Just got back from the Boston Athenaeum.
My home away from home.
I was doing a walk-through for a tour of the building.
Which is part of the final exam that I must take next month.
In order to become a guide there.
Let me give you a sneak preview!
When you come in the building, on the top of Beacon Hill, you first see Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.
You can’t have an Athenaeum without her.
Once you pass the reception desk, you enter the Bow Room.
With its statue of George Washington, one of many in the building.
Then you come into the magnificent Long Room.
And meet the Marquis de Lafayette.
Who was instrumental in helping us repel those British bastards.
Thomas Crawford’s statue of Adam and Eve stands before the revolutionary heroes who have gone to their rest in the Granary Burying Ground.
This is one of the Perkins boys, who were instrumental in founding the Athenaeum.
He made his money from slavery and opium.
As Mark Antony observed while standing over the well-ventilated body of Caesar:
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
So I suppose we should try to remember the good stuff.
At this point you may well ask: Is the Athenaeum a library? Or an art gallery? Or a sculpture collection?
Actually it’s a bit of all three.
Off to the right of the Long Room, the Bornheimer Room is one of my faves.
The perfect place to read and reflect upon the meaning of it all.
With a memento mori outside the window.
Reminding us to make much of the time we have left.
The adjacent Newspaper Room is one of only two places in the Athenaeum where you cannot talk.
Funny, when I was a kid, you would get shushed anywhere in a library!
Next, we take the elevator to the fifth floor reading room, the other place where silence reigns.
What a fabulous space!
Then we take the stairs down to the fourth floor.
Presided over by Thomas Ball’s model for the equestrian statue of Washington that stands in the Boston Public Garden.
There is a comfy sofa, chair and table also.
Last week I had a chat there with a young man from Boston Latin School who wants to attend my alma mater, Georgetown University.
When you get down to the third floor, you can see this.
The King’s Chapel Library, sent over by the Brits in the 17th century.
Because they figured America was too savage a place to have books.
Then you dive into the stacks, in the so-called Drum, the rounded end of the building that stores most of the books.
Then it’s back out on the second floor, to meet two of my favorite characters at the Athenaeum.
Little Nell, from Dickens’s Old Curiosity Shop.
And Boston’s Nathaniel Bowditch, the eighteenth-century mathematician who was famous for his work on ocean navigation.
This plaster cast is a model for his bronze memorial in Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Well, that gives you a good idea of what to expect when you take my tour.
If you are in town, I would be happy to show you the place anytime.
Hey, I need the practice!