The Athenæum welcomes members, whose annual dues underwrite the costs of maintaining the collections and making them accessible according to professional standards. The membership covers nineteen states and two foreign countries.

The Athenaeum has three levels of membership: Friends, Subscribers, and Proprietors. Friends receive the newsletter, free admission to the lecture series, and invitations to all Athenaeum public events and the annual picnic. Subscribers receive all of the above as well as invitation to special Subscribers’ events and have full library and Reading Room privileges during daytime hours and may check out books. The Proprietors have supported and directed the Athenaeum since 1817. They have all of the above privileges along with extended library hours, a vote at the organization’s annual meeting, and the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors. For more detailed information on membership levels, please contact the Keeper.

The library welcomes about 700 visitors per year from the general public, who come from all over the globe to research Piscataqua region history and family genealogy. In addition to the 1100 member and other library users, the exhibitions, lectures, and concerts attract more than 2000 visitors annually.

As a non-profit institution, the Athenæum fills a central role in the community that reflects both its central location and the neoclassical elegance of its historic building in Market Square.  In the hours that the research library is closed, it is used as a meeting room for several civic and social groups. The professional staff conducts outreach programs for teachers, librarians, and interested scholars to familiarize them with the Athenæum's rich collections and to encourage cooperation among colleagues.

Please Help Support the Athenæum

The Portsmouth Athenæum is a non-profit member supported organization, established in 1816 and incorporated the following year with “the purpose of promoting learning and diffusing useful knowledge.” The Athenæum has continued this scholarly tradition for nearly two centuries and has greatly expanded its scope and outreach. The Athenæum maintains the Copley Research Library and the Randall Gallery as space for insightful and engaging exhibitions on regional subjects, as well as hosting concerts, lectures, readings, and other cultural programs.


Volunteers are always needed in every aspect of the Athenæum's activities. From straightening books to gallery sitting, from working on a committee to working with collections, volunteers enjoy the chance to learn more about the resources in the library and to meet interesting colleagues while helping to advance the mission of the organization.

Your support is needed and greatly appreciated!

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© 2006 Portsmouth Athenæum