2022 article

Collecting the Globe: The Salem East India Marine Society Museum

Zonderman, D. A. (2022, June 1). JOURNAL OF AMERICAN HISTORY, Vol. 109, pp. 150–151.

By: D. Zonderman n

co-author countries: United States of America 🇺🇸
Source: Web Of Science
Added: July 26, 2022

The East India Marine Society Museum, with holdings that are now part of today's Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts, was one of the first systemically cataloged and curated collections in the antebellum United States. More than a cabinet of curiosities or collation of sailors' souvenirs, though there were elements of both in the museum, this pioneering institution encompassed maritime history and natural history, as well as the arts and cultures of Asia. Founded in 1799, the museum curated an image of Salem and the nascent nation as growing players in global trade networks—an image constructed along lines of racial hierarchy delineating the “civilized” and “uncivilized” worlds. George H. Schwartz, an associate curator at the Peabody Essex Museum, has drawn on the institution's rich archival and artifactual resources to paint a detailed portrait of the society across the seventy years of its existence as an independent collection. In its first three chapters, the books offers a comprehensive chronology of how the society acquired its holdings as it encouraged members to bring back natural history and ethnological specimens from their far-flung trading voyages across the globe. The fourth chapter focuses on exhibitions and displays mainly by recounting the construction of East India Marine Hall and the terms of successive curators of the collections. The fifth and final chapter examines visitor experiences by reading comments in guest books, as well as travelers' and journalists' accounts of the museum.