Connected \\ March 6, 2019

Planning The Pod

What pops into your mind when you think of a pod? A pea pod, an iPod or maybe a futuristic orb? For me, it’s a mix of all three, and so it is with “the Pod” — a newly imagined space at PEM that celebrates nature and art and explores imagination opening Saturday, March 9. I’d like to invite you to come grow your awareness of nature with me, to connect with your creative side and try on new ways of being.

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Dancer Laura Kathrein in the Parker River Wildlife National Refuge. Videos of her embodying local habitats on the North Shore will be part of the Pod.


It’s incredibly rewarding for me to be opening the Pod after more than eight years of development and research. I get to work with an amazing team of colleagues and advisors here at PEM, and the Pod shows it. The interim space we opened in 2013 allowed us to test and refine installations, with your help, including a zone dedicated to our youngest audience members. We’ve expanded the area for these youngest museum friends and added some fun surprises for them!

The vision for the Pod came into focus through visits to different museums around the globe and over many cups of tea with artists and other creatives. The outcome is an original blending of imagination, creative expression and nature. My hope is that you will experience our living world anew as you explore nature both inside the Pod and outside the museum’s walls.

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Elizabeth Keithline in process of wire wrapping one of the Japanese zelkova trees that flank either side of the Gardner-Pingree House's front door for Shadow Tree. © 2018 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Ken Sawyer


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Shadow Tree Install in The Pod. © 2019 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola


During the final weeks leading up to the opening, I’ve been seeing all the elements fall into place and I can’t wait for you to experience it yourself! You might first notice the dramatic tableau between a nearly life-size bronze tiger and a colorful peacock. Or perhaps the wall projection of dancer Laura Kathrein embodying local habitats will catch your eye. You can’t miss sculptor Elizabeth Keithline’s floor-to-ceiling wire weaving of a Japanese zelkova tree. To see the live model for this sculpture, you can take our Tree Trek handout with you to find the tree nearby on PEM’s campus and meet some other special trees along the way.

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Indian peacock. Gift of Mrs. Richard Saltonstall, 1940 NB9651. © 2018 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Bob Packert

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Artists in Japan for retailer Kakuha Zenjiro, Tiger, Meiji period, about 1900. Bronze and glass. Museum purchase, 1990. E82871. © 2018 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Bob Packert

And then there is the visual spectacle of the Nature Sense zone, which features an array of objects from across PEM’s collection, ranging from a wandering albatross to a splendidly carved Korean beehive. Some of the 240 objects in the new space are hiding in drawers waiting to be opened. That’s where you’ll find clips of Laura Kathrein “being” the tiger and peacock mentioned above, among other animals.

The Art & Nature Center’s beloved bird case has been redesigned, too. A new digital interactive in front of the case features videos, audio recordings and “fast facts” for more than 30 of the wild birds on view. We even made room for a wild turkey inside the case.


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Curator Jane Winchell during install of the Pod. Photo by Bob Packert.


You’ll be able to create your own imaginary animals using beautifully carved and magnetized wooden parts. To find inspiration, just look around the Pod at the real animals and sculptures of composite creatures made by artists both near and far.

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PEM staff work together on the install of the Pod. Photo by Bob Packert.


The opening of the Pod on March 9 is the lead-in to the larger PEM expansion project, slated to open this fall. When you visit the newly restored Art & Nature Center space on the first floor of the historic East India Marine Hall you’ll discover two large and welcoming windows, one of which had been bricked in for over 100 years! Come enjoy the natural light as you tap into the inspiration of our living planet in the Pod.

For more details on the the pod, go HERE.

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