Letter to Brian Kennedy, advocating for the return of the Phillips Library to Salem
Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO
Peabody Essex Museum
161 Essex Street
Salem, Massachusetts 01970
Dear Mr. Kennedy,
Welcome to Salem! I was impressed and heartened to learn that you held your introductory address in East India Hall, under the mastheads. I can only assume that you believe that locations matter, they add context, and tell stories where words may fall short. Today, the Phillips Library is in a location that provides no context. Scholars researching at the Phillips will be doing so removed from the place where those manuscripts originated and away from the historic homes owned by the document’s authors.
As you know, Salem was the place where Americans first set out to learn about and interact with the outside world. Salem continues to be a place where cultures converge. A central part of PEM’s responsibility must be to tell and interpret that ongoing story. Salemites donated with the understanding that these materials would be available to future generations, allowing them to learn from and apply the knowledge and lessons to their own time. But your museum simply cannot do that if your research library is in a remote warehouse, removed from its true home in Salem.
On a more personal note, my wife and I are raising two children in Salem (ages 5 and 7). It’s important to us that our kids have a robust understanding of history, including that of their hometown. In our neighborhood we are surrounded by “museums” including three different witch themed museums, a monster museum, and a new Halloween museum. Salem desperately needs an institution that can interpret and tell its authentic story to both locals and visitors. Your team has the resources to make this happen, but it starts with the return of the Phillips Library to its home.
I urge you to work with the residents of Salem and we will be here to support you every step of the way.