The Phillips Library Reading Room will close one hour early, at 3:30pm, on Thursday, July 20, 2017.

The Phillips Library Reading Room is open at our temporary location at 1 Second Street, Peabody, Massachusetts.

The Phillips Library will be moving from its temporary facility in Peabody to a new location this fall. This move is part of the Peabody Essex Museum's plan to improve storage conditions for its museum and library collections. In order to carry out the move, the Library and Reading Room will be closed and all access to the collection of books and manuscripts will be suspended from September 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018. We regret any inconvenience or hardship this may cause to researchers and we encourage researchers to visit or make inquiries prior to September. Further information about the new location will be forthcoming later this summer.

The Reading Room will be open on Wednesday and Thursday between 10 am and 4:30 p.m. Approved Visiting Researchers are welcome, by special appointment, on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday between 10 and 4:30 pm. We look forward to welcoming our patrons to the new Reading Room. Wi-Fi access is provided for our patrons.

What’s New

Released: August 27, 2014



50,000 original documents -- including 17th-century maps, illustrated Chinese texts, historic ship logs and diaries -- now cataloged online

SALEM, MA -- The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) announces the completion of a major digitization project that dramatically improves access to the library's online records. Part of a comprehensive $20 million library renovation and improvement initiative, more than 250,000 new catalog records, nearly 50,000 of which reference one-of-a-kind items unique to the Phillips Library, have been created. The records are available to countless researchers worldwide via the Phillips Library website ( and through OCLC/Worldcat. Boasting 400,000 volumes collected over two centuries, PEM's Phillips Library is one of the largest and oldest museum libraries in the country.

"This project marks a major leap into the modern age and is an invaluable boon to scholarly research," says Sidney Berger, The Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library. "The scale and scope of this undertaking is unprecedented for a museum library and we are grateful to our donors whose generosity ensures that the Phillips Library will thrive and be a vital resource for generations to come."

Highlights of library records that are now online include: a remarkably accurate and historically valuable map of Nagasaki that was created by Kumamoto Ensai in 1696; the library’s first acquisition, The Voyage of La Pérouse Round the World; and the diary of William Bentley -- one of New England's most renowned diarists -- containing 23 of his sermons.

PEM's Phillips Library has one of the more distinguished maritime collections in the country, which includes richly hand-colored plates of ships from about 1720 and the ship log of Daniel Webster (1849-1850) that records details of life at sea, drawings of ships, poems and other personal notes.

Essex County in Massachusetts is the most recorded and historically researchable county in the world thanks to the Phillips Library's extensive holdings. "A rule of thumb in the library world is that the more online records you have of your holdings, the more use you will get," says Berger. "Our use is up significantly in the last several months, much of which is attributable to the vastly increased number of records we have mounted."

In addition to increased online access to records in the Phillips Library collection, this project has resulted in a systems overhaul that included: recataloging more than 85,000 titles; relabeling more than 92,000 volumes; cataloging more than 9,000 new entries; and digitizing more than 80,000 images on the China trade.


In 2011, thanks to the support of generous donors, PEM embarked on a $20 million renovation and improvement project of the museum's Phillips Library. As one of New England's oldest, the Phillips Library has an international reputation as a major resource for maritime history and art, New England life and culture, American decorative arts, Asian art and culture, Native American history and art, and the art and culture of Oceania. The library provides researchers, curators and the general public access to 400,000 printed volumes, more than a mile of shelves of manuscripts, an extensive collection of ephemera, broadsides and pamphlets, and substantial runs of periodicals.

Structurally, the Phillips Library is housed in two noted 1850s architectural treasures, the John Tucker Daland House and Plummer Hall, both of which are being renovated and restored by the highly regarded Boston architecture firm, Schwartz/Silver Architects. Upon completion of the renovation, greatly improved research spaces will greet library visitors on site and online platforms will continue to offer electronic visitors worldwide access to the library's holdings. For information about the renovation and the off-site reading room, visit

PHOTO CREDIT: German Psalter, 1675. Collection of The Phillips Library. Image courtesy Peabody Essex Museum (PEM).


The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is one of the oldest and fastest growing museums in North America. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. Founded in 1799, the museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, as well as Native American, Oceanic and African art. PEM's campus affords a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on  creativity zones, interactive opportunities, performance spaces and historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese House, a 200?year?old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm, and the third Thursday of every month until 9 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $18; seniors $15; students $10. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $5. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866?745?1876 or visit

Released: April 17, 2012

Essex County Probate records, stored on microfilm, have been transferred from the Phillips Library to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds located at 45 Congress Street, Salem, MA.  Access to these documents will be available for library patrons during the time the library is closed for renovations. 

Please contact Kathie Gauthier or Kostas Psiakis at 978-741-0201 if you have questions regarding access to these materials.