I was going to show you a beautiful Federal house today, with sweeping views and lavish details (and Zuber & Cie wallpaper!), but that will have to wait for the weekend, as I want to acknowledge, and celebrate, the recognition that the #newpem is indeed the new Peabody Essex Museum, an institution which now seems as much grounded in its local heritage as it is focused on its global perspectives. I thought #newpem was just a marketing campaign designed to focus all of our attention on the opening of the new wing, but I was wrong: the “new” in the hashtag is more directly, and substantively, a reference to the venerable museum’s new regime, which began in July when Dr. Brian Kennedy began his tenure as Director and CEO. As all of you know, I’ve been obsessed with the previous director’s decision to remove all of the PEM’s textual collections held in the Phillips Library to a clinical Collection Center in Rowley, a decision that was not even formally announced to Salem residents, but rather issued in the form of an admission in December of 2017, well after this course of action had been implemented. For me, this was nothing short of the removal of Salem’s primary historical archive. When Dr. Kennedy arrived this summer, I began hoping for some kind of course correction; I perceived his references to Salem’s heritage and the Museum’s founders as hopeful hints and began to hold my breath. Then the Anchor returned to the front of the original Peabody Museum building, East India Hall, and I let it out a little bit. This morning, when I awoke to a summary of his speech before the North Shore Chamber of Commerce in the Salem News I let it out completely, right after I read this particular quote:
“I just have to come out and say that to you,” he said. “It was not done well. It was not done transparently. I don’t know why we thought we couldn’t share it much, much earlier that the buildings we had couldn’t contain this level of material. But they can contain material, and they will. So I pledge that to you, but I just ask you, you have to give me time.”
Yes, the old Plummer and Daland buildings, constituting the former Essex Institute and Phillips Library can contain material, and they will! That’s it: that’s all we need, that’s all Salem needs. What a striking contrast to previous Director Dan Monroe’s assertion, repeated time and time again, that it was IMPOSSIBLE for these buildings to contain anything other than bound volumes of the Essex Institute Historical Collections, which are readily available at the other end of Essex Street in the Salem Public Library. I believe Dr. Kennedy (and will hold him to his pledge, albeit with great liberality).
N.C. Wyeth’s Peace, Prosperity, and Progress (1923) in one of the atriums of the new Peabody Essex Museum; the anchor returned in September, and in yesterday’s speech Dr. Kennedy also pledged to engage in some Halloween programming—-“Here’s people, Go get them, they are right there”. Now that should be interesting!
November 7th, 2019 at 10:46 am
What excellent news for you, and for Salem.
November 7th, 2019 at 10:52 am
I’m so pleased with the new understanding of how the people of Salem (and the history lovers from around the world) will rejoice in this announcement. Thank you, as well, Donna for always “moving forward ” with your dedication to Salem’s history.
November 7th, 2019 at 11:13 am
Hooray! So pleased that the common sense of an Irishman has come to the fore!
November 7th, 2019 at 12:12 pm
Wonderful post, wonderful news!! Re: Halloween…..do you remember the night time festivities, story telling etc, in the garden area behind Gardner Pingree/Daland? Those events were magical, but the crowds might be too big to be able do pull it off now.
November 7th, 2019 at 12:35 pm
I do! And I think maybe it would be a bit of a crush, but we’ll see—exciting to think of a higher-concept Halloween.
November 7th, 2019 at 12:19 pm
Love seeing the anchor outside again!! nd I’m with you, Donna. Let’s give a hearty thumbs-up to Dr. kennedy and the NEW PEM. Why, I may just revive my membership!
November 7th, 2019 at 2:13 pm
November 7th, 2019 at 5:48 pm
Wonderful to read your blog post today. I am going to hold my breath, cross my fingers, and pray that Salem’s history preserved by the Essex Institute returns to Salem, and the PEM will move forward as a wonderful art museum and Salem’s de facto historical society.
November 7th, 2019 at 10:56 pm
Brian Kennedy’s comments this morning in Salem
News brought me joy!