Explore Art \\ Collection
Steeped in a tradition of curiosity and learning, the Phillips Library inspires new journeys.
Heir to the remarkably rich holdings of PEM’s ancestor institutions, the Phillips Library provides vital support to researchers at the museum, in our local and regional communities, and across the globe. Our vast collection, a large percentage of which is unique or rare, comprises books, manuscripts, archives, broadsides, and photography, as well as one of the largest assemblages of ships’ logbooks in the world. Anyone, of any age and level of interest, is welcome to visit our reading room to request and use our library materials.
From the museum’s origins as the East India Marine Society in 1799, a library has been at the core of the institution. By December 1801, the library recorded its first donations: a set of volumes based on documents from the ill-fated 1785–88 voyage of the French explorer Jean-François de Galaup, count of La Pérouse, and a ship’s journal documenting the first American vessel to sail to Japan. Soon after, in 1804, society members elected the famed scientist and navigator Nathaniel Bowditch as the first inspector of journals — in other words, our first librarian — a role he fulfilled until 1820.