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With 1.8 Million Artworks And Artifacts, The Peabody Essex Opens A New Space To Care For Its Collection

PEM's Collection Center in Rowley. (Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum)
PEM's Collection Center in Rowley. (Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum)
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When you've got 1.8 million artworks and artifacts, space inevitably becomes an issue.

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is responsible for one of the largest institutional collections in the country, and it's confronting that challenge with the creation of a new Collection Center in nearby Rowley.

As you can imagine, only a fraction of the PEM's trove can be displayed in its galleries at any given time. Founded in 1799, it's the oldest, continually operating museum in the United States. For decades, the holdings have been separated and stored across multiple buildings. Now, the state-of-the-art facility will enable museum staff to house, preserve and study its collection in a single location under top-notch conditions.

In an announcement Monday, museum director and CEO Dan Monroe said the completion of the new center "constitutes a major milestone in the museum's 219-year history."

Taking care of the vast collection has “always been daunting,” Monroe continued. “The new Collection Center not only meets this challenge but also makes the collections far more accessible than ever before for support of exhibitions, programs and research.”

The new 120,000-square-foot facility features climate-controlled spaces to ensure the health and longevity of the objects. It also includes a new conservation lab, photographic studio, digitization studio and a designated research area for the PEM's Phillips Library.

The Collection Center is seen as a core component in the historic museum's ongoing evolution that's being driven by a $650 million campaign. In 2019, the PEM will open a new 40,000-square-foot gallery that will enable curators to install and tell the stories behind more works from its collection.

The public is invited to an Open House at the Collection Center on July 14.

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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