Press \\ Press Release

PEM Executive Director and CEO, Dan Monroe, Announces Retirement

Released October 11, 2018


Visionary leader transformed PEM into an innovative, world-renowned museum of art and culture during 25-year tenure

SALEM, MA — Dan Monroe, the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Executive Director and CEO of the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) for 25 years, announced his retirement today. Monroe will continue to lead PEM until September, 2019 following the summer opening of PEM’s major new wing and featuring fresh installations of its vast and diverse collections.

Robert N. Shapiro, President of PEM’s Board of Trustees, said Monroe is a widely-recognized pathbreaker and leader in creating an entirely new kind of art museum.

“Just like PEM’s global entrepreneurial founders in 1799, Dan set out to create an experience that connects art, culture and creative expression from around the world in exciting and unexpected ways,” said Shapiro. “He has poured his heart, passion and talent into transforming PEM into the international force that it is today. Dan is a remarkable thinker, leader and builder. PEM plays a major leadership role because of his work, imagination and drive.”

A search committee to select PEM’s new director has been organized and an international search is underway.

Over the course of the last 25 years, Monroe led the consolidation of two historic museums into a museum that operates on a global stage and stands among the top 10 percent of American and Canadian art museums as measured by size of budget, facilities, and other metrics.

Monroe spearheaded two major capital campaign and expansion programs — raising more than $800 million and adding more than 270,000-square-feet of new facilities and renovating or restoring tens of thousands of square feet of existing facilities. Other major achievements of Monroe’s tenure include:

  • Increase of operating budget from $3 million to $33 million;
  • Increase of endowment from $23 million to more than $500 million;
  • Achievement and maintenance of the highest visitor satisfaction ratings among more than 80 major museums nationwide over the past fifteen years;
  • Establishment of a new financial model for art museums by dramatically increasing endowment to ensure stability and support increased innovation;
  • Increase of annual on-site attendance from 60,000 to more than 270,000;
  • Creation of a traveling exhibition program that routinely shares PEM exhibitions at first-tier art museums worldwide and serves up to a million people annually;
  • Creation of innovative methods of presenting and interpreting art, including the application of neuroscience to the design of art experiences;
  • The first appointment of a full-time neuroscientist at an art museum to help create more meaningful engagements with art and other forms of creative expression;
  • Acquisition through purchase and donation of art to collections valued at more than $100 million;
  • Establishment of contemporary art as a core part of PEM’s exhibitions and programs.

Monroe has been a national leader who served as President of the American Alliance of Museums and President of the Association of Art Museum Directors. He has served in many other regional and national leadership capacities, led and helped develop national policies pertaining to museum ethics, deaccessioning, acquisition of ancient art and archaeological materials, and other issues.

He also played a key role in the creation and implementation of landmark Federal legislation regarding repatriation of Native American human remains and cultural items. He has been active in promoting international cultural exchanges, especially with China, India, and other Asian nations. This includes the acquisition and re-erection of Yin Yu Tang, a complete Chinese Qing Dynasty house on PEM’s campus. This is the largest cultural exchange project between China and a U.S. museum.

Leading the transformation of PEM into a major American art museum that thrives on a culture of innovation and creativity has been an extraordinary joy and privilege,” Monroe said. “PEM operates today at local, national, and global stages, and works to create experiences of art, culture, and creative expression that transform people’s lives.

Monroe added that art and creative expression are “central to our identity as human beings and critical to our future.”

“PEM’s success has been the result of the talent and commitment of exceptional staff and volunteers, a remarkable Board of Trustees, and truly inspired patrons,” Monroe noted. “Building on its unique 218-year legacy, including the advances we have been able to realize in the past quarter of a century, PEM is ideally positioned to continue the innovation and change required to enable the Museum to enrich the lives of people worldwide in a rapidly changing cultural environment.”

Samuel T. Byrne, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said PEM is “poised to have an even larger role in the future in creating experiences of art, culture and creative expression. We are grateful for Dan’s inspired shaping of a quarter-century of success after success and his building a strong foundation at PEM for even greater impact in the years ahead.”



PEM’s physical presence has grown dramatically under Dan Monroe’s leadership. In 2003, as part of the Third Century Campaign, PEM opened a 113,000-square-foot wing designed by Moshe Safdie. The transformational $200 million campaign and expansion included new collection installations, a soaring 10,000-square-foot Atrium with a cafe, handsome auditorium, enlarged museum shop, interactive studios, outdoor parks and walkways, renovated galleries throughout the museum, and the opening of Yin Yu Tang, PEM’s historic Chinese house.

In 2018, PEM opened a state-of-the-art 120,000-square-foot Collection Center to unify, preserve and protect the museum’s 1.8 million works and the collection of the Phillips Library at the highest possible standard. PEM continues to grow, with a current Gallery Expansion Project designed by Ennead Architects that will add 40,000-square-feet to PEM’s facility, including 15,000-square-feet of gallery space, a light-filled atrium, an entry for school and group tours, linkages to existing galleries and a new garden. Opening in mid-2019, the project will also unveil the first phase of 19 new collection installations, to be completed in 2021.


PEM’s mission, operating principles and financial model combine to make it one of the most dynamic and progressive museums in the nation. PEM is dedicated to creating experiences of art, culture and creative expression that transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. A museum-wide culture of innovation and experimentation ensures that PEM is continually working to provide meaningful, relevant and exciting experiences for the public. Fresh interpretive strategies, creative risk taking and innovative exhibition design have become hallmarks of the PEM experience. Under Monroe’s direction, PEM established a groundbreaking neuroscience initiative and hired Harvard-trained neuroscience researcher, Dr. Tedi Asher, to assess how neuroscience can enhance the museum experience.


Monroe has created an entirely new financial model for PEM and all art museums. As part of the museum’s most recent $650 million Connect Campaign — of which more than $600 million has been raised to date — PEM is building a robust endowment capable of providing 60-65% of operating support for an annual budget of more than $34 million. This is more than twice the amount of endowment income than the average art museum draws annually and insures long-term financial stability and it enables PEM to focus on creative innovation and visitor impact. PEM’s Connect Campaign is the first art museum campaign to substantially prioritize endowment over facility expansion and infrastructural improvements, a decision that The Wall Street Journal has remarked as a “retooling the traditional business model for museums.”


PEM’s exhibition program is global in its purview and interdisciplinary in its practice, addressing urgent topics and universal experiences. Over the last decade, PEM has established a robust changing exhibition program producing dozens of exhibitions that are created in collaboration with, and travel to, major museums, including: the Palace Museum, Beijing; the Victoria & Albert Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Freer|Sackler, Washington, D.C.; the Royal Ontario Museum; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and the National Museum of the American Indian. Monroe has raised the international visibility of PEM through strategic partnerships with art organizations in China, India, Japan and Korea.


Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. It now stands among the top ten percent of American and Canadian art museums based on size, endowment, operating budget. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to create experiences of art, culture, and other forms of creative expression that enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the wider world.

PEM celebrates outstanding contemporary and historical artistic and cultural creativity for audiences worldwide through exhibitions, acquisitions, hard copy and digital publications, research, education and public programs, and special events and activities. Its campus provides a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. PEM’s diverse and large collection includes 1.8 million objects, an important research library featuring thousands of rare and unique materials, and twenty-two historic buildings, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only such example of antique domestic architecture presented outside of China. Collection areas include American art and architecture, Native American, Maritime, Chinese art and architecture, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Oceanic, African, Fashion and Textiles, and Photographic art. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Mondays, 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

Media Relations Contact:

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