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Maritime Art and History
PEM’s maritime collection expresses the universal significance and symbolism of the sea.
The sea holds universal allure as a muse for artistic and cultural expression. Works in PEM’s maritime collection employ diverse forms of expression to convey the far-reaching cultural, symbolic, and emotional impact of the sea. Among the curiosities East India Marine Society members collected during their far-flung voyages, many reflect a common regard across cultures for the sea’s significance.
From the organization’s founding in 1799, members donated ships’ logs, navigational instruments, and sea charts that other mariners could consult to increase safety at sea for all. During long ocean voyages, crew members occasionally created examples of the so-called arts of the sailor, including decorated boxes, whimsies in bottles, nautical carvings, and scrimshaw. These works captured the distinctive creative spirit and emotional impulses generated by their seafaring experiences. From this perspective selection of extraordinary objects arose the first and most comprehensive maritime collection in the United States.
Explore some highlights from the collection