Become A Member


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.

Help Support the Athenaeum
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.
Instructions for Becoming a Subscriber

The number of Proprietors to the Athenæum is limited in the bylaws. At present, this number is 400. Individuals wishing to become members must first apply to become a Subscriber and serve at least one year as a Subscriber. When a Proprietor share becomes available, it will be offered to the next Subscriber based on the date of original application. The fee to be a Subscriber or to be a Proprietor is currently $250 per annum. A one time fee of $500 is assessed when a Subscriber is accepted as a Proprietor.

An application form for Subscriber may be obtained from any member of the staff. The completed application, along with three endorsements from Proprietors in good standing, will be processed by the Admissions Committee when all parts of the application have been received. The endorsements must be received within 90 days of the submission of the application or the application will be returned. The Admissions Committee meets not less than quarterly. Recommendations from the Admissions Committee are presented to the Board. Upon approval by the Board, Subscribers are notified and assessed a prorated fee, depending on the time remaining in the year.

Subscribers are invited and encouraged to volunteer and become involved in the activities of the Athenæum. A list of committees and contacts is attached. Subscribers are entitled to all privileges of membership, including full access to the library during daytime hours, or by special arrangement.

Once you have completed the Subscriber’s Application Form either print and:

Mail to:
Portsmouth Athenæum | Attention: Keeper | 9 Market Square | Portsmouth, NH 03801

Become a Friend of the Portsmouth Athenaeum

The 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.” For nearly two centuries, the Athenæum has made its resources available to scholars, genealogical researchers, and curious browsers in pursuit of knowledge. In recent years, the Athenæum has greatly expanded its public outreach. In 1986, the Joseph P. Copley Research Library opened, providing regular public hours and professional staff to maintain and make available the library’s superb collections. In 1996, the Sawtelle family generously provided a space for insightful and engaging exhibitions on regional subjects. Named in honor of Sawtelle’s friend Peter Randall, the Randall Gallery holds exhibitions that are open to the public at no charge.

Friends of the Athenæum help support our efforts to benefit the community, providing outstanding exhibits on regional subjects, holding provocative lectures and educational programs, and maintaining public access to the Athenæum ’s vast collection of books, manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs, and artifacts, to encourage research on scholarship in subjects of regional interest.

Benefits of becoming a Friend of the Athenæum include:

  • Subscription to the Athenæum’s quarterly newsletter, with up-to-date information on events and activities, as well as notice of recent acquisitions of books, special collections, and curatorial objects
  • Free admission to lecture series
  • Advance notice of lectures and programs
  • Invitation to exhibit openings in the Randall Gallery

Your contribution is tax deductible, and your support is needed and greatly appreciated! Please send your form to: Portsmouth Athenæum | P.O. Box 366 | Portsmouth, NH 03802