With the establishment of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the 1870s, the Boston Athenæum ended its historic, nearly fifty-year run of annual art exhibitions that had begun in 1827.Turning its focus almost exclusively to its library functions, the Athenæum did not again host or organize exhibitions until the 1950s. Even then, the early exhibitions of this later period were almost exclusively small collection-based shows of short duration in a single gallery with limited public access.
As the decades progressed, however, the exhibitions grew in frequency and occasionally focused on topics that were broader than those that could be addressed solely with objects from the institution’s own collections. Following a major renovation and expansion of the Athenæum’s building at 10 ½ Beacon Street in the years around 2000, the Athenæum again established a regular schedule of exhibitions that are professionally curated and installed in dedicated galleries that are open to the public.
The digitized documents that follow are checklists and catalogues that were produced for distribution or sale by the Athenæum for its exhibitions from 1950 to the present. Not every exhibition generated such documents and so those that can be accessed should not be taken as a complete record of all exhibitions held at the Athenæum during these years.
David B. Dearinger, Ph.D.
Susan Morse Hilles Curator of Paintings & Sculpture and Director of Exhibitions