The Athenaeum of Philadelphia is one of 16 surviving membership libraries. Some, like the Charleston (SC; 1748), New York Society (1754), and Newport (RI; 1741) libraries date from the 18th century. The Athenaeum of Philadelphia was established in 1814 as a subscription library, at a time when the free public library system did not exist and collections of books, available for reading or research, were still mostly limited to institutions and schools or colleges. Only a small number of individuals could afford to amass a collection of books. From its beginnings the Athenaeum of Philadelphia emphasized not only its lending collections, but also programs where the members could meet and discuss historical, literary, and cultural topics. In 1847 the Athenaeum moved into its Renaissance Revival brownstone designed by John Notman.
Members have the use of both the historical and contemporary collections maintained by the Athenaeum, and are invited to the full range of our programs, most of which are free or offered at a nominal fee. Furthermore, your membership will support this unique historical organization and help maintain its National Historic Landmark Building. Become a part of Philadelphia’s rich 19th century history by joining the Athenaeum today.
The Athenaeum offers three levels of membership participation:
Shareholder: The Athenaeum offers 1600 shares, a few of which become available each year. The current price of a share is $500, with annual dues set at $150. Persons wishing to purchase shares must be proposed by a current member or shareholder. Shareholders have full privileges in the organization as well as access to Shareholder-only events. Shareholders may vote at the Annual Meeting and serve on the governing Board. Those who wish to become Shareholders should contact the Membership Coordinator at 215-925-2688.
Subscriber: Subscribers to the Athenaeum pay an annual membership fee of $200. Subscribers enjoy full use of the Athenaeum’s lending collection and programs, but may not vote at the Annual Meeting or serve on the Athenaeum Board. Those who wish to become a Subscriber may join online.
Associate: Associate membership is reserved for those individuals who are 18 years of age, up to age 35. Annual dues are $75. Associates may make full use of the Athenaeum’s lending collection and programs, but may not vote at the Annual Meeting or serve on the Athenaeum Board. Those who wish to become an Associate may join online.
Contact our Membership Coordinator for further information.