In September 2019 the Peabody Essex Museum launched into a new era when it opened a new wing that features 40,000 square feet of gallery space spread over three floors and a beautiful new garden. The wing, which was designed by Ennead Architects, is the new home to the PEM’s extensive Maritime Art, Asian Export Art, and Fashion and Design collections. Museum curators have carefully crafted exhibits that take the visitor on thematic journeys that can fill an hour or an entire day.
Several collection favorites that have been off exhibit during construction have been installed in new spaces that are carefully crafted to interpret the stories surrounding the objects in each collection. Visitors will find the Hawaiian deity Ku facing west in the new atrium, the scale model of the Tall Ship Friendship installed adjacent to ships logs, Chinese wallpaper that was created for a castle in Scotland installed with a fireplace and audio that immerses the visitor into the history of the paper, and the Chinese Moon Bed which now illustrates the intricacy of design. New showstoppers include the Iris Apfel collection in the Fashion galleries, a video about the Opium Wars, and a Yami Tatara (a type of canoe from a Taiwanese tribe) that welcomes visitors to the maritime art gallery.
A unique Salem institution, the Peabody Essex Museum dates back to 1799 when the East India Marine Society was created by Salem Sea Captains and Supercargoes as a place to display curiosities they brought back from their global journeys. The 2019 expansion makes it one of the most significant art museums in the United States. That this remarkable center of art and culture calls Salem, a small city of 43,000 residents and a half-million annual visitors, its home is a point of pride for Salem residents.
Inspired by its founders, PEM is a home for exploration and creativity that presents art and culture from around the globe and across the street. We invite you to explore the galleries of American art that feature the work of Salem architect and woodcarver Samuel McIntire, and the collections of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Native American art to find connections with these cultures that feel far away. Take a tour of the galleries to hear about the PEM docents’ museum highlights, or tours of the historic properties including the 18th century Chinese house, Yin Yu Tang.
The new wing compliments the Atrium and galleries that were added in 2003, the 20th century Dodge Wing, the 19th century East India Marine Hall, and the Museum’s collection of historic properties and gardens to create a tapestry of inspirational spaces both contemporary and historic. Visitors can explore the permanent collections which include the finest collection of American, maritime and Asian art in the world, as well as special exhibitions by artists like Hans Hoffmann (on exhibit in 2020, past special exhibits have included the work of Ansel Adams, T.C. Canon, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Rodin). No matter when you visit, you are bound to discover something extraordinary in the galleries of the Peabody Essex Museum.
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