January 9, 2018

Friends of Salem's Phillips Library Statement

In decades past, a Friends of the Phillips Library group, consisting of scholars, educators,
researchers, book lovers, descendants of donor families, and interested and engaged residents
of Salem and its environs, supported the core mission of the Library “to collect and preserve
materials for the civil and natural history of Essex County and for the advancement of the
arts, literature, and science generally.” Beginning in 2011, the extended period of closure for the
Library, ostensibly for renovation, rendered this group dormant, but the recent revelation by
the leadership of the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) that the bulk of its collections will not be
returning to Salem has necessitated its revival.

At this time, the Friends have one crucial aim: to ensure that the Phillips Library Reading
Room reopens in Salem, in the midst of the historical landscape that created its collections. To
this end, the Friends seek to partner with the PEM in developing a more active stewardship of
our Library, inspired by and reflective of the dynamic urban environment of greater Salem, and
expressive of the belief that its collections are valuable assets rather than mere obligations. We
believe that the Library’s collections are central to fulfilling the PEM’s mission “to inspire the
public by fusing art, culture, and history in innovative ways”, but for this fusion to occur, it must
remain in Salem. For as Salem served as the port that fostered so many cross-cultural connections
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Library should serve as the point of access for those
curious about these connections and their ongoing impact.

In our advocacy role, we honor the intent of donors who gifted papers and possessions to
an institution situated in the heart of historic Salem, on its oldest street, in a building built by
funds donated by the great Salem philanthropist Caroline Plummer, and with the expectation that
their gifts would remain here. Indeed, Plummer herself specified that this building should always
serve as place for collections, and never “as a public or private office of business.”

We are encouraged by the recent statement that “to honor the Salem roots of the Library
collection, the PEM is working with the city’s Preservation Partners group to determine what
collection items can safely be made accessible in Plummer Hall and Daland House”, and eager
to support this effort in whatever ways possible. Given the PEM’s extraordinary abilities to make
things happen—to encompass a city street within a building and relocate an eighteenth-century
Chinese house 7500 miles away from its original site—as well as its considerable resources, we have
confidence in its ability to find a way to return the Phillips Library to the community that cherishes it.

*Written by the Friends of Salem's Phillips Library