All aboard the PEM train


PEM staffers settle in on the train and show off their commuter cards. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM

“Tickets and Passes Please!”  That’s the phrase that I — and my fellow PEM commuting colleagues — hear first thing every morning.  Those four words have become synonymous with the start of our daily ritual that takes us 16 miles from Boston’s North Station to Salem Depot.   Those of us that ride the rickety rails to and from the North Shore each day call ourselves PEMCOM (Peabody Essex Museum Commuters), and while we all come from the greater Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area, we represent a wide variety among PEM’s staff.

There are currently 16 commuters who hail from many departments at the museum. We have representation from Education and Interpretation, Curatorial, Exhibitions and Research and Publishing, the Executive Office, Design, Marketing and Integrated Media.  Our backgrounds, ages, professional arenas and personal lives might differ greatly, but what unites us all is our work at the museum and our time spent on the MBTA.


PEM staffers in a cross-department mobile meeting. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM

What makes PEMCOM so fantastic is that during the 30-minute ride and the 10-minute walk back and forth from the station to the museum each day, we have the opportunity to talk with colleagues who we might not ever have had the chance to interact with during business hours.  I tend to work mainly with others on the first floor of the Museum Office Center (MOC), but come 5:07, when we’re settled into our seats, I have the chance to talk with staff about different and interesting aspects of their work at PEM.

The time spent commuting enables us to collaborate and discuss projects that we are working on as well as inform each other of museum events and issues. How else would I have learned that in our collection, PEM has a full-size stuffed bison and nearly 5,000 examples of shoes or that our own Mic Billingsley, exhibition designer coordinator at the museum, used to be a physicist in the UK!


Mic Billingsley and the author. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM

At a time when PEM is growing rapidly and when our days seem busier than ever, the time spent commuting with our colleagues enables us to un-hitch ourselves from the bubble that is our own work, and to relax and connect with one another.  PEMCOM links the many departments together in a way that is truly unique.

And, of course, it’s not all work work work. We do get a chance to talk about the fun stuff in life! (My fellow commuters probably know more about the details of my wedding this past month than both my mother and now husband combined!)  And we’re not confined to the box cars either. Walter Silver had the entire PEMCOM over for a barbeque this summer at his house in Cambridge and we’re hoping to make it an annual tradition.  I have been commuting for almost three years and in that time I have definitely felt a bond grow between those of us who make the trek.  On that train I have also learned more about the many diverse aspects that make PEM such an incredible museum — more than I ever could have if I tackled the Route 95 to 93 drive home solo.

Come join us sometime…welcome aboard.


PEM staffers next to the major construction site of the new and improved Salem Station. Photo by Walter Silver/PEM

Editor’s Note: The MBTA began construction this summer on a new and improved Salem Station. The improvements are set to open in stages in 2014, including a parking garage with waiting area, a taxi lane, better pedestrian access and a kiss-and-ride drop-off/pick-up area. A local blogger couldn’t resist making fun of the progress for fellow commuters. His “prediction” for today, Oct. 21, was as follows:

“October 21st: The Kiss and Ride drop-off point will be moved to the junkyard across the North River from the station. Simply look for the large rusty catapult. Commuters are encouraged to wear padded clothing.”

One Comment

  1. Victoria says:

    As a fellow PEMCOM member, I commend my commuter colleague on this post. PEMCOM has grown in my time here, and with each new addition our little community grows that much richer and more diverse. As Caitlin mentions, PEMCOM represents a broad set of PEM’s departments, making it is a place we often surface ideas to see if they have legs and what the unforeseen challenges might be. Plus, commuting has given us many good laughs, often centered on the great people watching the MBTA provides.

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