For more than 200 years, the Phillips Library collection has been an integral part of Salem. The timeline, below, shows how the Phillips Library was created, developed, and removed from Salem.


It all started with Salem's mariners
  • 1799: East India Marine Society founded for creating a library on navigation and seafaring topics and collecting curiosities from native cultures of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

  • 1821: Essex Historical Society founded.

  • 1833: Essex County Natural History Society founded.

  • 1848: Essex Institute formed by the union of the Essex Historical Society and Essex County Natural History Society; focus on literary, historical, and scientific pursuits; museum library, historic houses, educational programs, scholarly publications.

  • 1857: Plummer Hall built for Salem Athenaeum with money provided in the 1845 will of Caroline Plummer; Essex Institute rented rooms at Plummer Hall for library and collections.

  • 1867-1868: Peabody Academy of Science formed with the purchase of the East India Marine Hall along with the historic and ethnological collections of East India Marine Society. Essex Institute permanently transferred its natural history collections, originally collected by the Essex County Natural History Society, to the Peabody Academy. The Peabody Academy permanently transferred its historical collections to the Essex Institute, which concentrated its focus on local history, genealogy, and art.

  • 1885: Essex Institute acquired the Daland house for the Phillips Library.

  • 1905: Essex Institute bought Plummer Hall from Salem Athenaeum.

  • 1915: Peabody Academy of Science changed its name to Peabody Museum of Salem, with its focus on maritime history of New England, Pacific and Japanese ethnology, and natural history of Essex county.

  • 1972: National Register of Historic Places approves formation of the Essex Institute Historic District formed within the bounds of the Armory, Essex Street, Washington Square West, and Brown Street.

  • 1992: Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) founded through consolidation of Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute. Within a few years, PEM changed its focus to become an arts and culture museum. 


20 years of Phillips Library restrictions and closures


  • 1997: The Phillips Library was closed for nine months for a “massive restoration project, including climate control and modern archival storage.”

  • 2004: The Phillips Library policies changed, which began with allowing only select “scholarly” researchers through its doors.  All but one staff librarian was laid off, which reduced hours and limited access to Phillips Library. Yet at the same time, PEM said it would put “part of its 400,000 volumes and 2 million manuscript papers on the Internet.”

  • 2011: Phillips Library closed during “preservation and renovation work on Plummer Hall and Daland House (expected completion 2013).”

  • 2013: Instead of opening the reading room, the Phillips Library collection moved to a temporary collection center in Peabody, with limited access to the library's resources.

  • 2015: PEM announced its $650 million donation campaign, with plans for “a $20 million renovation and improvement of PEM’s Phillips Library, one of the oldest and largest museum libraries in the country ... housed in two noted 1850s architectural treasures, the John Tucker Daland House and Plummer Hall”; construction of “a new 40,000-square-foot wing for galleries and a new 80,000-square-foot off-site Collection Stewardship Center.”

  • 2017: In March, Peabody Essex Museum purchased 120,000-square-foot building in Rowley for its new Collections Center. Its footprint is one-third larger than their stated needs required.

  • 2017: PEM closed the library’s temporary Peabody building at the end of August. PEM announced the Phillips Library would “reopen spring of 2018”—but not where.

  • 2017: In early December, at a Salem Historical Commission meeting where PEM was requesting exterior building modifications, a representative from PEM was forced to announce that the Phillips Library was moving to the new PEM Collections Center in Rowley and Plummer Hall was being converted to office space.

  • 2017: The Friends of Salem's Phillips Library was formed to demand the return of the Phillips Library collections to Salem.

  • 2018: In April, the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General received a letter requesting an investigation into charitable donations that were given to former entities on condition that the collections remain in the city of Salem that the Peabody Essex Museum has removed them to Rowley.

  • 2018: In late June, the PEM Collection Center and Phillips Library reading room opened in a former toy factory building in Rowley, 40 minutes from Salem and not accessible through public transportation.

  • 2018: In October, Dan Monroe announces he will retire in September 2019, after 25 years at the helm of the Peabody Essex Museum.

  • 2019: Brian Kennedy is named new director of the Peabody Essex Museum, starting July 15.



Find out how you can help return the Phillips Library to Salem.


© 2019 Friends of Salem's Phillips Library

This site is not affiliated with the Peabody Essex Museum