SALEM — When the Peabody Essex Museum opens its new wing this fall, there will be a bit more Salem history on display, and even more planned for the future.

The museum’s new three-story, 40,000-square-foot, $49 million expansion will open to the public on Saturday, Sept. 28. The launch will include exhibits in new Asian export and fashion art galleries, and exhibits elsewhere in the museum are being arranged to best direct guests through the newly added museum space.

The list of nine new exhibits will also include one dedicated to famed Salem writer Nathaniel Hawthorne while also showing off part of the museum’s Phillips Library collection, most of which moved to a new Collection Center in Rowley in 2018.

“The Creative Legacy of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selections from the Phillips Library Collection” is described as the “first exhibition in a new gallery dedicated to showcasing works from the museum’s research library.”

“We thought it’d be appropriate to actually celebrate an important aspect of Salem’s creative history,” said Lynda Hartigan, the museum’s deputy director and overseer of the new wing’s installations. “And Hawthorne is well represented in our library collection, so the two things came together.”

Four gallery spaces are tied to the expansion, including spaces dedicated to maritime art, Asian exports, fashion and design, and “The Pod,” a new gallery in the museum’s Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center.

The planning that went into the expansion project also looked closely at how the entire museum is used, according to Hartigan. It considered the gallery spaces a guest passes while heading toward the new wing.

“We had a series of complex conversations about, really, which parts of the collection would be a magnet to a new wing and give us the space to feature really important aspects of our collection,” said Hartigan. 

New installations will be spread out throughout the museum over a three-year period, “simply because we have a really extensive collection, and it takes a lot of time and planning — and resources — to do this kind of thing,” she said.

While the Hawthorne exhibit is the only one to specifically call attention to the Phillips Library, it’s expected that the large historical treasure trove will also start popping up in other exhibits as well, according to Hartigan.

“We’re incorporating library materials in some of the other installations,” she said, “but (we) thought it would be lovely to have an ongoing, intimate space where we could feature the riches, depths and strengths of our library collections.”

The new wing’s grand opening will occur in a week of events for Peabody Essex, beginning with the annual gala on Sept. 21 to celebrate the opening of the wing. Member preview days will run on Thursday, Sept. 26 and Friday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and an all-night party will run from 7 p.m. that Friday to 7 a.m. on Saturday. There will be a ribbon cutting later in the day.

Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, sees a bigger picture in the opening of the new wing.

“As they expand their capacity and have more shows, we definitely see benefits from the museum’s exhibits,” Fox said. “It’s a big driving force for visitation year-round (to Salem), and with the new building, people have been waiting because of the construction. People have been waiting for a number of years.”

Culture throughout the city will shine a little brighter, according to Fox. Phillips Library is just one part of that.

“It isn’t the first time they’ve done this. They’ve had exhibits with pieces from the library (before). They’ve had original Hawthorne documents,” Fox said. “It won’t be the first time they’ve displayed these pieces, these rare works, and really not the last.”

Dustin Luca may be contacted at 978-338-2523 or Follow him on Facebook at or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

Installations, exhibitions opening by September

Maritime Art Gallery: PEM’s collection capitalizes on its strengths to frame the sea as an enduring source of opportunity as well as peril, a force that inspires artistic creativity and innovation, and encourages engagement with the wider world.

Asian Export Art Gallery: The gallery explores artistic and cultural exchange as a catalyst for creativity and celebrates the interplay of commerce and creative expression.

Fashion & Design Gallery: Combines traditionally disparate collecting fields to explore how we are designing creatures who continually manipulate, respond to, and mold our changing world. The installation features selections from Iris Apfel’s Rare Bird of Fashion collection.

The Pod: A new gallery in PEM’s Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center, investigates our relationship to nature through contemporary art installations, memorable objects, hands-on activities, and interactive experiences.

Kimsooja, Archive of Mind: Roll up your sleeves and participate in a meditative sculptural installation. As thousands of visitors contribute, a monumental, texturally-complex clay sculpture emerges.

A Lasting Momento, John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min: It takes you to 19th-century China through 80 striking landscapes, city views, and portrait studies from a rare and celebrated photography collection.

Powerful Figures: Features sculptures from around the world that embody the dual concepts of power, as both a fundamental social dynamic and an expression of our innate wiring to respond to figures and faces.

Vanessa Platacis, Taking Place: A site-specific installation that reimagines PEM’s collections through hand-cut stencil paintings that create unexpected connections across time periods, cultures, and materials.

Charles Sandison, Figurehead 2.0: An immersive, dynamic projection installation in East India Marine Hall that is inspired by PEM’s vast collection of 19th-century ships’ logs and sailors’ journals.

Yoan Capote, Immanence: A monumental steel sculpture that addresses Cuba’s resilient citizenry as well as the social and political forces that have shaped the country for more than half a century.

The Creative Legacy of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selections from the Phillips Library Collection: The first exhibition in a new gallery dedicated to showcasing works from the museum’s research library.

Hans Hofmann, The Nature of Abstraction: Explores the innovative, prolific career of an influential American modern artist who made deep contributions to the artistic landscape of New England.

Where the Questions Live: A site-specific, multi-sensory installation by Wes Sam-Bruce that investigates the connections, metaphors, and experiences of human beings within the natural world.