The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts is pleased to announce the search for Curator of Chinese Art and Culture, an endowed position. The successful candidate will be a dynamic and inquisitive, exhibition and experience-focused curator who brings a bold approach to interpretation and scholarship. Collaborating closely with the PEM curatorial team and broadly across the museum, they will create innovative experiences that promote audience engagement and drive forward publications and acquisitions that support the museum’s mission.


PEM’s Chinese Art collection, the oldest in the United States, offers comprehensive coverage of a broad range of arts and objects from the region and spans the last three hundred years. Areas of strength include textiles (clothing is a specific area of strength), ceramics, decorative arts, paintings (including two significant imperial portraits), prints, calligraphy and sculptures. The collection also includes examples of contemporary Chinese art and works that manifest influences from American and European cultures.

Of unique importance to the Museum is Yin Yu Tang, a 220-year-old Qing dynasty merchant’s home from Anhui Province that was transported to the museum in its entirety. Yin Yu Tang—translated as “Hall of Plentiful Shelter”—was home to the Huang family for nearly two hundred years. Representing Chinese culture from around 1800 to the late twentieth century, Yin Yu Tang reveals the Huizhou region’s unique architectural style as well as diverse cultural changes that occurred in China throughout the home’s occupancy. Moved from its original location in China to Massachusetts, the house was transformed from a multigenerational family residence into an historic-house experience in a museum setting at PEM, opening to the public in 2003. Yin Yu Tang is presented as it was last occupied by the Huang family in 1982, offering visitors rare perspectives into Chinese art, architecture, and culture through the history of the house and its owners. This one-of-a-kind exhibit tells a captivating story of daily life in rural China. Additionally, the house, its objects, and its history provide a superb primary source for research on many topics. The Curator of Chinese Art and Culture will be responsible for curating an innovative new interpretive gallery for Yin Yu Tang and for conceiving ongoing programming that will enhance visitors’ experience of the house.

The recent gift of more than 1,600 modern and contemporary photographs from the Joy of Giving Something Foundation has made PEM one of the leading institutions for Asian photography in the world. The Phillips Library’s collection of ships’ logs, diaries, cargo lists, commercial papers, firsthand accounts, and rare books and maps document the United States’ early ties to China. Specifically, the Frederick Townsend Ward Collection at the Phillips Library is one of the world’s outstanding collections of Western-language books, pamphlets, periodicals and rare maps and prints on the history of China, while the Library’s Herbert Offen Research Collection emphasizes Chinese architecture, furniture and gardens. PEM’s Chinese art collection is richly complemented by the museum’s collections of art from other areas of East and South Asia as well as its collections of Asian export art, textiles, maritime art and culture, photography and library holdings. The museum’s photography collection includes over 2,500 photographs of nineteenth-century China, many of them distinctive or exceedingly rare.


PEM is committed to generating fresh interpretations and new appreciation for historic and contemporary Chinese art and cultural expressions, including those from diverse diasporic communities. The museum seeks a creative and innovative curator with specific experience working with Chinese vernacular art, architecture, and history, and a strong commitment to PEM’s forward-thinking interpretation and programming goals.

The Curator of Chinese Art and Culture will be an innovative storyteller who will bring bold, imaginative thinking to PEM’s cross-departmental programs and exhibitions, and will be able to confidently engage diverse audiences with exhibitions and programs that compel new thinking about human creativity, material culture, social history and the contemporary relevance of historical objects. The curator will be an enterprising team player with an exploratory mind who, in addition to re-thinking the interpretive approach and design of PEM’s Yin Yu Tang gallery, will also organize collections-based and traveling exhibitions and participate in a robust set of programs, organized collaboratively with staff in other departments. Recent PEM-generated Chinese exhibitions include The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City and Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, both organized with the Palace Museum, Beijing, and Power and Perspective: Early Photography in China.

The curator will have the opportunity to build the collection through a combination of the Museum’s acquisition funds, support from a dedicated Visiting Committee, and targeted fundraising. The successful candidate will partner with the development staff in stewarding the Visiting Committee, donors, collectors and supporters of acquisitions, and will play a significant role in helping to raise funds for exhibitions, special projects, publications, and broader Museum initiatives. The Museum provides travel funds to support research and networking, as well as funds for professional memberships and development.

PEM’s culture is collaborative, and curators regularly work across collections and departments, celebrating intersections and discovery, to create immersive, out-of-the-box visitor experiences. The curator will work closely with the entire PEM curatorial team, particularly the Curators of Maritime Art and History, Photography, and Asian Export Art, and across all museum departments, but specifically with Exhibition Planning and Design, Learning and Civic Engagement, Collection Services, and Marketing and Communications, to ensure that the program achieves the highest professional standards of creativity, innovation, quality, relevance and visitor engagement.

  • Lead the project team to develop and realize an innovative new interpretive gallery and associated programming for Yin Yu Tang

  • Organize exhibitions and collection installations that consistently:

    • Reflect and advance trends in the field

    • Deliver original, dynamic, and interdisciplinary concepts that create broadly appealing experiences

    • Explore connections between the historical and the contemporary

    • Enhance PEM’s reputation, patronage, and relationships with other museums and cultural and community partners

    • Attract positive critical attention

  • Build and sustain partnerships with peers and other museums to:

    • Secure or co-organize traveling exhibitions that match the above profile

    • Oversee the installation, production, and generate programming for incoming traveling exhibitions

    • Ensure that PEM has a slate of quality exhibition options from which to choose to create a balanced, highly appealing, impactful and cost-effective exhibition program

    • Place PEM exhibitions in strategic venues

  • Collaborate with relevant departments to develop public and patron programs that appeal broadly to audiences regionally, nationally, internationally and online

  • Cultivate and secure direct support for museum-wide initiatives and specific projects on an annual basis from individuals, patron groups such as Visiting Committees, foundations, corporations, and government agencies

  • Collaborate with other curators, executive leadership, development staff, and trustees to accomplish fundraising goals

  • Ensure the ability of the collection to support PEM strategic goals far into the future

  • Develop collecting goals and an action plan that address a five-year horizon; identify and justify specific key areas and examples; estimate overall value or costs associated with goals; identify ways to secure new sources of support for acquisitions, and enhance the Visiting Committee’s membership, activities, support and understanding of the museum’s acquisition goals

  • Secure works of superlative quality to strengthen the museum’s ability to display and interpret the collection, attract visitors and patrons, and make strategic loans to other museums’ exhibitions

  • Promote the collection as an intellectual, learning, and research resource for the benefit of the public

  • Strategically add works to the collection to expand its scope and build on existing strengths

  • PEM holds as one of its core values the commitment to stewarding its collection for current and future generations of people in Massachusetts, the United States, and the world. PEM is committed to the ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion and access, and this curator must steward and expand a collection that represents these values

  • Welcome audiences of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religious affiliations, sexual

  • orientations and gender identifications to the museum by collecting and acquiring works that reflect and represent these diverse constituencies

  • Periodically reassess collecting priorities

  • Ensure appropriate access to the collection and related information for PEM staff, the museum community, scholars, collectors, and the public, including the differently abled and those with sensory sensitivities

  • Provide adequate and expansive documentation of the collection

  • Create new approaches, build awareness and support for Chinese art and culture at PEM

  • Identify and implement strategies for interdisciplinary and intra-collection experiences and connections between the historical and contemporary

  • Write and lecture for PEM and for strategic high-profile and peer-review outlets in ways that recognize both the museum and the curator as leaders in the field

  • Lead or serve on teams and task forces to plan and implement specific projects and museum-wide initiatives that align with PEM’s strategic planning

  • Collaborate with the Curatorial Team and across the museum, especially with Exhibition Planning and Design, Learning and Civic Engagement, Collection Services, Development, and Marketing and Communications, on a variety of projects

  • Develop and administer realistic budgets, work plans, and schedules, and practice accountability

More here. 

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