The Boston Athenæum
Steeped in American literary history, the Boston Athenæum is a bona fide cultural landmark.
Founded in 1807, this much-loved membership library, art museum and cultural center has recently been updated via a $17-million renovation project, led by local architect Ann Beha. The regeneration has added new spaces and revitalized older ones, as well as providing a more welcoming, bright and airy ambience in the lobby by restoring the grand arched windows.
The Athenæum holds a collection of more than 600,000 books and manuscripts, along with photography, engravings, paintings and sculpture. The collection span five galleried floors and it is still expanding: recent acquisitions include a range of 19th-century photographs and engravings, plus two rare volumes on early aviation by French scientist Gaston Tissandier (a man who famously escaped the 1870 siege of Paris in a hot air balloon – how’s that for a stylish exit?).
The Athenæum’s long-term mission is very much about making knowledge accessible to all. This is driven today in a variety of ways, including a changing exhibition program and events such as concerts and lectures.
Improved access to the permanent collections is also part of the scope, and to this end the Athenæum enlisted Goppion to create new showcases that allow visitors to see up close some of the treasures from the collection.
All four are recessed wall showcases with glass shelving – two with five glass shelves each, and an additional pair with two glass shelves each. The showcases are conservation-grade in line with strict requirements for the safe display of fragile and valuable historical material.
The shallow depth of the available areas for installation required flexibility in lighting and object mounts, but this was seamlessly achieved, thanks to Goppion’s wealth of experience providing showcase environments for challenging locations of all kinds. The installation was completed in May 2022 and the four showcases will host rotating displays from the Athenæum’s permanent collection.