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Major digitization project at PEM's Phillips Library makes 250,000 records available to researchers worldwide
A painting of "Maiko", an apprentice Geisha in the Peabody Essex Museum.

SALEM, MASS.- The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 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; an illustrated volume on the Chinese Art of Curing Diseases that was the first book acquired by the museum in 1799; 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

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