The Peabody Essex Museum – PEM – in Salem, Massachusetts, is one of the oldest working museums in the United States. Established in 1992, it brings together the collections of the former Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute. It ranks among the most important and popular Massachusetts attractions.
With more than 1.8 million items of art and culture and twenty-four historic buildings, it is one of the top art museums in the United States. There are exhibits from Maritime, American, Asian, Oceanic and African art. There are also two large libraries with over 400,000 books and manuscripts.
According to Anycountyprivateschools, the Peabody Museum is particularly well known for its extensive collection of Asian art.
As a visitor, you get insights into other cultures and can take part in the regular special exhibitions, weekend festivals and family art programs. In 2019, the expansion of the museum is due to be completed, with more space for the galleries.
History of the Peabody Essex Museum
In 1992 the Peabody Museum of Salem was merged with the Essex Institute to form the Peabody Essex Museum. It contained the heritage of the East India Marine Society, founded in 1799 by a group of sea captains. At that time, Salem was one of the richest and most important seaports in North America. The members of the East India Marine Society collected exceptional works of art on their voyages to Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. A diverse collection of objects from America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, India and other places was created. Many rare items were gathered at this time.
The Peabody Museum of Salem (1915-1992) grew out of the Peabody Academy of Sciences (1865-1915). It was a museum and antiquarian society in Salem, Massachusetts.
The East India Marine Society built the East India Marine Hall to showcase the collections of the Peabody Museum of Salem. Nowadays it belongs to the PEM Museum.
The Essex Institute (1848-1992) was a literary, historical and scholarly society in Salem. She made her works available in the museum and in a library.
The collection consisted of an extensive collection of natural specimens, ethnological objects, books and historical memorabilia focusing on the Essex County area. In the 1960s, the collection was expanded to include regional art, history and architecture.
In 2003 the museum was renovated and expanded. A new wing designed by Moshe Safdie increased the gallery space to 250,000 square feet (23,000 m²). Many new exhibits could be exhibited that had not previously been shown to the public due to lack of space.
A new attraction opened with the extension, the Yin Yu Tang House, an early 18th-century Chinese house from Anhui Province. A wealthy merchant built the stately sixteen-room house during the Qing Dynasty. The house survived China’s economic and political upheavals, but the house has stood empty since the mid-1980s. It was removed from its original location and reconstructed in Salem at the Peabody Museum.
Since 2011 there have been plans to further expand the PEM Museum in Salem. The museum is set to expand with additional galleries, educational spaces and a restaurant, making it one of the largest art museums in the United States. After the museum’s death, architect Rick Mather announced in 2013 that the Peabody Essex Museum would continue to expand the building until 2019.
Peabody Essex Museum Collections & Exhibitions
The museum currently has a collection of maritime art including works by marine artist James Bard. Other collections include: American Decorative Arts; Asian Art; Japanese art; Korean style; Chinese art; Native American Art; Oceanic Art, African Art; Indian Art (Contemporary); rare books, manuscripts and photography. There are also several historic buildings and gardens. We have summarized the individual collections of the PEM sight here.
Find objects by Sub-Saharan and West African artists using ivory, leather, wood, resin and other indigenous materials. As well as carvings and ceremonial masks with leopard skin and shells. Important exhibits from the shores of Africa, such as objects from Zulu art and Ethiopian Christian art are on display here.
Paintings, furniture, folk art, handicrafts, toys and costumes of New England culture dating back more than 300 years can be viewed here. Each item reflects the values of the communities that shaped this region in the early United States. The PEM shoe collection is one of the largest in the world.
The museum has twenty-two historical buildings and gardens. One attraction is the Yin Yu Tang House, an 18th-century Chinese merchant’s house that was dismantled in China and reassembled here.
Four of the buildings have been designated National Historic Landmarks and another six are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Asian Export Art
The Asian Export Art exhibition reflects the complex and fascinating interplay of artistic and cultural traditions in Asia. Paintings, porcelain, rock crystals and precious stones are not presented here. Exquisite crafts from Asia’s extensive collection of decorative arts are on display.
The PEM collection includes the fine arts of many cultures and tastes of China. China’s ancient and contemporary culture showcases exhibits of painting, calligraphy, textiles, ceramics and architecture.
Sculpture, textiles, ceramics and metalwork from India and Southeast Asia formed the basis of the PEM collection. Tibetan works, Nepalese works, Indian art and Bhutanese textile art from the 19th and 20th centuries are presented here.
Important works of Japanese art and culture from the 19th and 20th centuries are shown to the visitor. The Edo and Meiji period collection is among the best in the world.
The Collection features late 18th and 19th century works consisting of costumes, ornate storage boxes, pottery and a spirit house. The exhibition shows the bridge between the traditional empire of Korea and the modern one.
Maritime Art and History
PEM displays a collection of art and objects related to the sea. Among them are large gold-framed oil paintings, drawings, ship models, marine decorative arts, tools, weapons, navigational instruments, ship and yacht plans. The main focus is on sea paintings, works on paper and ship carvings from the 17th to the early 20th century.
Native American Art
Historical and contemporary Native American art is exhibited here. Works from the 17th century to the present show the adaptive and creative nature of the indigenous people. Ceramics, textiles, sculpture, clothing, jewellery, masks, musical instruments, paintings and works on paper show connections to Western art movements.
Carved ivory neck ornaments are included in a wide variety throughout the Oceanic Art collection. Art pieces made from porpoise teeth, bark, jade, obsidian, abalone, glass, human hair and natural fibers have been made into art pieces. Objects from different regions are exhibited here.
With nearly a million photographs spanning two and a half centuries, the PEM exhibition features Asians, Native Americans, early American photographs, modern and contemporary art. Many photographs by the famous photographers William Henry Fox Talbot, Southworth and Hawes and Antoine Claudet are presented here.
Daily tours of the PEM
Daily gallery tours and house tours are offered at the PEM Museum in Salem. You can choose tours with discussion of a single work of art, tours for families only and tours with a unique view of spectacular homes in the world. Tours are included with museum admission.
Opening times and entrance fees to the PEM Museum
The PEM Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is always open on the third Thursday of the month from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays, except during holidays. The PEM Museum is closed on the following days: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
Admission to the Peabody Essex Museum is $18 adults, $15 seniors, students (with ID) $10, youth (16 and under) are free. (Status 01/2015)
Directions to the PEM Museum
The Peabody Essex Museum is located at 161 Essex Street, on the corner of Essex and New Liberty streets in historic downtown Salem, Massachusetts. This is just off Route 128, exit 25A or 26.
Address of the Peabody Essex Museum attraction in Salem
Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970-3783 USA