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

An Introduction to the Papers of E. S. Coe

Photograph of Ebenezer "Eben" S. Coe (1814-1899), undated. MSS 931

Ebenezer “Eben” Smith Coe was born on November 5, 1814 to Ebenezer S. (1785-1862) and Mehitable Smith Coe in Northwood, New Hampshire.  Coe studied civil engineering at a private engineering school in Hartford, Connecticut.  He then spent a few years surveying for new railroads, but an economic depression and opposition to the railroads caused irregular work and discouraged Coe.  He returned home to Northwood where his father introduced him to his business associate, David Pingree (1795-1863) in 1842. Read more