyone here: a charming children's library, evening literary lectures followed by wine and cheese socials, quiet reading halls and much more.
The first floor is open to the public, but the rest of the library is only open to members. The fifth floor is a beautiful reading room with a lounge and kitchenette, as well as a balcony that offers stunning views of downtown Boston.
The lectures with wine and cheese are hosted once a week during the academic year, high tea is served at 3pm every other Wednesday and story time for children is held Tuesdays and Thursdays. The library also hosts an art exhibition three times a year. A full list of events is available on the website.
Tours are available to the public Tuesday and Thursday at 3pm, but participants must call ahead to register.
Other events here
- Nichols House Museum Spring Fete and Silent Auction Thu, Jun 6, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm