Athenaeum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia

The Athenaeum is a member supported, not-for-profit, special collections library founded in 1814 to collect materials "connected with the history and antiquities of America, and the useful arts, and generally to disseminate useful knowledge" for public benefit. Annually the Athenaeum's nationally significant collections attract thousands of readers: graduate students and senior scholars, architects, interior designers, museum curators, and private owners of historic buildings. It provides the Philadelphia region with a resource of first resort on matters of architecture and interior design history, particularly for the period 1800 to 1945.

The Athenaeum building was designed in 1845 by the innovative architect John Notman (1810-1865). It is widely hailed as the seminal American structure in the Italianate Revival Style and one of the first Philadelphia buildings built of brownstone. Severely plain on the exterior and deceptive in scale, the Athenaeum building contains richly embellished reading rooms with 24-foot ceilings. Into these spaces has been gathered a museum collection of American fine and decorative arts from the period 1800 to 1850 which is available for group or individual tours by advance reservation. The building has been expanded and restored to provide appropriate facilities for the care and exhibition of the collections. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
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Athenaeum of Philadelphia Reviews
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  • Along the street on the East side of Washington Scheer, just north and South middle of the square. Model of the reading terminal's entrance in the small little consequences might be, but the old Philadelphia were exhibited, and was at that time, is interesting.
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  • Just across from Washington Square Park this small museum and library is truly a hidden treasure. Nice artifacts and a beautiful library make this a nice place to visit for free. Donations only if you...  more »
  • This is a small museum off Washington Square. The exhibits are free, and also quite interesting. The current one documents 250 years of Independence Hall, and the changes that occurred to it and the s...  more »
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  • Small as far as museums go but a very varied collection. Well worth checking out.
  • I'm an artist and have used their digital scanning service. The work is placed face up on a large (4'x8') bed with a vacuum surface that keeps the work flat while it slowly rolls underneath a wide format camera. They give you your scan on a disc and save a backup. This is great for some type of artwork. Some adjustments in Photoshop are needed. A scan costs $100 but you can scan multiple images in one scan and if you join their organization you receive 25% off. Great for some art but not necessarily for everything.
  • Great events. Excellent resource for architecture.
  • Beautiful building. Quiet place to study (for members).
  • A hidden gem in Philly.
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