Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Peabody Essex Museum Salem, Massachusetts part one

18th century furniture and portrait at Salem's Peabody Essex Museum

I was highly impressed with my visit to Salem's Peabody Essex Museum it is one of the finest I have been to in America, it is not as well known as major art museums in America but it is the oldest museum in America and well worth a visit if you are in Salem. Salem was one of the first city's in America to have a high number of millionaires due to privateering and shipping during the last 30 years of the 18th century. Because of money in Salem it became a place of great culture, had some of the finest architecture in American at the time and the People of Salem Furnished there mansions with some of the finest furniture and imported decorative arts. We see some of it here thru my photo's.

The museum originally the Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute, in Salem, Massachusetts is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States. It was founded in 1799 as the East India Marine Society by a group of Salem-based captains and supercargoes. Members of the Society were required by the society's charter to collect "natural and artificial curiosities" from beyond the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. Due to the institution's age, the items they donated to the collections are significant for their rare combination of age and provenance.

The museum holds one of the major collections of Asian art in the US; its total holdings include about 1.3 million pieces, as well as twenty-four historic buildings. In 1992, the Peabody Museum of Salem merged with the Essex Institute (1822) to form the Peabody Essex Museum. In 2003, the Peabody Essex Museum opened a new wing designed by Moshe Safdie, more than doubling the gallery space to 250,000 square feet (23,000 m²); this allowed the display of many items from its extensive holdings, which had previously been unknown to the public due to lack of capability to show them.

The museum owns 24 historic structures and gardens. Some are shown in the gallery below. The full set of buildings are: Daniel Bray House, Gilbert Chadwick House, Cotting-Smith Assembly House, Crowninshield-Bentley House, John Tucker Daland House, Derby-Beebe Summer House, East India Marine Hall, Gardner-Pingree House and Gardner-Pingree Carriage House, Lye-Tapley Shoe Shop, Dodge Wing of the Peabody Essex Museum, Asian Export Art Wing of the Peabody Essex Museum, Peirce-Nichols House, Samuel Pickman House, Plummer Hall, Quaker Meeting House, L. H. Rogers Building, Ropes Mansion, Andrew Safford House, Summer School Building, Vilate Young (Kinsman) House, and John Ward House.


  1. Great museum!

    You noted that, originally, members of the Society were required by their organisation to collect natural and artificial curiosities from distant nations and oceans. And since privateering and shipping were the bases of the town's wealth, we might have expected different sorts of objects - carved and inlaid chests, exotic knives, silks etc.

    Instead there are gorgeous and very contemporary furniture and decorative art objects that the men's designers at home might have selected. In fact there are four or five desks in your photos that I would still love to have today.

  2. Hi Helen

    You are right the early collection of the museum are objects of curiosities! I will show some of it in a post soon. I tuck over 400 photo's of the museums collection and will try to post the collections in 3 post. We still have more of furniture and decorative art objects to see.