Northshore Magazine

Northshore December 2018

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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NORTHSHOREMAG.COM 68 DECEMBER 2018 e controversy surrounding the relocation of Peabody Essex Museum's (PEM) Phillips Library is fueled by a shared passion to preserve the country's oldest and largest archival collection in the most favorable way possible. Everyone at the proverbial table shares this mission, no matter their position on the issues surrounding the move from Salem to Rowley. With roots that reach back to 1799, the first incarnation of Phillips Library functioned as "a working library for which the practical execution of the plan and the collection of the necessary books should be an object of the first importance." Today, its mission is "to collect and preserve materials for the civil and natural history of Essex County and for the advance- ment of the arts, literature, and science generally." Until recently, the 42,000 linear feet of historical documents that compose the library's collection were housed in Plummer Hall and Daland House on Essex Street in Salem. As of July 2017, the artifacts are being preserved in the 120,000-square-foot Collec- tions Center in Rowley. After decades of moving from one location to another, this is to be their final home. e reason for the move? PEM was in need of a facility that could house both the library's documents and the nearly 1.8 million museum objects not on view—no short order, particularly when the matters of climate control and security were factored in. e options were to retrofit an existing building or find a footprint large enough to accommo- date a new building. Neither scenario would result in a Salem location. It is an understatement to say the collection is valued by scholars worldwide. According to Emerson Baker, interim dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Salem State University, "It is one of the finest research libraries for manuscript materials in the United States, especially for studying early Massachusetts history and maritime history—they are incomparable resources." Baker is intimately acquainted with the collection; now 60, he recalls using it for his graduate school studies. As a scholar who specializes in 17th-century New England, he is pleased to see PEM caring for the collection to the extent it is. He does, however, miss the days when he could send his / I N - D E P T H / Emerson Baker is the interim dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Salem State University. PHOTOGRAPH BY JARED CHARNEY students down the street to conduct their research. "But the treatment of the collection is of the utmost importance," he says, adding that he knows it is receiving proper care even though it has ceased to be a readily available local resource. Like many others, he would welcome its return to Salem. "It's an important piece of local history and our community," he says. In lieu of having easy access to the entire collection, Baker dreams of a Salem reading room that would house at least part of the collection. He would want it to be open to the public and staffed with librarians and archivists. He'd also like to see free access to the digitized

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