The Providence Athenaeum, founded in 1753 as a member-supported library, will provide a collection of books, other materials and programs to anyone, of any age, who loves reading, appreciates literature, and enjoys intellectual discovery. The Athenaeum will develop, conserve, and maintain its collections and its historic building to ensure a cultural heritage for future generations.
The Providence Athenaeum, founded in 1753 as an independent member-supported library, has played a key role in defining the cultural, intellectual and social life of Rhode Island. In its early years, it had a role in shaping America itself. The Athenaeum is remarkable for its wide-ranging collections, its wonderful building and, most importantly, the people who know and love it. There are few institutions like it. The Athenaeum's lineage derives in equal measure from ancient European libraries and societies and from early American ideals of self-reliance and community service. The Athenaeum is not a public library, nor an academic library, nor a community center, nor a private club - it is a little bit of all these things and it is more. It is a community in the true sense of the word. It is a place that grounds us and brings us closer together. Today it stands as a testament to the foresight and devotion of those who truly understand the power of the written word to inspire the mind and fire the imagination - and who understand the power of a physical space such as the Athenaeum to draw people together to a common purpose. That purpose is simply to enrich life - to explore and better understand what it means to be human and, in so doing, come to know oneself and one's compatriots better.
Since its foundation, the Athenaeum has acquired books and other materials for the use and edification of its membership. A primary mission has always been to provide for a library of wider scope and depth than was in the means of any one member. The survival of the institution for 250 years testifies to the success of this mission. Over the past three decades the Athenaeum's presence in Providence has been expanding with an increasing array of opportunities for members and others to come together for cultural programming and social interaction.