Located in the historic seaside town of Salem, Massachusetts, the Peabody Essex Museum houses one of the nation’s premier collections of Asian, Asian Export, Maritime, Oceanic and Native American art, Early American decorative art, and folk art. Originally founded in 1799, it is the oldest continuously open museum in the United States. A merger with the Essex Institute in 1992 resulted in a significant expansion of holdings, underscoring the need for a clearer organization of galleries and public areas.
The major expansion and reorganization creates a dramatic addition emblematic of the institution’s new identity as a center of art and culture, and unifies the institution’s disparate group of buildings into a coherent, welcoming visitor experience. The solution features a curved, glazed arcade aligned over the existing Liberty Street, which forms the spine of the new wing and, with a courtyard, weaves together the old and new buildings. A series of two-level, houselike galleries, scaled to echo Salem’s historic residential fabric, runs along the east side of the arcade, allowing natural light into both the lower and upper floors. The distinct silhouette of each roofline indicates a unique interior space while establishing a cohesive campus and expanding the gallery space twofold.