14 May 2018

The Peabody Essex Museum's Phillips Library collections: a timeline from 1799 to 2018

Inside the Phillips Library in Salem, Massachusetts, 1885
One of the oldest research libraries in the country, Phillips Library contains more than 400,000 rare books and 117,000 square feet of manuscripts, original papers, photographic images, and prints from Salem and Essex county, Massachusetts, to places around the world. It's probably best known as the repository for the 1692 Salem witch trials documents; letters and manuscripts from Nathaniel Hawthorne and his literary circle; plus ships' logs and maritime journals documenting travels to the Far East. 

Of particular interest are local family histories and town records, military records, original genealogical papers, newspapers and city directories, charts and maps, business and social records, papers of notable Americans, works of regional authors, broadsides and ephemera, publications from literary and historical societies, art and architecture books, history books, and materials related to its museum collections.

For more than 200 years, the Phillips Library collection has been an integral part of Salem. The timeline, below, shows how the Phillips Library started and grewand where it's headed next.

1799 East India Marine Society founded for creating a library on navigation and seafaring topics and collecting curiosities from native cultures of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

1821 Essex Historical Society founded.

1833 Essex County Natural History Society founded.

1848 Essex Institute formed by the union of the Essex Historical Society and Essex County Natural History Society; focus on literary, historical, and scientific pursuits; museum library, historic houses, educational programs, scholarly publications.

1857 Plummer Hall built for Salem Athenaeum with money provided in the 1845 will of Caroline Plummer; Essex Institute rented rooms at Plummer Hall for library and collections.

1867-1868 Peabody Academy of Science formed with the purchase of the East India Marine Hall along with the historic and ethnological collections of East India Marine Society. Essex Institute permanently transferred its natural history collections, originally collected by the Essex County Natural History Society, to the Peabody Academy. The Peabody Academy permanently transferred its historical collections to the Essex Institute, which concentrated its focus on local history, genealogy, and art.

1885 Essex Institute acquired the Daland house for the Phillips Library.

1905 Essex Institute bought Plummer Hall from Salem Athenaeum.

1915 Peabody Academy of Science changed its name to Peabody Museum of Salem, with its focus on maritime history of New England, Pacific and Japanese ethnology, and natural history of Essex county.

1972 National Register of Historic Places approves formation of the Essex Institute Historic District formed within the bounds of the Armory, Essex Street, Washington Square West, and Brown Street.

1992 Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) founded through consolidation of Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute. Within a few years, PEM changed its focus to become an arts and culture museum.   

1997 PEM’s Phillips Library closed for “massive restoration project, including climate control and modern archival storage” (closed 9 months).

2004 reduced hours and limited access to Phillips Library after laying off all but one librarian. At the same time, PEM said it would put “part of its 400,000 volumes and 2 million manuscript papers on the Internet.” Already 26,000 records had been scanned.

2011 Phillips Library is closed during “preservation and renovation work on Plummer Hall and Daland House (expected completion 2013)” (closed 19 months). During part of the closure, PEM exhibited 35 rare items as part of its Unbound, Highlights from the Phillips Library at PEM exhibit. 

2013 Phillips Library collection moved to temporary collection center in Peabody, with limited access to the library's resources. 

2015 PEM announced “$20 million renovation and improvement of PEM’s Phillips Library....housed in two noted 1850s architectural treasures, the John Tucker Daland House and Plummer Hall, both of which are being renovated by Schwartz/Silver Architects.” Part of the funds were used to digitally catalog the collections in PhilCat.

2017 Peabody Essex Museum purchased building in Rowley for its new Collections Center.

2018 Phillips Library moved to Collections Center in Rowley (closed Sept. 2017 to mid-June 2018)

28 February 2018

Introducing the Witches of Massachusetts Bay website

As some of you already know, I've been studying, researching, and writing about the Salem witch trials for 20+ years. I love Salem. But when I visit, I expect to see evidence of the 1692 witch trials. But where is the court house? The documents? The tangible objects that remind us of the victims, the accusers, the judges?

Good question.

Instead of blogging these last few months, I've been putting together my new Witches of Massachusetts Bay website. It launched in late January to highlight locations and artifacts as well as provide a calendar of related events, whether you’re headed on a roadtrip, interested in a lunchtime talk on John Proctor, or ready for the Daemonologie experience. I also added information for doing armchair research and, yes, started another blog.

Get Ready for a Roadtrip

Relevant historical and genealogical societies, museums, historic sites, libraries, and cemeteries are listed on the Roadtrips pages by town. In time, I would like to include detailed information about how each one fits into the witch-hunt theme. For example, the Macy-Colby House in Amesbury displays the wooden cradle from executed “witch” Susannah (North) Martin’s family; the Old North Parish Burial Ground in North Andover includes burials of accused witches William Barker Sr. and his son William Barker Jr.; the Danvers Archival Center has books, manuscripts, and pamphlets on witchcraft; and the Beverly Historical Society offers tours of the house where Rev. John Hale wrote his Modest Inquiry book on witchcraft. On the Roadtrips pages, I’ve also included online book and record links.

Witch-Hunt and 17th Century-Focused Events

It seems I always found out about an event after it happened. No more! Now you can find out when a local history society is giving a tour of the Old Burial Grounds, attend a lecture on a family involved in the witch hunts, visit a home connected to the trials, learn about Wampanoag lives, or experience History Camp Boston. The calendar includes ongoing exhibits and special events, like 17th century Saturdays, so you know what's happening before you go.

Help with Research

The Research section includes lists of accused witches and old place names—as well as digital collections, books, records, and multimedia online that encompass more than one location.

Blogging on 'Witches'

The blog is for witch-hunt-related news, the latest research, Q&As with historians, book notices, collections highlights, etc. For example, I did a Q&A with a novelist about her book on accused witch Abigail (Dane) Faulkner; used Google Maps’ fix function to correct which Bishop lived where; and discovered the somewhat unknown witch trial items at the Supreme Court in Salem.

Learning from the Past

By searching for these locations and researching witch-hunt connections, I hope to expand my own understanding, because, ultimately, I think the witch hunts have much to teach us as individuals and as a society. Some of the accused may have dabbled in fortunetelling, folk-healing, and the like, but they were not witches who made pacts with the devil, performed Satanic rites, or shapeshifted to harm their neighbors. They were ordinary people with flaws, just like you and me.

If you're a witch-hunt historian, researcher, descendant, or just curious, check out my Witches of Massachusetts Bay website. I also invite you to sign up for my occasional emails, follow me on Twitter @witchesmassbay and Facebook, and spread the word. Thanks!

19 January 2018

Suffolk deed books: Suffolk county, Massachusetts

Paul Revere house
Early Suffolk Deeds by John T. Hassam

Early recorders and registers of deeds for the county of Suffolk, Massachusetts, 1639-1735 by John T. Hassam

Suffolk Deeds, Liber I, 1629-1653

Suffolk Deeds, Liber II, 1653-1656

Suffolk Deeds, Liber III, 1656-1662

Suffolk Deeds, Liber IV, 1661/2-1665

Suffolk Deeds, Liber V, 1665-1668

Suffolk Deeds, Liber VI, 1668-1672

Suffolk Deeds, Liber VII, 1669/70-1672

Suffolk Deeds, Liber VIII, 1672-1674

Suffolk Deeds, Liber IX, 1674-1676

Suffolk Deeds, Liber X, 1676/77-1678

Suffolk Deeds, Liber XI, 1678-1680

Suffolk Deeds, Liber XII, 1680-1683

Suffolk Deeds, Liber XIII, 1683-1686

Suffolk Deeds, Liber XIV, 1686-1697

Record of the Streets, Alleys, Places, etc., in the City of Boston from settlement of the town to 1910

Also see Suffolk Registry of Deeds site for atlases, assessor maps, old recorded land plans, etc.