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Victoria Station

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December 13, 2010

via  Amanda McGregorSTAFF WRITER Salem News


SALEM — Pedestrians on Derby Wharf can peer back in time and see what the wharf looked like over the centuries.

Brass pieces with pictures inside are part of a new world trade exhibit along the wharf that includes informational displays and a stage designed like a ship.

“One of the issues we have with the interpretation of Derby Wharf is this is not how it looked in the age of sail,” said Emily Murphy, park historian at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. “The wharf would have been covered with enormous warehouses, and we want to give people an idea of the various aspects of trade.”

Crews finished constructing the stage this week, culminating a multiyear project to enhance Derby Wharf, which is the home of the Friendship.

The wharf was the first National Historic Site within the National Park Service system, established in 1937, according to Murphy.

“It was really an important designation,” said Murphy. “For the first time this country was preserving cultural sites rather than natural resources.”

On a chilly morning last week amid whipping winds, Murphy walked along the wharf and highlighted the new exhibits, which include semaphore signals, trade maps, a navigation display and brass speaking trumpets that were designed using original 19th century speaking trumpets in the Peabody Essex Museum collection.

“Speaking trumpets were used on ships to communicate,” said Murphy. “They’re basically an early version of the megaphone.”

Displays set up along the wharf focus on the Colonial period, privateering during the Revolutionary War, the great era of trade and the industrial age. The exhibit invites viewers to learn about imports like molasses from the West Indies, which was distilled to make rum.

“Salt was absolutely vital to preservation in the era before refrigeration,” Murphy said as she gestured to an exhibit panel.

The new stage that was erected can be used for ranger talks, music and more.

“It’s a nice venue to offer projects all year round,” said Murphy. “Music is one of the most important parts of our Maritime Festival.”

The entire project cost $238,530, which includes the costs of research and development right through the installation.

“On a morning walk you can learn more,” said Murphy. “It’s also going to be helpful for local school groups who visit the park.

“It’s finally coming together. It’s all very exciting.”

Staff writer Amanda McGregor can be reached at or 978-338-2665.


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