In 1799, Salem’s weathered seafarers founded the East India Marine Society and began to assemble “natural and artificial curiosities” brought back from their journeys to Asia, Africa, and other distant lands. Over the following centuries, the collection grew, and while it did, the Society evolved through various shapes until it became the Peabody Essex Museum. Today, more than 1.8 million of these works invite visitors to explore the world in a facility that underwent a $200 million transformation in 2003.
The majority of works now rest in a Moshe Safdie–designed glass-and-brick building, focused around a sunny atrium whose various architectural silhouettes echo local forms. This new building joins the East India Marine Hall, built by the seafarers’ society in 1825 and dedicated in a ceremony attended by President John Adams. Today, that National Historic Landmark hosts society-member portraits and a number of the hall’s original objects; in other galleries, paintings and sculptures by Japanese, Indian, and Chinese artists hang on the walls or perch in glass cases like pies with personal-space issues. Guests can also tour Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house outside of China and a 200-year-old structure with intricate carvings.
In 2013, the Peabody Essex Museum will add exciting new displays to its rotating special exhibitions, from Faberge treasures to impressionistic masterpieces from the likes of Monet, Renoir, and Manet, as well as modern African-American art and contemporary art from India. After marveling at the skill and diversity of the artwork, visitors can drop by the Atrium Café or the Garden Restaurant for a bite to eat.
Five Things to Know About the House of the Seven Gables
Built way back in 1668, the House of the Seven Gables (also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion) sits on a 2.5-acre estate where one can explore the Colonial Revival Gardens and see Salem Harbor and Derby Wharf. Step inside and you step back in time, immersing yourself in Colonial and early US times. But before you do so, here are a few things to know:
If the home’s name sounds familiar, it’s because House of the Seven Gables is also the name of a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was inspired to write the novel by the house. Hawthorne’s own childhood home, built in 1750, was later moved and now rests on the grounds of the estate.
But what is a gable? A gable is the portion of a wall between the sloped parts of a roof. So when you stop by, make sure you identify all seven.
Take a tour, which lasts 30–40 minutes and heads through the six homes on the grounds. You’ll learn about Georgian-style design, Salem maritime history, and the life of Hawthorne. But be prepared to traverse a lot of stairs. Speaking of stairs…
There’s a secret staircase somewhere in the main house.
Kids have their own cove. In the Counting House, originally a place for business transactions, youngsters can look through a porthole’s telescope, pretend to set sail, ring a ship bell, and peek at period costumes.
Five Things to Know About New England Pirate Museum
New England is, as it turns out, a good place to have a pirate museum. During the height of piracy in the 17th and 18th century, the museum says, pirates such as Captain Kidd and Blackbeard spent their summers in New England. Here are a few things to know when you stop by the museum.
You’ll see pirates even before stepping foot inside. Walk up from either side of the museum to spot images of pirates scaling the exterior walls.
There’s an 80-foot cave exhibit to explore, complete with buried treasures and creatures.
The best times to go are when school’s out and close to Halloween. The museum is open every day from May to October, and only weekends in April and November. Late October introduces a haunted touch to the museum.
Take the walking tour. In about half an hour, you’ll be introduced to 60-odd pirates and their treasures, a dockside village, and a pirate ship.
Kids will love it. The guide on each walking tour is skilled at stimulating youngsters’ imaginations and leading them to participate and ask questions. The museum provides educational materials to further fortify the lessons learned.
Five Things to Know About the Salem Witch Museum
In 1962, Salem was home to one of the most notorious tragedies in American history, with a host of witch trials resulting in 20 people (none of them witches) being put to death. The Salem Witch Museum was founded to educate guests about that event. But before you stop in, here are a few things you should know:
It explores the evolution of witchcraft. The exhibit Witches: Evolving Perceptions traces the definition of witchcraft throughout history and explains what that practice entails today.
The statue outside the museum celebrates Salem founder Roger Conant. However, he died years before the witch trials actually began; his visage nearby is purely coincidental.
It’s located in a Gothic-style building that once functioned as a church.
The museum creates an immersive experience for visitors. Thirteen life-size stage sets, based on the actual trial documents, help replicate the drama and fear that pervaded the times.
In October, the museum becomes haunted. It adds extra hours around Halloweentime, so that more people can enjoy a spooky visit.
At Salem Wax Museum, visitors come face-to-face with some of the area's most iconic figures, including author Nathaniel Hawthorne, ruthless witch-trials judge Colonel John Hathorne, and accused witch Tituba, who sparked the city's witch hysteria in the late 17th century. But even outside the museum's doors, guests
find themselves surrounded by eerie evidence of the past. Behind the building sits the final resting place of other Salem figures at Burying Point, supposedly the second oldest burial ground in the US. Right next to it, the Witch Trials Memorial commemorates the period of time where accused witchcraft ran rampant.
Throughout the year, the museum transforms the entire scene with themed seasonal attractions. In October, for instance, it sets up terrifying exhibits such as Frankenstein's Castle and houses that pass out toothbrushes instead of candy on Halloween.
In Focus: Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery
What is it? a film museum dedicated to the art of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy
Best exhibits: life-size recreations of movie monsters and stars by Hollywood special-effects artists, ranging from Bette Midler’s Winnie from Hocus Pocus to H. R. Giger’s alien from Alien
Hot tip: gain insider’s knowledge by reading the signage attached to each piece
House favorites: anything with practical effects, the gorier the better
Special guests: October appearances by a whole slew of actors, creators, and artists involved in horror movies
Special exhibits: a terrifying haunted house every October