Independence National Historical Park

I took a trip this past Memorial Day weekend, so I’m loaded with more material, so I may switch back to posting twice a month in the coming months. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s finish with my last stop during my Philadelphia day trip from last August…

Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence National Historical Park encompasses several street blocks, thus various buildings and facilities are considered as part of the park. The historical park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but hours may vary for some of the buildings and facilities, thus it’s best to check the park’s website for hours of operation. Independence National Historical Park is easily accessible via car and public transportation. If you choose to drive, there are various parking lots nearby, but note that fees do apply. If you choose to take public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station, and walk about one block west to reach the Visitor Center or one block south to reach Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The historical park can be a short half day visit if you want to visit the must see sites only, but if you want to see everything, it can take several days, so there’s plenty to do. Should you wish to switch things up a bit, stop by the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to take a break from history and learn some chemistry.

As mentioned above, Independence National Historical Park includes a lot of sites, but I only managed the must sees during my visit, thus this post will cover only the following: Independence Square, Liberty Bell Center and Independence Visitor Center. Independence Square is comprised of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Philosophical Hall and Old City Hall. To get into Independence Square, visitors are required to go through a security screening, but the line moves relatively quick. Independence Hall is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and to 7pm in the summer. Admission to Independence Hall is by tour only. Timed-entry tickets are required between March to November. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the Visitor Center on the day of the visit, or for a small fee tickets can be reserved in advance either online or by telephone. ( I didn’t want to pay a fee, so I just headed to the Visitor Center first thing and obtained tickets. Don’t get there too late, since they do have a limited amount of tickets per day.)  The tour starts in the East Wing of Independence Hall, where the ranger guide gives a 10 minute overview on the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a 20 minute tour of the first floor of the Independence Hall, bringing the total tour time to 30 minutes.

The West Wing of Independence Hall contains the Great Essentials exhibit. Visitors can view original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. There is also an inkstand on display. (Please excuse the poor photos, my hands aren’t still enough for longer exposure times needed to take pictures in low light.)

Congress Hall is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Congress Hall is accessible only by tour, but there is no need to obtain tickets, as it’s on a first come first served basis, so just show up around the scheduled tour times. Tours last about 15 minutes and are scheduled for every 30 minutes. Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the U.S. The building is two floors, the open space ground floor was where the House of Representatives met, and the U.S. Senate congregated on the second floor, which is comprised of several rooms.

Philosophical Hall houses the American Philosophical Society (APS) and its museum. The APS was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote useful knowledge.  The APS museum is open between April to December, from Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. (Check their website for current hours and exhibits.)  The museum contains one exhibit that rotates on an annual basis that features the society’s collection of historical items and materials. The museum is on one floor of the building, spanning several rooms. When I visited, the exhibit on display was “Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America”, which lasted from April 15, 2016 to December 30, 2016. The exhibit highlighted Jefferson’s collection of Native American languages. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Old City Hall as I was running low on time and also I couldn’t find the entrance, so I decided to skip it and move onto the next destination.

The Liberty Bell is one of the most famous sites in Philadelphia. The bell can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center, which is very close to Independence Hall. The center is open from 9am to 5pm year round, to 7pm during the summer months. Admission is free.  Asides from viewing the Liberty Bell (which is a lot smaller than I expected), there are various exhibits highlighting the history of the Liberty Bell.

Last, but not least, is the Independence Visitor Center. I started here to get tickets for Independence Hall, but didn’t see the exhibits inside until the end. The visitor’s center contains a theater where visitors can enjoy films about the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. In addition, there’s an exhibit inside showcasing some prominent historical events and figures related to Philadelphia, such as the Underground Railroad and Benjamin Franklin.

Seeing all of the above took me about 2.5 hours total, including travel time to each place, and waiting for tours to begin and in lines . The majority of the time was spent with the guided tours as the time was predetermined; in the self-guided areas, I spent significantly less time, not more than 20 minutes in each area, and looking back now I don’t feel it was an adequate amount of time for some of the sites. Thus other visitors will most likely need more time to see all of the above, but the minimum time to spend is 2.5 hours (however, you may spend less time too, if you read and move faster). Everything at Independence National Historical Park is free, thus it’s a good place to bring your friends and family as there’s enough to do that everyone will find something interesting. People who enjoy history will definitely have a field day as every where they turn, a piece of history is staring back. So put on your good walking shoes and learn about the founding of the United States at Independence National Historical Park.

Benjamin Franklin Museum

The weather is getting warmer and the summer is coming soon, I hope to see more places this year, but we’ll see how that goes. Any who, continuing on with my previous adventures in Philly…

Benjamin Franklin Museum, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $5. The museum is part of Franklin Court, which was Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia residence from 1763 until his death. Franklin Court contains the “Fragments of Franklin Court” exhibit, a Printing Office and the courtyard, which all are accessible to visitors. (My one-tracked mind latched onto to the museum as the main event, so I was unaware about the additional exhibit and the printing office. I suppose they are also part of the reason as to the small crowds when I visited.) The museum is accessible by car and public transportation. There is no onsite parking for those who intend to drive, but there are various parking lots within a mile of the museum. For those who wish to use public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station or 5th Street Station (they’re about equidistant from the museum) and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. Visitors can see the other attractions at Franklin Court if they have time, or walk a little further to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If it’s too much history for one day, then stroll around the corner to the museum at Chemical Heritage Foundation (which I highly enjoyed).

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is located underground, beneath Franklin Court. The museum is one floor and contains five exhibits exploring the different aspects of Franklin’s life. Right at the start of the museum, visitors can find Skugg the squirrel, who is a sort of scavenger type-like guide for visitors; he can be found sporadically throughout the museum, pointing out fun tidbits. The first exhibit is “Ardent and Dutiful”, which focuses on Franklin’s personal life. Visitors can learn about his family, his friends, his hobbies and even his household expenses. Franklin suffered from gout, due to excessive eating of red meat and drinking wine, hence he wrote a story about a conversation he would have with his personified gout; visitors can view a clip of the story at this exhibit.

The next exhibit is “Ambitious and Rebellious”, which focuses on Franklin’s life as a printer. Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette, oftentimes contributing pieces to the newspaper under various alias, and made it one of the most successful newspapers during his time. The exhibit contains some of the tools that are needed for printing. Following is “Motivated to Improve”. This exhibit highlights various inventions and ideas that came about because of Franklin, such as bifocals, the “Franklin Stove”, universities, lending libraries and home deliveries by the postal system.

Most people have heard the story of Franklin flying a kite with a key during a thunderstorm, thereby discovering electricity. “Curious and Full of Wonder” focuses  on his other experiments with electricity and science, in general. The last exhibit is “Strategic and Persuasive”, which showcases Franklin’s time as a diplomat. Included in the exhibit is the “Join or Die” cartoon used to encourage the American colonies to unite against British rule. The museum ends with a small segment on Franklin’s efforts to write an autobiography that he never finished.

My travel buddy and I spent about 45 minutes at the museum, but the timing will vary from person to person. Admission to the museum is reasonable for the amount of material that is on display. Adults and children will both enjoy a visit as there is enough information to keep the adults busy and equally as much for children to touch and interact with, thus it’s a good place to bring the whole family for a visit. If you’re visiting Philadelphia, it is only appropriate to take some time to learn about Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and “The First American”, and a great place to start is at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation

 Life’s been a bit hectic lately, so I’ve been busy attending to it, and neglecting this a bit, but now I’m back… Considering that I’ve lived in NYC all my life, and that Philadelphia is only 2 hours away, it’s a pity that I’ve never been there until last summer when I took a spontaneous trip to Philadelphia. Philly has so many things that I want to see, but on the top of my list is one that is less well-known…

Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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The Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm; on the first Friday of the month, from March to December, the museum is open from 10am to 8pm. (I think they’ve changed the hours since I went as I distinctly remember them not being on open on the weekend, which is why I went on a Friday.) Admission to the museum is free, but they  have a suggested donation of $5. The museum is accessible by both car and public transportation. Should you decide to drive, which you may have to if you’re coming from out of state, note that the museum doesn’t have onsite parking, but there are plenty of parking garages within a mile. Public transportation to the museum is pretty simple if you are already in Philly: take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. There are plenty of other things to do around the area, such as the Benjamin Franklin Museum, which is right by the museum, and if you walk a little further, you’ll be at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

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The Chemical Heritage Foundation is an institution that promotes and preserves the understanding of the history of science; it consists of a library, museum, archive, research center and conference center. The Museum at CHF is a rather small museum within the Foundation, but is comprised of 4 exhibits, 3 of which are permanent and 1 is a rotating exhibit. The main exhibit “Making Modernity” provides an overview of how chemistry is part of everyday life. “Making Modernity” is broken into 11 different sections that focus on different aspects of chemistry. The first section is  about the origins of chemistry and what people considered as chemistry. The next section is “Materials for the Masses”, which shows the contributions chemistry has made to society, such as synthetic fibers and plastics. “Tools for the Task” focuses on the tools used in chemistry, such as beakers, balances and other specialized glassware.

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The largest section is “Empowering Technologies”, which focuses on how chemistry helped overcome the limits of time, space and speed through the developments of batteries, light bulbs and computer chips, respectively. There are 4 smaller sections in the middle of the room that highlight the more sophisticated tools, such as microscopes, spectrometers and various types of chemical detectors. Also in the middle of the room is a video column that has an interactive panel and a video on the periodic table.

On the second floor are the last two sections of the exhibit, “Becoming a Chemist” and “Chemists and the Wider World”. “Becoming a Chemist” contains a variety of notes and books related to the field. The section also contains some games and lab kits that were available to children. “Chemists and the Wider World” focuses on how chemistry is portrayed in the arts, how chemistry became a more unified field with the introduction of chemical symbols so that all scientists know that C stands for carbon or O for oxygen, how chemistry has impacted the world-both the good and the bad, and how chemistry continues to evolve.

The rotating exhibit that was on display when I visited was “Science at Play”, which was on view from October 2015 to September 2016. The exhibit highlighted the various toys and kits that came about to encourage kids to explore science. Chemistry kits and miniature laboratories came about in the early 1900s and became mass produced consumer goods. Early kits predominantly featured boys on the covers, but as more females became involved in the sciences, girls started appearing on the covers, too. The exhibit also contains other toys that came about due to science, such as the View-Master (I had one way back when, I adored the thing.)

The museum has two other exhibits,  “Transmutation: Alchemy in Art” and “The Whole of Nature and the Mirror of Art”. Unfortunately, I missed these two exhibits as they aren’t directly connected to the main exhibit, so I didn’t even know there is more to see. (If you decide to visit, remember to look out for these two, they are elusive.)

My travel buddy and I spent about an hour at the museum, but as always others can spend more or less time depending on their interest levels. (My buddy took about half the time that I did, so the time allotted is just an estimate.) Admission to the museum is free, so it’s a great place to drop by, take a look and learn a little chemistry. The museum is more suitable for adults and older children as there is plenty of reading involved, and the museum isn’t really interactive so it may not keep younger kids interested for long. When people think of chemistry, they think of a laboratory with flames and boiling liquid, but that’s not all it is,  just visit the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation and find out how chemistry is actually a part of the everyday.

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration

I’ve been busy during December and also lazy at the same time, so there was no post, but now I’m back, and continuing on with the posts. Last we left off was in Salem, Massachusetts.  Traveling from Massachusetts back to New York, we had time to stop at…

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, located in Mystic, Connecticut

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The Mystic Aquarium has quite varied operating hours: April to Labor Day, the aquarium is open 9am to 5:50pm; Labor Day to November, 9am to 4:50pm; December to February, 10am to 4:50pm; and March, 9am to 4:50pm. (Check the aquarium’s website for the most accurate operational hours.) General admission to the aquarium is $34.99; if you plan ahead and buy the tickets online, you’ll save  at least 10% (when I visited, the discount was 15%, so it seems to vary, but saving is saving). Driving seems to be the only way to get to the aquarium, as I don’t remember seeing any public transportation in the area. Parking is free at the aquarium, so that’s a plus. If you have time after visiting the aquarium, you can consider visiting Mystic Seaport to make it a fun day out.

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Mystic aquarium has various outdoor and indoor exhibits, and I started with the outdoor ones. First up is the “Arctic Coast” where visitors can see the beluga whales. They are the only beluga whale exhibit on the east coast and one of the highlights of the aquarium. Following along the outdoor path will lead to the “Pacific Northwest” where the Stellar sea lions and Northern Fur seals are located. Next is the “Penguin Pavilion”, which contains both an outdoor and indoor exhibit featuring penguins. Visitors can see the penguins swim underwater in the indoor portion.

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Next up, walk the boardwalk along the “Marsh Trek” to see native animals, such as frogs and ducks. There were mostly frogs of various shades of green and yellow along the way, and if you look closely you can spot some tadpoles in the water; they also jump out of the water from time to time. There is a “Birds of the Outback” exhibit that is both seasonal and requires an additional entry fee ($3), thus I skipped it. Right across from the birds exhibit is the “Seal Rescue Clinic” where visitors can see how the animal rescue team works.

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The “Main Gallery” is the first indoor exhibit of the aquarium that I visited. In this gallery  visitors can view a variety of aquatic animals, including jellies, sharks, and tropical fishes. The Mystic aquarium has a touch tank for sharks; it’s the first time I’ve seen or heard of such a thing, so if you’ve ever wanted to touch a shark, here is your chance. There is also the standard touch tank containing horseshoe crabs and sea stars. Highlights in the “Main Gallery” for me include the sea jellies, they have upside down sea jellies, which I’ve also never heard of before (sea jellies were my animals when I volunteered at the local aquarium, so I knew plenty of facts way back when); the stingrays, they look like they’re flying around in the water; and the exhibit about fluorescent aquatic animals, I like things that glow in the dark.

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While waiting for the sea lion show to start, I had a chance to look at the “Roger Tory Peterson Gallery”, which is located on the second floor of  the same building as the Main Gallery. Visitors can see a variety of drawings by the gallery’s namesake. Don’t miss the California Sea Lion Show, where one can learn the difference between sea lions and seals, and see them perform some tricks. The show is about 20 minutes long. Also, there is stingray touch tank outside of the Main Gallery building; it’s easy to miss it since it’s kind of hidden, so look out for it if you want to touch some stingrays.

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Last, but not least is the Ocean Conservation Center that features two exhibits, “Exploration:WILD!” and “Frogs!”. “Exploration: WILD!” focuses on five different environments: the desert, the rain forest, the open ocean, the wetlands, and the Arctic, and the various creatures that call these environments home. The exhibit is filled with fascinating facts, and even an opportunity to touch some reptiles. “Frogs!” is an exhibit about frogs; learn all about the life cycle of frogs and other fun facts while being surrounded by a multitude of frogs. (It’s frog-land in there, frogs are everywhere you look). There are two additional theaters in this building that shows featured films, but they require an additional fee.

My travel buddies and I took about 3.5 hours to explore the aquarium, but others will take more or less time depending on their interest, and if they decide to do the additional activities. The aquarium is a great place for families and/or friends to visit, although a bit expensive, so look around for discounts and deals (check the aquarium website and around internet for deals). Although the admission is kind of pricey, the aquarium is one of the bigger ones I’ve been to so far, and the money does go to help the animals (I think), thus it’s worth it. So pack some snacks, bring your family and/or friends, and go enjoy all the aquatic animals that the Mystic Aquarium has to offer.

Salem Witch Museum

Last Massachusetts post from May, met my own expectations of posting within half a year of visiting. Yay! This post would’ve been much more relevant  if it was posted around Halloween, but still a fun visit…

Salem Witch Museum, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Salem Witch Museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm; with extended hours during the summer and the month of October. Admission to the museum is $11. The museum doesn’t have its own parking lot, but there are several parking garages with nominal fees that are within walking distance should you desire or need to drive. If you are already in Salem, walking to the museum is the best option. The Salem Witch museum is a bit out of the way from the main tourist area, but it is right next to Salem Common, a wonderful outdoor space with monuments and a gazebo where one can just sit and enjoy some sun and grass.

The Salem Witch museum is divided into two sections, and both are guided: the first section is a presentation where visitors take a seat and watch for an allotted time, and the second section is with a live museum guide.  (I’m not exactly sure about their photography policy, but I don’t think they allow it, so there’s no other photos in this post.) The first section is a presentation of the Salem witch trials where visitors get to experience the trials through a combination of narration, lighting and 13 dioramas. The trials lasted a little over a year, but they resulted in the death of 20 innocents: 19 people were hanged and 1 was pressed to death by rocks, and even 2 dogs were hanged by association. If you’ve read The Crucible by Arthur Miller, you will realize that the characters in the play are actually real people who had a part in the trials, such as Abigail Williams, Tituba and John Proctor. The second section is an exhibit called Witches: Evolving Perceptions, where a live guide explains how witches evolved from pagan midwives who used healing herbs to the modern day witch with the green skin. A bit of pagan history and Wiccan Religion is also covered. Lastly, the guide explains about the phenomenon that is “witch hunting”, which is brought on by widespread fear and a trigger that leads to a scapegoat deemed as the “witches” of society. Through this explanation, one understands that the Salem witch trials isn’t an isolated event, this phenomenon has happened again and continues to happen in society, e.g. McCarthyism.

My buddies and I spent about 1 hour at the museum; the presentation section is about 30 minutes long and the live guide section is about 10 minutes long. One should allocate an additional 10 minutes to waiting on line to get a good seat for the first section as the ticket is timed, and the doors don’t open till then, but if you don’t particularly care, you can just head in when the doors open. For the second section, the group is split into two groups (your ticket will have either A or B) as the exhibit area is smaller and can’t accommodate the large group, so while one group is in the second section, the other group can hang out in the gift shop. (Their gift shop easily fitted the second group of people. Also, what a good way to entice visitors to buy something at the gift shop.) The museum is a fairly good family trip idea, but younger children may not respond so well to the dark setting and lighting.  As Salem is most famous for the witch trials in 1692, a good place to learn about it and more about Salem is at the Salem Witch Museum.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

I went on vacation recently, and having been slacking a lot, hence not that many posts. I had every intention to get this post out around the U.S. National Park Service’s (NPS) Centennial back in August, however I’m about 2 months behind, but better late then never…

Salem Maritime National Historic Site, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Salem Maritime National Historic Site encompasses a variety of indoor and outdoor areas. The indoor exhibits are located in several different locations and the hours vary from place to place (visit the NPS website for operating hours); some locations are open to the public, whereas others require a guided tour. Outdoor exhibits are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The best way to get to the historic site is by foot if you are already in the area; or by car if you are traveling from outside of Salem. The historic site doesn’t have onsite parking, but there are several parking lots nearby with a minimal fee (very minimal, some costs as little as $0.25 per hr). The Salem Maritime National Historic Site is a bit further away from the tourist area, but there are  other places to visit nearby, and if you visit all the places within the historic site, it could take a whole day.

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First stop at the historic site is the Custom House, which is open Monday to Friday from 1pm to 4pm and Saturday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm. This Salem Custom House was built in 1819 (there were others prior), and housed the offices for representatives of the U.S. Custom Services. The house is two stories and has a cupola (the cupola is off-limits to the public).  On the first floor, visitors can see an exhibit on the tools used by the Custom Services, which include a variety of measuring devices such as scales and measuring sticks, and the  Collector’s Public Office, where records were kept and where merchants and ship captains paid their duties. Also on the first floor is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s office; his time working at the Custom Service inspired his famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. On the second floor is the Collector’s Private Room and Office. There is an eagle sculpture, known as the Custom House eagle, on the roof of the building. The current eagle is a replica.  The original was carved by Joseph True and place on the roof in 1820s, but weather and time has aged the sculpture, and thus was replaced by the replica in 2004 in order to preserve the original, which is now on display in an exhibit on the second floor.

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Next stop is the Friendship of Salem and Derby Wharf. The Friendship of Salem is a replica of a cargo vessel built in Salem in 1797. (The ship is currently undergoing maintenance, check the NPS website for the latest updates on the Friendship.) The day I visited, the sails and masts weren’t there, so it’s not quite as majestic, but google images of the Friendship and see the ship at its full glory. Visitors are free to walk about the both the main deck and the lower deck. Visitors can pose by the ship’s wheel and pretend to be captain of the ship on the main deck. The lower deck contains the living quarters of the captain and the ship’s crew. Derby Wharf is the longest of the three wharves that are part of the historic site. Derby Wharf was started in 1762 by the Derby family, and as their trading increased, they kept extending the wharf until its current 1/2 mile length in the early 1800s. The Derby Wharf Light Station, situated at the end of Derby Wharf, was built in 1871 and has since helped with navigation in Salem harbor.

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The Derby House and the Narbonne House are two areas of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site that can be viewed only by park ranger-led tours. The Derby House and Narbonne House tour is about 1 hr long, and typically is available once a day at 2:30pm (check the website for tour times). Reservation is required, and the tour can only accommodate 8 people at a time, so interested visitors should visit the Salem Visitor’s Center early to sign up for a spot. First on the tour was the Narbonne House, which was originally a butcher’s house, but has been home to various middle class families throughout the years. The house was built in sections and held together by dowels. The interior of the house is unfurnished, but contains an exhibit highlighting the items found in the house’s backyard. The Derby house was home to one of America’s wealthiest families, the Derbys. The house has many luxuries of the time period, such as a big front door, wallpaper, canopy beds, banisters, and high ceilings. The interior of the house is furnished, but they aren’t original to the house, just imaginings of how the house may have been decorated back when the Derbys resided there. Also worth a visit is the Salem Visitor Center, where there are special exhibits and movie presentations in regards to Salem’s maritime history.

I took about 2.5 hours for both self-guided explorations and the ranger guided-tour of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. As always, other visitors may take more or less time depending on how much they want to see and their interest. (I only covered the highlights of the historic site, there more places to see and tours to take for more in-depth views of the site.) The historic site is a great place for a family outing, as there’s plenty to see and do, and an ample amount of space for children to just run around outside. History lovers will enjoy a visit and the general population should definitely visit too, as it’s free and offers much to see, and even if history isn’t your thing, you’ll enjoy being outside and near the water. Salem is most notable in history for the witch trials of 1692, but it also has an important spot in maritime history and where better to learn about it then at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

Peabody Essex Museum

Salem, Massachusetts is best known for the Salem Witch trials that occurred in 1692. The city does have a witchy-theme, but that’s not all there is to Salem. Salem has plenty of other non-witch related places to see, one such is…

Peabody Essex Museum, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm; every third Thursday of the month, the museum is open till 9pm. Admission to the museum is $20, and an additional $5 for Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese House. If you are already in Salem, the best way to get to the museum is by walking there. If you are traveling from outside of Salem, getting to the museum by car would be the best option; the museum doesn’t have its own parking lot, but there are various lots with relatively cheap rates nearby. The PEM is located in the tourist section of Salem, so there are plenty of other things to do within walking distance to make it a fun and worthwhile day trip.

The Peabody Essex Museum consists of three floors of art, and visitors can go about however they like, as there isn’t a set route to take. My main reason to visit the museum was to see the Chinese house, thus I paid the extra amount and started there first. Yin Yu Tang was built around 1800 in southeastern China, and was inhabited by eight generations of the Huang family. It was dismantled and reassembled at the PEM, and is presented as it was last inhabited in the 1980s so that visitors can learn about the architecture and culture of China. The house is two stories tall, and is decorated with a variety of objects that are original to the house that show how the Chinese lived. Yin Yu Tang has a no photography policy (thus no photos), but it comes with an audio guide for visitors to listen to as they explore to better understand the house and the decorations. Yin Yu Tang is significantly different from western style houses, and it’s worth the extra money and time to take a look.

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The first exhibit that I visited after Yin Yu Tang was on Chinese art, “Double Happiness: Celebration in Chinese Art”. The exhibit highlights the role art played in special occasions, such as seasonal festivals, religious ceremonies, birthdays, weddings, and the remembrance of the dead. The various items on display allow visitors to get a glimpse of life in China. Following is an exhibit on Native American Art, “Raven’s Many Gifts: Native Art of the Northwest Coast”. The exhibit contains art from the indigenous people of the Northwest Coast that was made throughout the past 200 years.

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“Asian Export Art: China” is located in three different rooms and all focus on porcelain. Porcelain is a ceramic material that resembles a shell’s translucent surface; porcelain making originated in China, and thus was heavily exported by the Chinese. The three different exhibits all feature a variety of porcelain objects, from figurines to vases to plates and bowls.

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The Art and Nature Center is split into two exhibits: a permanent exhibit and a special rotating exhibit. In the permanent exhibit, visitors can see birds, fish, and mammals that are found in nature; very similar to exhibits that one sees at natural history museums. (I haven’t really thought about it, but the stuffed animals we see at natural history museums are a work of art; someone has to make the animals and the displays).  The rotating exhibit was “Sizing It Up: Scale in Nature and Art”, which was on view from October 10,2015 to September 18, 2016. This exhibit focused on art that explores size and proportion, and has some interactive elements to engage visitors. I don’t really get contemporary art (or art in general), but I particularly liked the pieces where the artists manipulated everyday small objects to be larger than life, such as the donut piece above(third row left); it’s odd, but interesting.

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Moving on to the second floor is the “East India Marine Hall” that commemorates the members of the East India Marine Society, who were among the first Americans to bring back art from their travels. The exhibit features a variety of cultural objects, paintings and portraits of the members of the society. Following is an exhibit on American art, “American Art: Traditions Transformed”. The pieces featured in this exhibit are made using numerous different types of material, and are for domestic purposes with innovative twists. “Intersections: Anila Quayyum Agha” is another special rotating exhibition that is on view until October 16, 2016. The exhibit, which is inspired by traditional Islamic architecture motif, contains a single lantern that lights up the room in a geometric pattern that is quite beautiful to behold.

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Continuing on the second floor is “Japan on the Move”, an exhibit that features Japanese art from 3000 years ago to the present. In addition to figurines and paintings, the exhibit also contains a small collection of Japanese ceramics. There are two additional “Asian Export Art: China” exhibits on the second floor. The first of the two focuses on silver. China actually traded items for the silver, and then turned the raw material into a more refined form, silverware, that was then exported back to Europe. China had skilled silversmiths that copied Western pieces to exact likeness, but for a fraction of what it would cost to produce in Europe. (The beginnings of outsourcing to Asian countries?) The other exhibit focuses on other types of exported items, such as furniture, paintings, and decorative objects (it has a no photography policy, thus no photos; the exhibit is small and can be easily missed if you don’t look for it.)

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“Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age” was a special rotating exhibit that the museum had on view from February 27, 2016 to June 5, 2016. The exhibit explored the impact that Asian luxuries had on Dutch art and life in the 17th century. The exhibit was separated into several galleries with different themes that highlighted the influence the Asian amenities had. A variety of different objects, ranging from paintings to books to textiles to furniture, were on view.

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First up on the third floor is an Indian art exhibit, “MegaCity: India’s Culture of the Streets”, which contains several vibrant paintings. There is also an “Asian Export Art: Japan” that focuses on porcelain and lacquer from Japan. Ceramics from Japan were only accessible to Europeans through trade with the Chinese or Dutch due to Japan’s self-imposed policy of isolation because of the rapid spread of Christianity in Japan.

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Finishing out the third floor was the special rotating exhibition, “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture”, which was on view from May 14, 2016 to September 5, 2016. Auguste Rodin is such a celebrated sculptor due to his ability to capture the emotional and psychological complexities of human beings. The exhibit had a variety of iconic sculptures and works in progress, and also live performers (not sure what they were doing, they seemed to be dancing). Visitors were able to see replicas of Rodin’s most famous works, such as “The Thinker”, “The Kiss”, and “The Gates of Hell”.

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There are two additional exhibits on the first floor, American Art and Maritime Art, that I missed at the beginning. (They are isolated from the others and tucked away, so you might not notice them unless you are looking at the guide map.) The first I saw was on American Art, which all appear to furniture pieces and self portraits. One object that got my attention in this exhibit was the “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” sculpture, which is based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Courtship of Miles Standish. Apparently Longfellow’s narrative poem is quite famous as is the sculpture. The Maritime Art exhibit had a variety of ships and paintings relating to the sea on display.

My buddies and I spent about 3 hours at the museum; the Chinese House took about 45 minutes to explore, so if you choose not to see the house, you will need approximately 2 hours to see the museum, but as always, others may take more or less time depending on their interest. I’m not a big fan of art museums and try to avoid them when possible, but the Peabody Essex Museum was pretty exceptional, and well worth the time and money spent there. Art lovers will definitely have a great time at the museum, and the PEM is a good family day idea, as there are some exhibits that are for the younger crowd. When you’ve done all the touristy, witchy things that Salem has to offer, stop by the Peabody Essex Museum and embrace a bit of the high culture in the area.