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:
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.