Thursday, August 27, 2015

Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Observatory Telescopes.

The Abbe Museum, the first and only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine, is pleased to announce its participation in the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II (YCCC II) program. By partnering with schools in the Wabanaki communities, students have the opportunity to research, learn about, and photograph the cosmos using telescopes owned and maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The resulting exhibit, Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland, will open on September 10 to coincide with the Acadia Night Sky Festival. 
“The goal of the YCCC II program is to use hands-on exercises to teach youth how to control the MicroObservatory robotic telescopes over the internet and take their own images of the universe,” said Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy. “Here at the Abbe, the project also encouraged students to choose subjects based on Wabanaki stories about the stars. Each student had the opportunity to research traditional stories and interpret them in a modern context using 21st century technology.”

Originally beginning as an online exhibit featuring the Indian Township School, the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland exhibit features photos taken by children in the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Penobscot, and Micmac communities in Maine. After hearing the Wabanaki night sky stories, each student was asked to choose a photography subject that they could connect to the stories—that inspired them in some way. Once targets were chosen, students selected parameters such as exposure time, color filters, and zoom angles to ensure a high quality photo. The images were then captured by the telescopes after sunset, and emailed to the students.

Jupiter, 2014, captured by Mikey, 7th Grade, Indian Township School.

Once the students received their images, they began using the MicroObservatory Image software to edit and colorize the photos. Students were able to remove noise—extra light in the photo that did not come from celestial bodies—before sharpening the lights, changing light levels and contrast, and finally, colorizing the photos. Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland is open through 2016. The Abbe Museum is open seven days a week now through October.
 Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos is funded by the Smithsonian Institution's Youth Access Grants program awarded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Education and Access. The project is led by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in partnership with Smithsonian Affiliations.

Earth’s Moon, 2014, captured by Alexis, 7th Grade, Indian Township School.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational, and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. More information is available at
About the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe. More information is available at
About the Acadia Night Sky Festival
The 7th Annual Acadia Night Sky Festival is set for September 10-14, 2015, and is already packed with a full schedule of events. With workshops, internationally recognized speakers and hands-on experiences, there truly is something for everyone from families to the serious amateur astronomer.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wabanaki Artists take top spots at Santa Fe Indian Market

For the past 90 years, Santa Fe Indian Market has been bringing together the most talented Native American artists from around the US. As the largest Native arts fair in the world, the market covered the Santa Fe Plaza and surrounding streets this past weekend, and consisted of a myriad of events — galas, art openings, music and experiences, fashion shows, and the much anticipated juried art show. Several Wabanaki artists were in attendance this year, and a couple are coming back to the East Coast with some impressive ribbons.

Abbe Museum Fellow Emma Soctomah, Passamaquoddy, won first and second place in the Youth Division, which is her third consecutive year winning the top two spots.

Sara Sockbeson, Penobscot, won first place in Miniatures and second place in Contemporary. Her two winning baskets featured deer antler handles, which she sliced into cross-sections and then carved and polished each one, drilling a hole through the center. Sarah has said that all the antler handles she makes are unique for each basket.

Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy, received an Honorable Mention in Traditional Basketry. George has admitted that he likes turning his baskets into sculptures, and that they’re all slight adaptations on traditional methods he has been taught.

The market is definitely a meeting of buyer and artist, but it proves year on year to be so much more than just that. It’s a place where artists gather to share their creations, their traditions, and their stories. It helps make possible the continuation of traditional life, whether on a pueblo outside Santa Fe or in a small town in Maine.

More official results of all the winners will be posted soon. The Best of Show winners list is currently available on the Santa Fe Indian Market website.

Congratulations to all the Wabanaki artists!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2015 Abbe Field School in photos

It was a perfect week for the 24th annual Abbe Museum Field School. Not just because of the weather, but lots of amazing items were uncovered: a variety of pottery, stone and bone tools, food bone remains, and one of the spears found was in immaculate condition. Participants worked with Maine State Archaeologist Dr. Arthur Spiess on the Tranquility Farm coastal shell midden site, and conducted excavations, practiced mapping the site, and learned about the analysis of artifacts. Now begins the process of cleaning, cataloging, and preserving the important findings from this year’s dig and making them available for research and education.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Annual Meeting Highlights

The Abbe's 2015 Annual Meeting was held on Wednesday, August 12th and we covered a lot of ground as we reported on fiscal year 2014, as well as our plans for the future. There were demonstrations by four Native artists, a sneak peek at our new strategic plan, and we honored an outgoing Trustee with the highest award bestowed by the Abbe.

Back in July, the Abbe named its 2015 Wabanaki Artist Fellows, recognizing three exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant artist contributions in the future: Donna Brown, Penobscot; Ganessa Frey, Penobscot; and Emma Soctomah, Passamaquoddy. These fellowships were made possible through support from Dawnland, LLC, the concessioner in Acadia National Park, who was in attendance at the Annual Meeting. All three Fellows gave demonstrations during the Annual Meeting, delighting guests with their art and answering any questions.

Ganessa Frey discussed basketmaking with Abbe supporters Joe and Cathy Gerstner.
Emma Soctomah admitted that artwork is very important to her, and she spends much of her time outside of school making baskets. She's off to the Santa Fe Indian Market this month to try and win some more awards. 
Donna Brown discussed her traditional beadwork with Abbe Trustee Sandy Wilcox.

The fellowships awarded are intended to provide support for travel, lodging, and other costs associated with exhibiting at Indian art markets in Maine and New Mexico. Emma and Ganessa will attend the 2015 Southwestern Association for Indian Art’s Santa Fe Indian Market (SWAIA), and Donna attended the 2015 Native American Festival and Basketmakers Market last month.

Gabriel Frey, Passamaquoddy, also gave a basketmaking demonstration. A utility basketmaker, Gabe uses his family's traditional knowledge and style to create beautifully woven, sturdily built utility baskets that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Gabe Frey (far right) carries on the tradition, high quality, and style of his grandfather who taught him, while incorporating his own individual aesthetic, forms, and decorative weaves. 

The Golden Trowel Award, the highest award bestowed by the Abbe, was presented to Art Spiess for his invaluable contributions in making the Abbe Museum's annual Field school happen. This school has been an integral part of the Abbe’s archaeological work since the 1980s, and is one of the most significant ways we teach about archaeology and engage people in this important way of learning more about Wabanaki history and culture. The success of the field school over the years has been due in large part to the outstanding contributions of archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, and educators from around Maine. And for the past nine years, nobody has been as essential to that success at Art Spiess.

Art received his PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1978, and he began his career at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission that same year. Art has been on the Board of The Maine Archaeological Society for more than 20 years, and he serves as the Editor of Archaeology of Eastern North America for the Eastern States Archaeological Federation.

Art has generously given his time and expertise to the field school, leading this outstanding annual learning experience. He has also been key in helping the Abbe keep our practices and policies around archaeological research and collections up-to-date with current standards and legal requirements. He has guided archaeology in Maine for over four decades of work at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and his depth of knowledge has been essential to the success of the field school.

Abbe's Director of Collections & Interpretation presented Art with the Golden Trowel Award.

The night ended on an exciting note: the Abbe's new strategic plan. This plan will guide the next phase of the Museum’s growth and development, from its adoption in 2015, through the next five to seven years. Our mission hasn’t changed, but our vision has a new focus:
The Abbe Museum will reflect and realize the values of decolonization in all of its practices, working with the Wabanaki Nations to share their stories, history, and culture with a broader audience. 
There are three phases to the plan, and phase one will kick-off very ambitiously this fall. The Abbe's President & CEO, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, gave a sneak peek of each goal, which will include a permanent exhibit, new and improved web presence, expansion of our dialogue-based programming, development of an archaeology advisory committee, an online collections database, and producing the Abbe Museum Indian Market. An official plan will be rolled out very soon!

A very big thank you to all those who came to the Museum on Wednesday to celebrate with us! We can't wait to see what happens next!