Best Museums in Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts

To accompany my new post on the Witches’ Sabbath I thought it’s about time I wrote on the museums I visited in Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts. All bar one directly relates to the Witch Trials of 1692.

1. Peabody Essex Museum: Founded in 1799, the Peabody Essex Museum primarily traces the maritime history of Salem. Inside are a variety of curious objects that were brought to Salem from Asia, Africa, Oceania and India. It is a fantastically diverse museum in the heart of Salem. Do not miss the opportunity to visit Yin Yu Tang, a fully reconstructed Chinese House that was home to the Hung family for 200 years. It is incredible to learn the history of the house and hear how it was transported from China all the way to Salem. In the middle of the house is a common area with an open roof and two koi ponds – so quaint it is hard to believe you are not in China. The rest of the museum is definitely worth seeing as well. If you can, make sure you join a guided tour. They are fantastic for pointing out the highlights.

2. The Witch House (Corwin House): The house of Judge Corwin who presided over the witch trials is the only original building in Salem. This makes for quite an atmospheric museum. Inside you can learn not only about Corwin but also about seventeenth-century lifestyles and living. There are a few mentions of the Witch Trials but the museum is more orientated towards Corwin and his family.

Witch House/Corwin House
Witch House/Corwin House

3. Salem Witch Museum: This museum attracts a lot of visitors each day so I was expecting it to be a nice overview of the trials. Instead, I found myself questioning a lot of the material presented. The first part of the museum is a show – the trials are played out with the use of wax models. What this museum does achieve, in my opinion, is that it highlights the anxiety and fear surrounding the trials quite nicely. A lot of the “facts” weren’t up to date. After the show you are guided through changing representations of the witch. A stereotypical, broom-riding witch followed by modern-day Wiccans both tell the story of how “witchcraft” has evolved. If you want to be entertained and aren’t too worried about the information you’re hearing then you might just enjoy it here.

4. Rebecca Nurse Homestead: This was the only museum I visited in Danvers pertaining to the trials. Rebecca Nurse was one of the accused during the trials. She was hanged until dead on July 19, 1692. Not only are you able to see her home (by guided tour only) but you can also step inside the courthouse where some of the trials took place. Danvers is filled with original buildings from the trials. However, Salem is the most popular and most visited. According to Richard Trask, a descendant of two of the accused, this is because Salem has the name and the association. If you visit Salem please allow time to go up to Danvers. There is so much more original history here than what you can find in Salem.

Rebecca Nurse Homestead, Danvers
Rebecca Nurse Homestead, Danvers

The other museums in Salem all basically follow in the footsteps of the Salem Witch Museum.

My advice for anyone travelling to Salem is such. Expect Salem to be commercial. Don’t let that stop you visiting because there are original pieces of history left and wonderful memorials to visit. It’s a great town in Massachusetts. Depending on how many days you wish to be there if it’s more than three make sure one of those days is spent in Danvers. See where the majority of the trials took place and really experience the history.

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