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.


How to Find the Athenaeum:

The Portsmouth Athenaeum is located at 9 Market Square in Portsmouth, NH.
The Research Library and Randall Gallery are at 6-8 Market Square on the 3rd floor.
GPS Coordinates:  Latitude – N 43° 4’ 37.5”  Longitude – W 70° 45’ 27”  MAP

The Reading Room is on the first floor of the Athenaeum at 9 Market Square.

The Portsmouth Athenaeum is handicap accessible. Please call the Athenaeum to get directions to our elevator and to set-up arrangements for a staff member to meet and help you.

Parking – There is two hour parking on the street but during the summer months it can be difficult to find a parking place. The parking garage is around the corner from the Athenaeum. Once you’ve made the right turn onto Market Square take your first right onto Ladd Street the entrance into the garage is off of Ladd Street



The Joseph P. Copley Research Library and the Randall Room exhibition gallery are open without charge to the public:

Joseph P. Copley Research Library hours:

  • Tuesday and Thursday from 1–4 p.m.
  • Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by special arrangement

Randall Room exhibition gallery hours:

  • Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1-4 p.m.

The research library and the exhibition gallery are on the third floor of the building at 6-8 Market Square adjoining the Athenaeum building.

The Joseph Sawtelle Reading Room is open for tours to visitors on Thursdays from 1 – 4 p.m.

Please call in advance to confirm that we are open.  The Athenaeum is closed:

  • New Years Day
  • Market Square Day (the second Saturday in June)
  • July 4th
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • Most holiday weekends
Contact Information

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

Extension 1 is for general information about the library

Extension 2 is to reserve seats for lectures or programs

Extension 3 is to leave a message for the library staff

Officers and Directors

President: Karen Bouffard
Vice-President: Stephen H. Roberts
Treasurer: William Purinton
Secretary: Douglas Aykroyd
Past President: John Shaw

David A. Borden
Margaret Hodges
Ronda Baker Hill
Jeffrey Hopper
Richard Candee
Sandra Rux
Mark Connolly
William F. Wieting
Ellen Fineberg


Keeper: Tom Hardiman | thardiman@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Librarian: Robin Silva | rsilva@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Research Librarian: Carolyn Marvin | cmarvin@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Archivist: Susan Kindstedt | skindstedt@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Photographic Collections Manager: James Smith | jsmith@portsmouthathenaeum.org

Office Manager: Patty Kosowicz | pkosowicz@portsmouthathenaeum.org

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.

Contact Us