Save The Phillips Library | PEM Library - Salem, Massachusetts

Save The Phillips Library | PEM Library - Salem, Massachusetts

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The Save the Phillips Library movement started in December 2017 after the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) announced it was moving the entire Phillips Library, Salem's largest and oldest archival collection, from its permanent home at Plummer Hall in Salem, Massachusetts, to a collections center 40 minutes away, in Rowley, Massachusetts.


In decades past, a Friends of the Phillips Library group—consisting of scholars, educators, researchers, book lovers, descendants of donor families, business owners, and interested and engaged residents of Salem and its environs—supported the core mission of the Phillips Library “to collect and preserve materials for the civil and natural history of Essex County and for the advancement of the arts, literature, and science generally.” Recent developments necessitated the revival of the Friends of Salem's Phillips Library.

Since collections started in 1799, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) now owns more than 1.8 million museum objects and artifacts, more than 400,000 books, and a linear mile of manuscripts and papers. Over the last 25 years, the Peabody Essex has become one of the fastest growing art museums in the country. With its robust donation campaigns increasing its physical footprint, the Peabody Essex searched for space for a new PEM Collections Center to hold museum objects and artifacts currently in temporary storage and not on display at its museum on Essex Street in Salem. That way, the physical collection finally would be under one roof for curators and conservators to plan new exhibits and preserve priceless objects. At the same time, Plummer Hall and Daland House were being refurbished, with “climate control and modern archival storage,” for the Phillips Library collections.

For 20 years, we watched and waited as the library was closed, reopened, moved off-site to a temporary facility, reopened, and closed again. (Read about the evolution of PEM and the library closures.)

In March 2017 the Peabody Essex Museum purchased a warehouse one-third larger than its anticipated needs. And with that, its directors quietly decided Plummer Hall and Daland House would be allocated for office space instead of a showcase setting for its world-renowned Phillips Library.

At a Salem Historic Commission meeting in December 2017, PEM leadership revealed that after 20 years of closures and renovations at Plummer Hall and Daland House, the Phillips Library collections would be moved from their permanent home in Salem, Massachusetts, to the new PEM Collection Center in Rowley, Massachusetts.

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