Open Fall 2023

Enchanted Lands:
Wonderland, Oz, Neverland & Beyond


Curator Elaine von Bruns transports us to magical, faraway lands of storybook fame, including Oz, Neverland, Wonderland, and Narnia, with stops at Middle Earth, the Hundred Acre Wood, and more!

A common trope in fairy tales is a beautiful and expansive land long forgotten by the outside world, waiting to be brought back to life by someone pure of heart. Though the literal iterations of this ideamust remain in fantasy, the Salem Athenaeum has undergone a discovery period of its own. In our Rare Books Room sat entire worlds, rendered by striking illustrations and detailed maps, left unacknowledged for decades after the last child turned its pages. Fortunately, there were some who desired to become reacquainted with these legendary locales. Through Elaine’s efforts, the books of these magical places were united and given another chance to see the light of day.

All this and more is the foundation of our Enchanted Lands exhibit, with literature-based tours of everywhere from Oz to the Hundred Acre Wood. Guests on this exploration will learn the recurring themes that have linked these worlds together, such as the power of flight, owls functioning as magical companions, and the growing and shrinking of intrepid young protagonists. One will also have the chance to observe unique and rare items kept by the library, like a 1678 dissertation attempting to prove the existence of unicorns through fossil evidence, or a volume from the first edition of Alexander Wilson’s books on ornithology. Even the flat cases displaying these items have a story all their own, having once been sent by Salem’s Essex Institute to display historical pieces at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair—the very event attended by L. Frank Baum himself.







As you walk through this exhibit, consider the earnest lessons of these stories along with their appearance and history. These lands may foster a pleasant nostalgia, but they also have much to tell about enduring the scary outside world, learning to be confident in oneself, and how to accomplish maturity without losing the love for the everyday world that our child-selves had. It would be improper to keep these patrons of myth and magic waiting, and you will be surprised by what you find.

The exhibition is free and open to all during the Athenaeum’s regular open hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 1:00–6:00 P.M.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 P.M.


Past Exhibitions:

Fashion Through the Pages

Salem Confidential

Love for All Seasons

Cosmos: Sand Dollars to Stars

The Grand Tour

The Language of Flowers

Food for Thought

Quinton Oliver Jones (1903-1999)

What Hawthorne Read
from the Collections of the Salem Athenaeum

Elections: Winning the Vote

Celia’s Salon: America’s First Artists’ and Writers‘ Colony

Samuel Hall: Patriot Printer of the Revolution

Early Birds: Portraits by the Fathers of American Ornithology

Upcoming Events

View Entire Calendar