Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenaeum is one of America’s oldest independent libraries. Housed in a magnificent building on the corner of Boston Common, the Athenaeum’s collection comprises of over half a million volumes, in particular concerning New England history and English and American literature. The Athenaeum’s wide range of books about the fine and decorative arts is wonderfully complemented by their eclectic collection of paintings and sculptures, collected over the 200 years of the institution’s history. Collecting art works has been the remit of the Athenaeum from its most nascent stages; John Thornton Kirkland (1770-1840) president of Harvard and founding trustee of the Athenaeum proposed the art collection in order to provide for the improvement and emulation of art, and for the correction and refinement of taste in those who aim to be connoisseurs and able to bestow praise and censure without discrimination.

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