The Peabody Essex Museum seeks a curatorial leader with deep experience in historical, modern and contemporary fashion and textiles and a track record of developing engaging exhibitions. The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles will be active in fashion circles, well versed in current developments in the field, and adept at teasing out connections between fashion, creativity, and culture.
Recently, PEM embarked on a paradigm-shifting transformation and expansion, in keeping with its ambition and promise as a museum that values creativity, innovation, change, and the unexpected. PEM’s curatorial team is adventurous and generates fresh interpretation, appreciation, and thought leadership related to art, culture, and creative expression, especially in the context of an increasingly interconnected and global dialogue. To this end, the museum seeks an innovative curator with experience specifically in fashion and textiles and a strong commitment to bold interpretation and programming.
Founded in 1799 in Salem, Massachusetts, 15 miles from Boston, the Peabody Essex Museum is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States. Now among the top 8% of American art museums, PEM is also one of the nation’s fastest growing art museums and operates on a global stage in terms of networks, partners, and patronage.
PEM has achieved unprecedented growth over the past two decades. In 2003, PEM completed one of the most striking museum transformations in American history, including exponential growth of the operating budget and the addition of over 250,000 square feet of new and renovated gallery and public spaces. This includes 26,000 square feet of changing exhibition galleries and 55,000 square feet of galleries devoted to collection installations. In 2011, the museum announced a comprehensive and singular advancement campaign for $650M. The campaign focuses on increasing an already healthy endowment to support an expanded exhibition program; programmatic initiatives ranging from the interpretive to the digital and educational; global leadership initiatives; and an institutional culture of creativity, all in concert with fiscal stability and sound management, based on annual budget of $31 million.
PEM is adding a 40,000 square-foot wing scheduled to open in summer 2019. It will include 15,000 square feet of galleries for collection installations and additional public and educational spaces. The museum is also developing a 110,000 square-foot offsite collection center for the care and study of the museum’s collection of more than 1 million works. Between 2017 and 2022, PEM will develop new collection installations museum-wide, based on innovative experience, interpretation and design strategies that reflect the museum’s commitment to drawing on multiple fields of inquiry, including neuroscience.
The museum's many collection areas are among the finest of their kind, showcasing American, Asian and Asian export, African, contemporary, maritime, Native American, and Oceanic art, as well as photography, fashion and textiles, and architecture and design. The museum presents a vibrant schedule of changing exhibitions, many organized by PEM teams and guest curators and circulated nationally and internationally, and others organized by leading museums in North America, Europe, and Asia. Annually, the museum welcomes 250,000 people. It employs 250 staff and engages over 110 docent guides in support of PEM’s educational mission.
The Peabody Essex Museum has the highest visitor satisfaction ratings among 75 major museums in the United States, and PEM’s curatorial program is a key reason for this success. PEM’s curatorial approach emphasizes innovation, crisp execution, and close partnership across departments and with external, leading-edge thinkers in a range of fields. This provides significant opportunities for curators to leverage team resources and access to current trends and new developments in various fields. Nine full curators and five Exhibition & Research assistant and associate curators comprise PEM’s curatorial team. This team is purview of the Deputy Director, who functions as the Chief Curator and oversees Collection Services, Exhibition Planning, and Exhibition Design in concert with her executive and fundraising responsibilities.
FASHION AND TEXTILE COLLECTION AND PROGRAM
PEM holds an extraordinary collection of fashion, costumes, and textiles from around the world, primarily from the late 17th century forward. American fashion and textiles, in conjunction with PEM’s African, Asian export, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Native American, Oceanic and South Asian fashion and textiles, constitute a distinctive international collection of high overall quality.
The American textile and costume holdings have historically focused on New England. Fashion, accessories, jewelry, contemporary fiber art, pictorial needlework and samplers, quilts and coverlets, interior design, domestic furnishing textiles and upholstery, military uniforms, and documentary textiles comprise these holdings, which include many aesthetically significant examples and contain extensive documentation, which lends the collection exceptional research value. The American clothing collection, which dates primarily from 1820-1930, is among the ten best in the country. The shoe collection is the largest and most important in the U.S. and of international significance.
In 2009, the museum began a concerted fashion initiative, presenting major exhibitions and collecting 20th- and 21st-century fashion in earnest through major gifts and bequests from nationally and internationally recognized collectors, most notably Iris Apfel. Recently, PEM secured the endowment for a curatorial position dedicated to fashion and textiles and established a Fashion Visiting Committee.