Exhibits at the Salem Museum take you on a journey from the first European settlement in 1626, through present day.
Hundreds of stories are presented magazine-style with bite-size text and colorful images of countless engravings, paintings and photographs. Life-sized characters from Salem’s past and curated artifacts mark your stroll through time.
Open Noon-5 PM Daily thru October 31st
The Founding of Salem
Our exhibit introduces the European settlement of the village from 1626 – 1630, including how Salem got its name, early Puritan life, routes the first settlers took, who built the first homes and how early colonists transported their goods.
The Witchcraft Hysteria
Our display traces the famous trials from the early accusations, the key participants, various explanations for the phenomenon, a timeline of events, and the tragic aftermath, and the historical meaning that the trials have come to represent.
The Revolutionary War
Displays include events leading up to and during the war including clashes between patriots and loyalists, Salem’s role in protesting British taxes duties, the military action known as “Leslie’s Retreat”, the naval engagement off of Salem’s coast, Col. Timothy Pickering, and Salem soldier Edmund Gale’s fascinating diary including a first hand account of the death of British spy, Major Andre.
The Golden Age of Trade
This series of three exhibits highlight the stories of some of Salem’s most important people and families during the “Age of Sail” in Salem. The Nathaniel Bowditch panels describe his vast contributions to the science of navigation. The Derby and Crowninshield panels focus on two of Salem’s most powerful families during the Revolutionary War and the Golden Age of Trade.
The China Trade
Displays describe the opening of the Far East ports by E.H. Derby and the the ship “Grand Turk”; the complex procedures of trading in Canton; the exotic goods brought back to Salem; life on board early trading vessels; and the meteoric rise in Salem’s wealth.
The India & Pepper Trades
Stories on the three primary ports used by Salem trading vessels; the variety of goods brought back from India; life on an East Indiaman; Elias Hasket Derby’s trading port on Mauritius; and the famous Crowninshield elephant.
Merchants who opened up the Asian markets; the tremendous fortunes built on “black gold”, the huge risks that Salem mariners faced at sea and among sometimes hostile peoples.
Our Hawthorne exhibit covers the great author’s life from his early days at Bowdoin to his job at Salem’s Custom House; his family’s connection to the Salem witch trials; his signature novels and short stories; his friendship with Herman Melville; and his complex marriage and life with Sophia Peabody.
Famous Women of Salem
Our exhibit highlights women who have made Salem a center of philanthropy, social and economic justice, civil rights, the arts, education, health care, and the very fabric of the community.
Through times of crisis as well as the often daunting challenges of everyday life, their leadership, industry, sacrifice, innovation, and dedication to the quality of life in the community and the wider world, is unsurpassed.
Salem in the Civil War
Salem in the Civil War explores some of the contributions made by the city and her citizens, including Arthur F. Devereux’s fateful counter attack at the Battle of Gettysburg, the Salem Zouaves, Luis Emilio’s command the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment, and civilian support of the troops.
Industry & Immigration
Our exhibit focuses on the various waves of immigrants from 1800 to 1900. Irish, Russian, Poles, Italians, French Canadians and others all arrived in Salem to fill jobs in the maritime industry and later, the factories along Salem Harbor. Each of these groups and others who settle in Salem to this day have contributed to our vibrant cultural diversity.
The Great Salem Fire
Our exhibit on The Great Salem Fire of 1914 will show you where and how the fire started; how the fire was fought; numerous images of the fire and aftermath; the extent of the damage; how the homeless were sustained; and how Salem rebuilt.