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      Phillips Library

      One of the oldest libraries in the U.S., the Phillips Library is rich in primary and secondary sources – including vast quantities of manuscripts, books, photographs, maps and more. We welcome readers of all ages!

      A page in a book with an illustration of a flower and a butterfly

      Philcat

      Search the library’s collections using Philcat, our online catalog. Request materials prior to your visit (for in-library use only), access digitized items, order reproductions and more.

      Phillips Library Digital Collections

      The Phillips Library provides free online access to a growing collection of digitized materials — including PEM publications, manuscripts, logbooks, broadsides, photographs and more.

      Visiting the Reading Room

      Our light-filled reading room is a comfortable, modern space for exploration and study. It is open to all, and is conveniently located at the museum’s state-of-the-art James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Collection Center. Appointments are required at this time.

      Phillips Library Address
      306 Newburyport Turnpike in Rowley, MA
      Parking is free and plentiful

      Locate on Google map

      Appointments and visiting details

      Please contact the library at research@pem.org or 978-542-1553 at least two business days in advance of a proposed visit date. When your appointment date and time are confirmed, we will provide instructions for you to create a Philcat account and request materials for your visit. Requests for library materials must be submitted by noon the day before your appointment.

      Please check in at the security desk upon arrival. Be prepared to show a photo ID. Bags and coats are not allowed in the reading room, but lockers are available. Please wash your hands thoroughly before handling materials to help us preserve our collection. Staff will explain reading room procedures when you arrive.

      Browse and search our finding aids (descriptive inventories) of our extensive manuscript collections. Our archives contain a wide variety of letters, account books, diaries, photographs, drawings, legal documents and some printed material. We add finding aids for previously unprocessed collections on a regular basis.

      Get started on a variety of topics with our research guides: lists of useful books, collections, and resources, as well as strategies for beginning your research.

      Visitors are welcome to take their own photographs for personal use only, per our Personal Photography policy. You may also request photographic reproductions of collection items, for a per-image fee to offset the staff time involved. Reproduction requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, and depend upon an item’s size, condition, copyright and relevant donor restrictions. Reproduction does not imply an authorization for publication or further reproduction. Please contact research@pem.org for details on publishing from the collection.

      We encourage patrons to visit our library to conduct their own research. If you cannot visit, we are happy to help with quick requests but are unable to perform research on your behalf. Inquiries may be made in writing by email or mail. Please allow two weeks for an initial response to your request from the time of its receipt. Requests are handled in the order in which they are received.

      Today's hours:

      9 am–4 pm

      By appointment only

      Monday

      Closed

      Tuesday

      Closed

      Wednesday

      9 am–4 pm

      Thursday

      9 am–4 pm

      Friday

      9 am–4 pm

      Saturday

      Closed

      Sunday

      Closed

      Monday

      Closed

      Tuesday

      Closed

      Wednesday

      9 am–4 pm

      Thursday

      9 am–4 pm

      Friday

      9 am–4 pm

      Saturday

      Closed

      Sunday

      Closed

      Featured videos

      Crayon Rebellion: The Material Politics of North American Pastels, 1758-1812

      Megan Baker, the 2022 Frances E. Malamy Fellow at PEM’s Phillips Library presented the findings of her research. Her dissertation, Crayon Rebellion: The Material Politics of North American Pastels, 1758-1812.

      Witch Trials and Salem: Then and Now

      Join our panel of experts for a conversation surrounding the history of the Salem witch trials and its impact on the city and contemporary witch community. Q&A to follow the conversation.

      Phillips Library Open House: Recent Acquisitions Virtual Tour

      Director of the Phillips Library Dan Lipcan and the Phillips Library staff present a sampling of library materials acquired during the past year (July 2020–June 2021).

      Unbound: Highlights from the Phillips Library

      In this video, Sidney Berger, The Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library, talks about three very different books that are on view in the exhibition Unbound: Highlights from the Phillips Library at PEM.

      Elizabeth Corwin, Her Book: Uncovering Women’s Accounts from 17th-Century Salem

      In this virtual presentation, Carbonell will discuss how a mystery led her to the collections at the Phillips Library, and how her time at the library helped her solve the mystery.

      Sleuthing Hawthorne with Richard Kopley

      In this video, Grolier member Richard Kopley, distinguished professor of English Emeritus at Penn State DuBois, discusses his techniques of close reading, biographical analysis and archival research to provide insight into Hawthorne’s masterpiece.

      The Endless Fascination with the Salem Witch Trials: An Expert Panel Discussion

      Join our panel of recognized experts on the Salem witch trials to discuss the current state of scholarship on the trials and what future directions of study might look like.

      Salem For Sale: Advertising Essex County, 1770-1990

      Join Reference Assistant Hannah Swan as she dives deep into the Phillips Library's previously hidden Essex County Advertising Ephemera collection.

      The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming at PEM
      A woman seated at a table in a library room full of books.

      Fellowships

      Learn about our programs to support independent research at the Phillips Library.

      Event

      Phillips Library Open House: Recent Acquisitions

      Friday, September 20 and Saturday, September 21, 2024 from 10 am-4 pm

      Keep exploring

      Graduate students dig into the papers of historic youth activists to tell the story of equal school rights in Salem

      Blog

      Graduate students dig into the papers of historic youth activists to tell the story of equal school rights in Salem

      7 Min read

      Blog

      Graduate students dig into the papers of historic youth activists to tell the story of equal school rights in Salem

      7 Min read

      A researcher shares the story of the Phillips Library’s newly digitized dictionaries from Vietnam, complete with marks by their creators.

      Blog

      Phillips Library digitizes dictionaries from Vietnam and unlocks stories of museum founders and their travels

      6 Min read

      Blog

      Phillips Library digitizes dictionaries from Vietnam and unlocks stories of museum founders and their travels

      6 Min read

      PEM’s Phillips Library unlocks challenging 17th-century language and penmanship of the Salem witch trial documents

      Blog

      PEM’s Phillips Library unlocks challenging 17th-century language and penmanship of the Salem witch trial documents

      4 min read

      Blog

      PEM’s Phillips Library unlocks challenging 17th-century language and penmanship of the Salem witch trial documents

      4 min read

      Unpacking the images and papers of photographer Sam Chamberlain

      Blog

      Unpacking the images and papers of photographer Sam Chamberlain

      6 min read

      Blog

      Unpacking the images and papers of photographer Sam Chamberlain

      6 min read

      A few people sitting at tables in a library room

      About the Phillips Library

      The library’s mission is to preserve and share its extraordinary collections. The Phillips Library provides vital support and inspiration to curious minds at the museum, in our local and regional communities and across the globe.

      The Phillips Library sends out a quarterly newsletter. Sign up here! Curious to learn more? Follow us on social media @pemlibrary.

      Today’s Phillips Library is the result of the integration of the James Duncan Phillips Library of the Essex Institute with the Stephen Phillips Library of the Peabody Museum of Salem in 1992, when their parent organizations merged. It is the beneficiary of hundreds of years of work to acquire books, manuscripts and other material via gift, purchase and exchange.

      Since PEM's founding as the East India Marine Society (EIMS) in 1799, a library has been at the core of our institution. The society’s original articles of association called for “an adjoining room to deposit the Books, Papers, & charts [sic],” and its formal bylaws published in 1808 instructed members “bound to sea” to deposit, upon their return, a log of their voyages. In 1804, society members elected the scientist, mathematician and navigator Nathaniel Bowditch as the first inspector of journals – in other words, our first librarian. He fulfilled this role until 1820.

      In 1868, the EIMS reorganized into the Peabody Academy of Science, and among its formal governing principles was the establishment of “a working library” for which “the collection of the necessary books should be an object of the first importance,” according to the First Annual Report of the Trustees of the Peabody Academy of Science (1869). Its 1915 name change to the Peabody Museum of Salem affirmed its three areas of focus: ethnology, natural history, and maritime history. When the need for expanded library space was recognized, the museum constructed the Stephen Phillips Library in Plummer Hall and named the reading room in honor of the Saltonstall family.

      On a parallel track, in 1821, the Essex Historical Society (EHS) established itself for the purpose of "collecting and preserving...the civil history of the county of Essex." The Essex County Natural History Society formed in 1836, and then merged with the EHS in 1848 to form the Essex Institute. The Institute’s James Duncan Phillips Library was located in the John Tucker Daland House; its collection strengths were Essex County, natural history, science, domestic life, religion, decorative arts, genealogy and literature.

      The Phillips Library’s vast collection includes manuscripts, books, broadsides, maps, ephemera and photographs, as well as one of the world’s largest assemblages of ships’ logbooks. The scope of the library is international and nearly encyclopedic, reflecting PEM’s collections in all media and across all curatorial departments in addition to its own strengths.


      Notable Collections
      Essex County History

      The library’s extensive holdings from and about Essex County reflect the social, cultural and economic values of one of the nation’s earliest settled regions, encompassing its industrial cities, ports, agricultural towns and religious centers. Materials include reports, circulars, directories, advertisements, ephemera and other publications of Essex County societies, businesses, municipalities, publishers and other institutions.

      Nathaniel Hawthorne
      The library continues to build on a comprehensive collection of more than 3,000 volumes by and about Salem-born novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne – including editions with decorated bindings designed by artists such as Sarah Wyman Whitman – acquired from businessman and scholar C. E. Frazer Clark Jr. in 1983. The library also holds a modest collection of personal and professional papers written by the Scarlet Letter author and members of his family.

      Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection
      Massachusetts-based collectors Chester and Davida “Davey” Herwitz engaged with modern Indian art and artists for more than 30 years. They donated their library of more than 6,000 books and their personal archive of artist files, correspondence, photographs, slides, recordings, films and records of their collecting activities to PEM, instantly establishing a new area of exceptional coverage among the library’s holdings.

      Edward Sylvester Morse Papers
      Edward Sylvester Morse played multiple important roles in the history of the Peabody Essex Museum: curator at the Essex Institute, editor of The American Naturalist, and director of the Peabody Museum. He was also an early collector and student of Japanese art, as well as a biologist, archaeologist, ethnologist, mechanical draftsman, scientific illustrator, professor and author, among many other pursuits. Selections from his papers are digitized and available online.

      Herbert Offen Research Collection
      Scott Offen and his family have supplied crucial support in gathering materials on Asian furniture, architecture and gardens. These donations have been made in memory of Herbert Offen, a passionate devotee of Chinese culture, who served in China during World War II and resided there for several years. The Herbert Offen Research Collection focuses on China, but includes supporting sections that explore Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia at large. In the spring of 2004, the Offen family made an initial gift of 490 books and generous funds to continue purchasing new and antiquarian books. Over the years the collection has grown to over 4,600 titles and is now one of the finest research collections for scholars and enthusiasts in these fields.

      The Pingree Papers
      This vast archive of records relates chiefly to David Pingree (1795-1863) and his descendants. Pingree held substantial interests in maritime trade through the first half of the 19th century. He owned or partially owned dozens of merchant ships that traded across the globe. In the 1840s, Pingree began purchasing land in Maine and New Hampshire, including around Mount Washington. Selections from the Pingree Papers are digitized and available online.

      Remond Family Papers
      The papers of this prominent African American family of Salem include agreements, correspondence, menus, invoices, bills of lading (shipping receipts) and miscellaneous papers that reflect John Remond’s catering and cookery career. The letters of John's son Charles Lenox Remond contain discussions of anti-slavery and abolitionist issues. The entire collection is digitized and available online.

      The Salem Witch Trials Papers
      From 1980 to 2023, Phillips Library was the temporary repository of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s collection of legal records from the 1692 Salem witch trials. The documents were returned to the Judicial Archives following the expansion and modernization of the Massachusetts State Archives facility. Thanks to a comprehensive digitization project undertaken by the library, the documents are now freely accessible to researchers around the world.

      Frederick Townsend Ward Collection of Books on China
      One of the world’s outstanding collections of Western-language books, pamphlets, periodicals, rare maps and prints on the history of imperial China, this collection includes firsthand accounts of Western travelers in China and the interactions of China with the West up to the early 20th century. Copies of many of these items were destroyed in China during the Cultural Revolution.

      The library welcomes suggestions! Use this form to recommend an item for our collection. Suggest a purchase.

      Thank you for your interest in donating to the Phillips Library. If you would like to offer an item for donation, please email our Collections team at pem_collection@pem.org. Your offer will be forwarded to the library for consideration. We are unable to accept unsolicited items — please do not send items you wish to donate until you have been contacted by library staff.

      Gifts are accepted when the materials fall within the scope of the library’s collecting interests. Donations are made with the understanding that Phillips Library retains the right to dispose of duplicate, out-of-scope, format-obsolete, unwanted or damaged donations at the time of the gift, or in future as the collection is reviewed and assessed. As of 2022, we will not accept materials on deposit or loan.

      Curious to learn more?

      Read more about the Phillips Library on our Collections page.