Press \\ Press Releases
Statement regarding PEM’s Phillips Library
Released December 8, 2017
The Peabody Essex Museum’s Phillips Library is one of New England’s major research libraries. The Library contains large and important collections related to the art, history, and culture of Essex County, New England, and many other parts of the world. The Library is used each year by approximately eight hundred on-site researchers -- most from areas outside Salem -- as well as hundreds of digital researchers who access the Library’s collection and catalog from around the globe.
Since 2011, the Phillips Library collection and operations have been located at a temporary Museum Collection Center located in Peabody. This move was required to undertake renovation and new construction work at the Museum, including approximately $9 million worth of critically needed preservation and renovation work on Plummer Hall and Daland House, the two historic buildings which previously housed the Phillips Library.
In the process of moving the collection to Peabody, the Museum was able to carefully catalog and assess the hundreds of thousands of books, manuscripts, broadsides and periodicals that comprise the collection. As part of this work, the Museum undertook a major initiative to digitize the catalog which has made 250,000 records from the Library’s collection available to researchers worldwide through OCLC/Worldcat. This, combined with the work of eight dedicated library staff members who assist our digital and onsite users, has made PEM’s Phillips Library collection more widely and frequently accessed than ever before.
To steward the Phillips Library collection at the highest standards, proper storage and climate control are required. The collection, which was largely held in compact storage in the Stacks Annex, has now been readied for proper archival storage which will take an astonishing amount of space -- over 42,000 linear feet (nearly 8 miles) of shelf storage. The Stacks Annex, which is not large enough to accommodate current storage demands, is also out of compliance with building code and, due to the way it was originally constructed, it cannot be retrofitted and must be taken down. Additionally, after careful architectural analysis of Plummer Hall and Daland House, it has become apparent that the climate control needs of the collection are at odds with the structural realities of these historic buildings; a solution simply which cannot be achieved in a cost effective manner in the near term.
These logistical challenges have led to a great opportunity: to unify the Museum’s renowned art and culture collection with the Phillips Library collection at new 120,000-square-foot Collections Center located in Rowley. This new center, which keeps the Library collection accessible in Essex County, will become operational by mid-2018 and will feature highly secure, climate-controlled space for storage for the collections and extremely handsome and functional spaces for a Library reading room, staff offices, conservation, and other operations. The Library will continue to welcome researchers from around the world and PEM’s skilled librarians will continue to assist patrons during the reading room’s public hours.
The Phillips Library collection is an essential part of the Museum and of New England’s heritage. We fully recognize our stewardship responsibilities for this collection and we have raised and invested millions of dollars to fulfill these responsibilities. Since 2011, PEM has invested more than $2 million to create a consistent catalogue of the entire Library collection and to make the catalog of the collection accessible online. Since 2011, the Museum has spent more than $3 million to support Library operations and we will spend more than $3.5 million over the next five years to continue to support Library operations.
At a recent Salem Historic Commission meeting we heard from many residents who expressed their concerns about the plans for the Library collection. In order to share the Museum’s Library plans in a more in-depth manner and to answer questions, we warmly encourage interested residents to attend a public meeting on the evening of Thursday, January 11th at 6pm in PEM’s Morse Auditorium.
We are gratified that many Salem residents are deeply committed to our heritage and to the Phillips Library and we look forward to explaining in greater detail why stewardship dictates that the Phillips Library collections and operations will be located in Rowley rather than Salem for the next several years.
Dan L. Monroe
PEM’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO