One of New England’s premier art museums, the Peabody Essex originated as a maritime museum (The Peabody) and the county’s natural and historical society (the Essex Institute). The two merged in 1992 and have since developed a national reputation for extensive collections of Asian art and photography, American art and architecture, and maritime art. Its curatorial philosophy emphasizes placing objects in context, demonstrating the interplay of influences across time and cultures. The best-known item in the museum’s collections is an 18th-century Qing Dynasty house, Yin Yu Tang, which was shipped to Salem from rural China; it’s the only example of Chinese domestic architecture outside China. Take the audio guide to enjoy an intriguing look at 2 centuries of life in China while exploring the house (you might also need to build your visit around a timed ticket to Yin Yu Tang). Also allow time to check out some of the museum’s exceptional traveling shows and lower-profile objects, including regionally made furniture and one of the world’s largest shoe collections.