Exhibition

Salem Stories

On view September 26, 2020 to October 3, 2021

Organized by the architecture of the alphabet, Salem Stories presents 26 vignettes about the people, places and events that make Salem, Massachusetts, the city it is today. The exhibition starts at “A is for Always Indigenous” to acknowledge the Native communities who have lived for millennia on the land where the museum now sits. It ends with Z is for Zoology and coincides with the return to the galleries of a leatherback turtle specimen captured in 1885, a favorite of longtime visitors.

Salem is a city with many stories of local, national and international significance. Alexander Graham Bell completed the first successful long-distance telephone call from Salem in 1877. Parker Brothers produced Monopoly here. And in 2013, President Obama signed legislation recognizing the city as the birthplace of the United States National Guard.

Using selections from PEM’s vast collection, Salem Stories features more than 100 works, including paintings, sculpture, textiles, decorative arts, photographs, natural history specimens, manuscripts, posters, books, eyewitness accounts, and even a murder weapon. The A–Z structure creates an accessible and entertaining way to engage with Salem’s history, from past to present day. This is an evolving story, one that will continue to unfold throughout the life of the exhibition.

Share your impressions with us on social media using #SalemStories

Salem Stories is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum. Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation, Jennifer and Andrew Borggaard, James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Kate and Ford O'Neil, Henry and Callie Brauer, and George and Isabel Shattuck provided generous support. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

Parker Brothers, Inc., Monopoly, about 1940, Paper, paperboard and wood. Gift of the North Shore Children’s Hospital Thrift Shop, 1984. 136184. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Parker Brothers, Inc., Monopoly, about 1940, Paper, paperboard and wood. Gift of the North Shore Children’s Hospital Thrift Shop, 1984. 136184. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Artist in the United States, Naumkeag Steam Cotton Mill, Salem, about 1850. Oil on canvas. Gift of American Textile History Museum Collection. 2017.9.1.
Artist in the United States, Naumkeag Steam Cotton Mill, Salem, about 1850. Oil on canvas. Gift of American Textile History Museum Collection. 2017.9.1.
Artist in the United States, witch weathervane, about 1900. Iron and paint. Museum purchase, 1985. 136517. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Artist in the United States, witch weathervane, about 1900. Iron and paint. Museum purchase, 1985. 136517. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Haida artist, pipe, about 1842. Wood, glass, pigment, stone, ivory. British Columbia, Pacific Northwest Coast, Canada. Gift of Captain Isaac Needham Chapman, 1849. E3492. © 2020 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Haida artist, pipe, about 1842. Wood, glass, pigment, stone, ivory. British Columbia, Pacific Northwest Coast, Canada. Gift of Captain Isaac Needham Chapman, 1849. E3492. © 2020 Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), 1885. Collected off Rockport, Massachusetts. Donated by Mr. Parsons, 1885. FIC2012.929.1. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.
Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), 1885. Collected off Rockport, Massachusetts. Donated by Mr. Parsons, 1885. FIC2012.929.1. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.
Related \\ Connected

Telling Salem’s stories

Related \\ Connected

Stories of Salem, From A to Z

Press \\ Press Release

PEM opens two new exhibitions focused on Salem’s rich and storied history, publishes collection guide book