Welcome to an enchanting realm where misunderstood creatures get the spotlight they truly deserve. Tucked within the renowned Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, the Bat Box offers a curated selection of all things bat-related, from children’s books to art pieces and, believe it or not, chocolate. Today, we’re delighted to take you on an exclusive tour with Victor Oliveira, the Director of Merchandising for the Peabody Essex Museum, who shares his insights into the inspiration behind this special pop-up shop.
A Journey in Museum Retail
Victor is no newcomer to the world of museum retail; his illustrious career began at the Boston Museum of Science and continued through the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “PEM is the biggest and most diverse museum I’ve worked with,” he says.
Bats: Misunderstood Marvels
Why bats? Victor lights up when discussing these enigmatic mammals. “Bats are misunderstood creatures, much like Salem, which has a long history of embracing the misunderstood. They’re critical to our ecosystem as pollinators and natural insect repellents. They don’t harm us; in fact, they probably want very little to do with us.”
The Unique Offerings
Aside from educational books and art pieces—like the whimsical works by Nick Demakes—the Bat Box is also home to a selection of children’s books. “We have Rufus, the bat who loved colors, which is a real sweet book,” shares Victor. Other quirky items include bat detectors for the tech-savvy and eco-conscious toys made from sustainable plastics.
A Nod to Pop Culture
It wouldn’t be a complete experience without a nod to pop culture. “We have references to Batman, and we’re also representing Hocus Pocus, one of the most popular things in Salem,” notes Victor. From posters and cards to costumes, there’s something for everyone.
Sustainability at the Core
Victor emphasizes the importance of sustainability. “We wanted to be resourceful, especially since the store is a temporary setup. Many display items are repurposed from previous exhibits, and our floor displays are made from reinforced cardboard boxes.”
The store proudly features work by young local entrepreneur Georgia Wrenn (@georgiamadethis). “She’s around 12 years old, and we’re thrilled to have some of her T-shirts and designs in the shop,” says Victor. Other local talent included Nick Demakes (@gentlemanbats) and Sarah Dudek (@indestructibefood)
As if this isn’t enough to entice you, the Peabody Essex Museum has big plans. “Next year, we’re putting together a show called ‘Conjuring the Spirit World,’ focusing on Victorian-era spiritualism and magic. So keep an eye out; it’s going to be a great show,” Victor hints.
Located at 135 Essex Street in Salem, MA, the Bat Box is open Wednesday through Monday from 11 am to 6 pm. This pop-up shop serves as a brilliant testament to the Peabody Essex Museum’s commitment to enriching community life and broadening perspectives—on both art and nature.
So the next time you’re in Salem, why not let your curiosity take flight and explore the Bat Box? After all, it’s not just a store; it’s a celebration of the extraordinary wrapped up in the guise of the misunderstood.