Tour Information and Schedule for the Central Library
Art & Architecture Tours
- Public Tours
- Private Tours
- Student Groups
- Visiting on Your Own
- Volunteer Opportunities
The Boston Public Library offers tours highlighting the architecture of its famed Central Library buildings by Charles Follen McKim and Philip Johnson as well as the art treasures within, including works by Daniel Chester French and John Singer Sargent.
Free public tours are offered to visitors by trained volunteer guides. Please note that unauthorized guides are not permitted to lead tours within the library.
Beginning in August 2021, we are resuming our public tours on a reduced basis. Free tours will be offered at the following times:
Mondays at 2:00pm
Wednesdays at 2:00pm
If your party is smaller than 6 people, you may join the public tour without a reservation. For the time being, parties of 6 or more people will be asked to refrain from joining our public tours so as not to overcrowd these limited groups. BPL Tour guides and staff reserve the right to limit public tour capacity as we restart our program. If your party is larger than 6 people, please refer to the “Visiting on Your Own” section below.
Guides and patrons will be required to wear masks for the duration of the tour.
Tours last approximately one hour and begin from the McKim Building vestibule, through the library's Dartmouth Street entrance.
Please note that tours will not be held on days when the library is closed due to holidays or inclement weather.
Private groups of any size up to 60 people may request an Art & Architecture tour start time outside of the daily public tour times until 5 p.m. between Monday to Thursday, and until 3:45 p.m. between Friday and Sunday. Individual parties larger than 8 people are not permitted to join a public tour and must schedule a separate private tour.
A minimum lead time of six to eight weeks is required for private tour requests; bookings are subject to guide availability.
Each guide can accommodate up to 20 visitors; a $100 fee per guide applies. An invoice will be sent to the billing addressee listed on the tour request form. Please note that at least 24 hours’ notice is requested in order to issue a refund for cancelled or rescheduled tours.
Tours last approximately one hour and begin from the McKim Building vestibule, just through the Dartmouth Street entrance.
We are not scheduling any private tours at this time.
If you are a teacher or professor planning to bring your students for a self-guided Art & Architecture tour of the Central Library, please contact the Tours office at email@example.com or 617-859-2216 to register your group (please allow a minimum of 3 weeks before your planned tour).
If your student group prefers to arrange a private Art & Architecture tour with a BPL guide, please refer to the section on Private Tours above.
Any student group attending a private tour must provide one adult chaperone per 10 students. The tour material is currently recommended for middle-school age and above.
For groups that are interested in a visit to the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, please visit their website.
Please note that unauthorized guides are not permitted to lead tours in the library. All group tours must be led by an approved BPL-trained guide or staff member. For information and policies on groups, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.859.2216.
The following guide is available to those experiencing the Central Library's art and architecture outside of a group:
- Art & Architecture of the Central Library in Copley Square (Virtual Booklet)
For more information about art and architectural points of interest in the Central Library, please visit our art & architecture page.
- General Building Resources
- Handbook of the New Public Library in Boston (1895)
- A Handbook to the Art and Architecture of the Boston Public Library
- An Index to the Persons Commemorated by Inscriptions or Works of Art in the Central Library Building of the Boston Public Library, opens a new window by Frank N. Jones (in the BPL catalog)
While attending Art & Architecture tours, you can expect an hour of walking and standing throughout three floors of the McKim Building. Every floor is reachable by elevator if you are not able to use the stairs.
The Dartmouth Street (McKim Building) and Boylston Street (Johnson Building) entrances are both accessible. Please note that tours begin in the McKim Vestibule, just through our Dartmouth Street entrance.
If you are unable to bring your own wheelchair or have any questions about accessibility on our tours, please email email@example.com or call 617.859.2216.
For more information about the program requirements and the responsibilities of volunteer Art & Architecture tour guides, please refer to the position overview (PDF).
While we are not currently recruiting volunteer Art & Architecture tour guides, you are welcome to submit an application for consideration in the future. Interested candidates should complete the application (PDF) and send to firstname.lastname@example.org or Tour Guide Program, Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116.