Collected Alchemy

Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir for the Spirits, Peabody Essex Museum, 2015. Photo: Peter Vanderwarker.

With Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir for the Sprits, we breathe the scents, we hear the echoes, we see visions of Cuba past and present.  In the commissioned works, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons  re-imagines Cuba’s sugar mills and rum distilleries, tracing the painful history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and offering a new cosmology for the future. The multimedia installation provokes questions relevant to us all: How do we experience the effects of history as individuals and as cultural communities? Read more


Logbook of the Elizabeth Leavitt, traveling to Havana from Boston, 1858.

When my fellow librarians and I became aware of this month’s theme for PEM/PM, we knew right away that the Phillips Library collections needed to be a part of it.  “Agridulce,” or “Bittersweet” in Spanish, is a perfect descriptor of the contentious sugar, slave, and rum trade prevalent in the Caribbean in the 17th through 19th centuries.  We have decided to bring a selection of materials from our collections which, as a whole, demonstrate the more bitter side of international trade through Salem. Read more

Miniature Books at PEM/PM

Ask any librarian and they will tell you that every book has something that makes it “special.”  Here at the Phillips Library our shelves are filled with books that are rare and unique in myriad ways.  Some are signed by the author or a notable owner.  Some are centuries old and have survived unknown trials.  Some are the only known copy in the United States, or even the world.  And some are special in part because of their size.  This post will look at some of our smallest books. Read more