Virtual Museum Impressions: Peabody Essex Museum

October 29, 2020

Since it has been a while, I decided to plan another virtual trip to a museum. In a previous visit to Salem, Massachusetts, I was not able to visit the Peabody Essex Museum and decided to write about my virtual experience. According to their website, the Peabody Essex Museum is a museum of international art and culture that is dedicated to connecting art to the world. Also, the staff and board strive to create experiences that transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the world through exhibitions, programs, publications, media, and other related activities.

During my visit to the Peabody Essex Museum, I took virtual tours of their exhibits that were available on their website. Each tour has a 360-degree experience within their spaces powered by Matterport Lightshed Photography Studio; to move around in the space, I clicked on the rings and used the mouse to zoom in/out, and to look all around. The exhibits I explored were Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, Asian Export, Fashion & Design, Maritime, Where the Questions Live, Art & Nature Center, and Powerful Figures.

Jacob Lawrence was a leading modern American painter and the most prominent black American artist of the time. In the exhibit Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, his pieces were his responses to the fraught national political climate and according to the exhibit panel he wanted to visualize a more complete American history through word and image. The exhibit is a series of 30 paintings that interpret pivotal moments in from the American Revolution and the early decades of the republic between 1770 and 1817; his goal was to revive the struggles of the founding fathers and underrepresented historical figures in his art for his day and for future generations.

A couple of the paintings include ones that interpret the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride. Each painting included a quote from historical figures or primary sources on the side panels next to them. For instance, his interpretation of the Boston Tea Party had a quote from a song of 1773 which stated:

Rally Mohawks!

            Bring out your axes,

            and tell King George

            we’ll pay no taxes

            on his foreign tea…

While exploring the exhibit, I thought that the interpretations were interesting and visually striking especially since I was used to seeing paintings like the Signing of The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull as an example of historical interpretation in art. I believe Lawrence achieved his goal with his painting series and I enjoyed the virtual experience.

The Peabody Essex Museum not only provides virtual tours but there are also at-home programs inspired by the museum. For instance, there is a program called PEM Pals that is located on PEM’s YouTube channel. PEM Pals is a weekly program dedicated to art, stories and learning for children under the age of 5 and their caretakers; each new episode are streamed at 10:30am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesdays. There is also Drop-In Art Activities that provides video tutorials to create various projects including but not limited to: milk jug elephants, egg carton ladybugs, cotton swab tree painting, plastic bottle chandelier, map making, and bubble bottle. Another example of at-home programs is Explore Outside in which participants are encouraged to go outdoors to investigate the world with nature-based activity sheets for bird watching, neighborhood tree trek, and scavenger hunts.

One of the exhibits that are available in person with a sample of objects from the exhibit available online was The Salem Witch Trials 1692. It is on view from September 26, 2020 to April 4, 2021. The exhibit explored the hysteria that involved more than 400 people and led to the deaths of 25 innocent people (men, women, and children) between June 1692 and March 1693. There are many unfounded theories about the Salem Witch Trials about how the hysteria started, and interest in the Trials still persist to this day. If you are able to see it in person, I recommend visiting this exhibit.

I hope to visit the Peabody Essex Museum in person one day. To learn more about the Museum, check out the links below.

Happy Halloween!!

Links:

Peabody Essex Museum

The Salem Witch Trials 1692

Learning from 1692 by Dinah Cardin

Virtual Tours

Museum Impressions, Salem Witch Museum

Added to Medium, October 4, 2018

In honor of the month of Halloween, I am going to give my impressions about the Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. This museum is another one of the museums I have visited during my childhood but my memory of this experience is limited because I did not see a whole lot of the place at the time. I did visit the museum years later with the Historical Society club at Western New England College (now University). In addition to these memories, I will also give my impressions of the Salem Witch Museum based on what I observe on their website to see how much has changed since I visited.

When I first made the visit to the Salem Witch Museum, it was in the 1990s and I was with my parents and my sisters. We waited in the lobby of the museum until the group we were in was able to sit in the auditorium to learn about the Salem Witch Trials. As my family waited for our turn, I remember looking through the brochures and saw pictures of the statues depicting the townsfolk. I was scared since in my imagination I thought that the creepy statues were going to move around in the dark room. Once our group was able to go in after the previous group left, I did not want to go in so one of my parents went into the gift shop with me until the rest of the family joined us. It was not until I was in college when I returned to the Salem Witch Museum.

The Historical Society club I was a member and treasurer of decided to visit the town of Salem during one of our day trips we typically go on a couple times a year. When I finally went inside of the Salem Witch Museum’s auditorium, I felt silly that I was scared of the statues since it turned out that they were only statues as a recording tells the history of the Salem Witch Trials while lights were used to give spotlights for the stationary statues. After the presentation, we went into the exhibit that shared the history of Wicca and the depiction of witches over the centuries. Then we visited the gift shop before we left to see more of Salem. Our advisor who was also one of my History professors expressed his concerns that the recording used outdated information and the Witch Trials overshadowing other significant narrative in Salem’s history especially Salem’s maritime history. While he did express his concerns, we did visit a couple of places that were related to the Salem Witch Trials such as the memorial to those who were killed and the Witch House where one of the judges who tried a number of court cases during that period. We made visits to other places in Salem in addition to the Salem Witch Museum and places related to the 1692 Salem Witch Trails.

There are many places we visited in Salem as a group which are easily overlooked because of the popularity of the Salem Witch Trials. For instance, we visited the Salem Maritime National Historic Sites where a number of historic buildings, wharves, and a replica tallship tell stories about how Salem residents helped build the foundation for one of the most powerful national economies. Another example of places we visited is the House of Seven Gables is a house built for Captain John Turner and remained within the family for three generations, and was made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of Seven Gables published in 1851. It has been a long time since I visited the town of Salem, and now I look at the website for the first time in years and I am impressed.

On their “History/Education” page of the website, there is a section on witch hunts that gives varying examples of witch hunts throughout history and modern history. An equation is presented at the top of the page that reads out “Fear+Trigger=Scapegoat”; in other words, it means that when fear is triggered a scapegoat is used to express one’s fear that causes harm to individuals treated as scapegoats. During the Salem Witch Trails, it was the fear of the devil that was triggered by the community which led to many innocent people to be tried and killed for being witches. A modern history example listed on the page is the fear of infection which was triggered by AIDS and unfortunately the gay community was used as a scapegoat for the AIDS epidemic. The page allows visitors to submit their own examples, and I think it is an interesting way to illustrate how the Salem Witch Trails have occurred.

The website also provides a self-guided tour page that allows visitors to see locations around Essex County and a few key sites in and around Boston that are related to the events of 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Individuals can click on the town and city names on the map or on the left side of the page to not only see pictures but to read about the sites in these locations. There are descriptions of the sites from the witchcraft trials which can still be seen today, including original houses, foundations, grave sites, and sites marked by historic markers. If one is interested in learning about witches and maritime history, I recommend visiting Salem when one has the opportunity.

Announcement: Next week will be my 100th blog post so stay tuned for a special blog post!

Resources:
https://salemwitchmuseum.com/
https://www.nps.gov/sama/index.htm
https://7gables.org/