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Massachusetts Supreme Court Affirms Relocation of PEM’s Phillips Library Collection

Released November 2, 2020

SALEM, MA — On October 30, 2020, a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the relocation of the Phillips Library collection from Salem, MA to the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) Collection Center in Rowley, MA. The Court ruled (in Peabody Essex Museum v. Maura Healey, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) that it is consistent with equitable deviation from the terms of the founding statutes establishing the Essex Institute, an organizational forebearer of PEM. This decision enables PEM’s Collection Center, with its increased storage capacity, reading room, and carefully-calibrated environmental systems, to be the ongoing home of the Phillips Library collection.

In 2019, PEM opened a new wing for its permanent collection and reaffirmed its place as an international museum of art and culture in Salem, MA. New exhibitions and publications continue to demonstrate the museum’s commitment to the region’s history and a belief in its strong future. A permanent gallery was established on its Salem campus to display the Phillips Library collection and the museum will continue to develop and promote exhibitions that celebrate these remarkable holdings. A digitization program for the Phillips Library has been launched to provide the public with free digital access to rare and archival materials stored at the Collection Center. Additionally, as part of PEM’s Campus Master Plan, the museum will determine how to introduce additional Library materials, particularly books and publications pertaining to the history of Salem, elsewhere within the Museum’s Salem facilities.

“PEM looks forward to integrating its three campuses—Salem, Rowley, and our digital campus—in new and invigorating ways that enable local and global audiences to benefit from the museum’s remarkable and singular Library collection,” says Brian Kennedy, PEM’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO. “We recognize and commend the passion of our community and look forward to collaborating to celebrate our shared history.”

Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time — including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM's campus offers a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Thursday through Sunday, 10 am–5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $6 (plus museum admission). Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit

Whitney Van Dyke | Director of Communications | | 978-542-1828