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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PEM: A Salem Surprise

Whenever we visit a museum, there's usually one exhibit we go to see as on a recent trip to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA where we viewed Audacious.

But there's a lot more to see in the PEM which dates to the 1799 founding of the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem-based sea captains who had sailed beyond the Cape of Good Hope (Africa) or Cape Horn (South America). Their charter included a provision for the establishment of "a cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities" — in modern terms, a museum. 

It was surprising to learn that not only is the PEM one of the oldest continuously operating U.S. museums, but ranks among the top 20 art museums measured by gallery space and endowment. It holds over 840,000 works, one of the major U.S. collections of Asian art with total holdings of about 1.3 million pieces, 22 historic buildings, and two large libraries with over 400,000 manuscripts. 

The PEM combines the collections of the former Peabody Museum of Salem (which acquired the East India Marine Society's collection) and the Essex InstituteThe Peabody was named for its benefactor, philanthropist and entrepreneur, George Peabody, a Massachusetts native. In the late 1860s, the Essex Institute refined its mission to the collection and presentation of regional art, history and architecture and transferred its natural history and archaeology collections to the East India Marine Society's descendant organization, the Peabody Academy of Science. 


In the early 20th century, the Peabody Academy of Science was renamed the Peabody Museum of Salem and focused on international art and culture. The Essex and the Peabody museums merged in 1992 forming the current PEM.



The museum hosts special exhibits throughout the year. On our brief visit, we toured In Plain Sight which displayed furniture crafted by Salem's top 18th century cabinet maker, Nathaniel Gould, who died at age 47 in 1781. His built desks, bookcases, chests and tables from imported mahogany. The pieces have a distinctive style; Gould carved pinwheels and scalloped designs into them; many feature claw feet legs.

Other exhibit rooms have models of various sailing ships, including this 20-foot replica of the Queen Elizabeth, the second largest cruise ship constructed by the Cunard Line (exceeded only by the Queen Mary 2). According to an information card, this model was formerly housed in the main offices of the Cunard LineThe very detailed model fills most of an exhibit room which also has posters for various steamship lines.




We enjoyed our mid-week visit, which made for light crowds in the exhibit rooms. It's definitely worth a return trip to a city infamously known for the 1692 witch trials.

13 comments:

Out on the prairie said...

Nice to have close , I love being a regular at places like this.

Sandra said...

i love the ceiling at the top and the biggest vase on the right of the collage is just beautiful.. and the desk on the bottom right with the spindly legs..

William Kendall said...

The model ships particularly appeal to me!

CatTales said...

Wonderful photos from your visit. We enjoy mid-week outings when the crowds are more "polite."

Michelle said...

The furniture....swoon!

Emma Springfield said...

I actually caught my breath when I saw that furniture. It is so beautiful. It must be a lovely museum.

Montanagirl said...

That's an impressive collection. I like those dressers!

Daisy said...

Great pictures! Looks like an interesting place to visit.

gigihawaii said...

I just love those vases!

thecottagebythecranelakethree said...

Thanks for the link! I've nmissed that post and how I wish I could walk around to see all these things!

Have a great day!
Christer.

barbara l. hale said...

I love the Peabody-Essex Museum, but haven't been for years. Thanks for the visit!!

Linda said...

Looks like a great museum to visit! I was in Salem once but it was 30 years ago.

Elaine said...

Looks like a wonderful museum! The Audacious Wood collection is fantastic--I'll have to give Marty a peek at that.

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