Peabody Essex Museum – Salem, MA

Peabody Essex Museum | East India Square – 161 Essex Street | Salem, MA 01970 | 1-866-745-1876 



The roots of the Peabody Essex Museum date to the 1799 founding of the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. The society’s charter included a provision for the establishment of a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities,” which is what we today would call a museum.

Society members brought to Salem a diverse collection of objects from the northwest coast of America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, India and elsewhere. By 1825, the society moved into its own building, East India Marine Hall, which today contains the original display cases and some of the very first objects collected.

MOSHE SARDIE: World-renowned architect, urban planner


Moshe Safdie designed the imaginative glass and brick building expansion for PEM in 2003 to reflect Salem’s architectural history with contemporary flair. The result weaves together a building of many parts into a seamless, inspired structure for viewing art and culture from around the world.

The dramatic Atrium with a soaring glass roof is the central gathering place, akin to the traditional village green. The curved glass of the roof allows natural light into the Atrium, creating an airy space and walkways that lead visitors into galleries, the Art Studios and the performance center in Morse Auditorium. Five diverse roof silhouettes or “buildings” that comprise the outer brick wall echo the shapes and forms of local architecture.


Safdie’s expansive portfolio includes the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Children’s Memorial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, Habitat ‘67 experimental housing in Montreal, and the United States Courthouse in Springfield, Mass.

For a closer look at Safdie and his projects, visit



The East India Marine Society was founded in Salem, in Essex County, Massachusetts. Salem was also home to the Essex Historical Society (founded in 1821), which celebrated the area’s rich community history, and the Essex County Natural History Society (founded in 1833), which focused on the county’s natural wonders. In 1848, these two organizations merged to form the Essex Institute (the “Essex” in the Peabody Essex Museum’s name). This consolidation brought together extensive and far-ranging collections, including natural specimens, ethnological objects, books and historical memorabilia, all focusing on the area in and around Essex County.

In the late 1860s, the Essex Institute refined its mission to the collection and presentation of regional art, history and architecture. In so doing, it transferred its natural history and archaeology collections to the East India Marine Society’s descendent organization, the Peabody Academy of Science (the “Peabody”). In turn, the Peabody, renamed for its great benefactor, the philanthropist George Peabody, transferred its historical collections to the Essex.

In the early 20th century, the Peabody Academy of Science changed its name to the Peabody Museum of Salem and continued to focus on collecting international art and culture. Capitalizing on growing interest in early American architecture and historic preservation, the Essex Institute acquired many important historic houses and was at the forefront of historical interpretation.


With their physical proximity, closely connected boards and overlapping collections, the possibility of consolidating the Essex and the Peabody had been discussed over the years. After in-depth studies showed the benefits of such a merger, the consolidation of these two organizations into the new PEM was effected in July 1992. The museum possessed extraordinary collections — more than 840,000 works of art and culture featuring maritime art and history; American art; Asian, Oceanic, and African art; Asian export art; two large libraries with over 400,000 books, manuscripts, and documents; and 22 historic buildings. Today’s collection has grown to include 1.8 million works and Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house outside China.

True to the spirit of its past, PEM is dedicated to creating a museum experience that celebrates art and the world in which it was made. By presenting art and culture in new ways, by linking past and present, and by embracing artistic and cultural achievements worldwide, the museum offers unique opportunities to explore a multilayered and interconnected world of creative expression.



The beautiful Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts, is one of the region’s most exquisite settings for your special events.

Whether you’re planning a corporate banquet or a gathering for close friends and family, the museum offers a variety of spaces that are perfectly suited for creating memorable occasions. Cocktail receptions, wedding ceremonies, formal parties and celebrations are expertly planned and executed with the help of their experienced staff.



They look forward to showing you their galleries in person. Together you can plan an event that is truly special.

For detailed information on locations, pricing and related services, please contact the functions staff at 978-542-1615, or e-mail Natalia Laskaris



  • Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm
  • Open the third Thursday of every month 10 am-9:00 pm
  • Closed Mondays (except holidays)

Museum Admission

  • Adults $18, seniors $15, students (with ID) $10, Youth (16 and under) and Salem, Mass. residents (with ID) admitted free*.
    *Does not apply to youth in student/tour groups. For late nights, $10 after 5 pm

People who work in Salem admitted free Tuesday through Friday, 10 am–5 pm. Please present a business card, recent pay stub oracceptable employer verification at the admissions desk. Not valid on holiday Mondays or for Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese House.

Phillips Library


The Phillips Library Reading Room is open in its temporary location at 1 Second Street, Peabody, Massachusetts on Wednesday and Thursday, 10 am-4:30 pm. Approved Visiting Researchers are welcome, by special appointment, on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, 10 am-4:30 pm.
More Information »

Gallery Updates


The Asian Export Art: China Gallery on Level 2 is closed in preparation for future work.

Learn more about our expansion project. Sign up for construction updates.


  • Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am until 5 pm,
  • Open the third Thursday of every month 10 am-9:00 pm.
  • Closed Mondays (except holidays, see below).

Holiday Hours:
Open the following holidays
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Monday, January 18, 2016
Presidents’ Day: Monday, February 15, 2016
Memorial Day: Monday, May 30, 2016
Independence Day: Monday, July 4, 2016
Labor Day: Monday, September 5, 2016
Columbus Day: Monday, October 10, 2016

Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

Find out what is happening on the day of your visit »


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