About the Portsmouth Athenaeum

Membership libraries were first created in the 18th century for the mutual edification of their members and to elevate the educational resources available in the community. The name “Athenæum” was used by a number of societies established during the nineteenth century to describe institutions with broader aims than just a library. The term is derived from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and the classical temple of the arts and sciences named to honor her.

While there were once hundreds of membership libraries across America, there are now fewer than twenty left. The Athenæum today continues this long tradition of mutual improvement by maintaining a library of over 40,000 volumes and an archive of manuscripts, photographs, objects, and ephemera relating to local history. It also sponsors exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and other educational and cultural programs.


Shaw Research Library & Randall Gallery hours:

  • Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Also by special arrangement

Both the research library and the exhibition gallery are free and open to the public. Public entrance is shared with Ireland on the Square (6 Market Square). The research library and gallery are on the third floor. For elevator assistance, please call (603) 431-2538.

The Joseph Sawtelle Reading Room hours:

Open to the public on the first & third Saturdays and the second & fourth Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. Volunteer dependent. Check our calendar.

The Athenaeum is closed for certain holidays and events, including the following:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Market Square Day (the second Saturday in June)
  • July 4th
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

The Portsmouth Athenaeum is located in three adjoining buildings in Market Square: the 1805 Building, the Foye Building, and the Peirce Block. The Sawtelle Reading Room is on the first floor of the Athenaeum at 9 Market Square. The Shaw Research Library and Randall Gallery are at 6-8 Market Square on the third floor. For elevator access, please call (603) 431-2538.

GPS Coordinates:  Latitude – N 43° 4’ 37.5”  Longitude – W 70° 45’ 27”  MAP

Parking – Street parking is limited. We recommend using the High-Hanover parking garage, which is a block from the Athenaeum and Market Square.

Contact Information

For information call (603) 431-2538 | Email: info@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 366, Portsmouth, NH 03802

Physical Address: 9 Market Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801

Officers and Directors

President                   Sally Gayer

Vice-President      Margaret Hodges

Treasurer                  Jeffrey Keefe

Secretary                  Richard G. Adams

Past President       Bradley Lown


Ann E. Beattie
Edward Caylor
Christine Friese
Alan Gold
Susan Lassen
Donald Margeson
Peter Rice
Rear Admiral Craig Steidle
Anne Weidman


Keeper & Executive Director Tom Hardiman | thardiman@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Librarian Robin Silva | rsilva@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Office Manager Stephanie Hobbs Tabit | stabit@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Photographic Collections Manager James Smith | jsmith@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Research Librarian Carolyn Marvin | cmarvin@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Archivist Katy Sternberger | ksternberger@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Assistant Librarian / Cataloger June Spezzano | jspezzano@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Hewson | shewson@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Special Projects Librarian Susan Kindstedt | skindstedt@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Employment Opportunities
There are currently no job openings.

Portsmouth Athenaeum

Mission Statement

We, the Proprietors of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, associate to promote learning and advance useful knowledge among our constituents and the wider community by facilitating convivial interchange and intellectual discourse; maintaining our historic buildings and library; and collecting and preserving materials relevant to the history and culture of Portsmouth and the Piscataqua region.