The Portsmouth Athenæum is a non-profit membership library and museum incorporated in 1817. Membership libraries were first created in the 18th century for the mutual edification of their members and to elevate the educational resources available in the community. The name “Athenæum” was used by a number of societies established during the 19th century to describe institutions with broader aims than just a library. The term is derived from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and the classical temple of the arts and sciences named to honor her. While there were once hundreds of membership libraries across America, there are now fewer than 20left.