Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wabanaki Antiques Expo

During the Wabanaki Antiques Expo held on Saturday, May 9th, four Master artists from the Wabanaki communities assembled to allow Abbe visitors to pick their brains for knowledge on pieces that wereor in some cases, were notmade by Wabanaki people. The panel included Master Basketmaker and beadworker Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot; Master Basketmaker Richard Silliboy, Micmac; Master Birchbark worker David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy; and Master Basketmaker and Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy.

A wide range of objects were brought before the panel in hopes of having them identified. Tucked among several beaded "flapper" adornments and a few pieces of southwestern pottery were a few objects that piqued the panels' interest: the first object being a seal-skin belt, likely dating back to the Indian Encampments of Bar Harbor, making it easily one hundred years old.

While other objects were identified as "non-Wabanaki," including a shaker-style basket and several pieces of Southwestern pottery, many Wabanaki basketsboth utility and fancy styleswere brought in to be identified. While it's difficult to identify work by specific artists, the panelists were able to identify which tribes the baskets came from based on aesthetic trends from each community. The basket that brought up the most discussion: a red "sweetgrass flat" style purse with woven ash handles. A Potawatomi flute that dates back to the early 1800s also garnered a lot of discussion, and even some playing!

Hawk Henries, a member of the Nipmuck tribe, brought the flute in for the panelists to inspect. Hawk has a lot of experience enchanting audiences with flutes; he also crafts his own eastern woodlands flutes (out of a single piece of wood!). 


The final object discussed by the panel was a beaded leather jacket. According to the oral histories around the item, it was constructed nearly two-hundred years ago, with the beadwork eventually being added by an Ojibwe beadworker. Jennifer Neptune confirmed that the beadwork was in the Ojibwe style, however, the presence of thread in the seams and use of trade-cloth and "greased" beads led panelists to believe that the jacket was made after the Civil War when thread became much more accessible for Native peoples.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Abbe Museum Educators Take to the High Seas

On a blustery day in March, the Abbe Museum's education team met with Maine Sea Coast Mission's Douglas Cornman in the sunny wheelhouse of the M/V Sunbeam to discuss an exciting opportunity: was there a way to bring a bit of the Abbe to the outer island communities? Yes! Once all the logistics were hammered out, Museum Educators George and Jen grabbed two pack baskets and filled them with all kinds of interesting objects - from fancy baskets to stone arrow heads - and hopped aboard. Destination: Isle au Haut and Frenchboro!

They never expected the huge turnout that greeted them as they set up at the Isle au Haut community center, where George regaled the crowd with legends of Gluskap and how rabbit came to look the way he does today. At the end of the program, Jen and George answered questions about all the objects they brought with them. Later that afternoon, Douglas, George, and Jen searched out the famous Black Dinah Chocolatiers, where they scored some free samples before purchasing some goodies to take home. Isle au Haut residents spent the evening visiting aboard the Sunbeam where Jillian, the ship's steward, cooked a fabulous dinner with help from some eager sous chefs. After visiting well into the night, George and Jen retired to their boat beds.


Early the next morning, George and Jen shoved off for Frenchboro and another great reception at the island's school. They talked about what life was like for the Wabanaki 400 years ago before launching into more storytelling. After George captivated everyone with the feasting song, they all ventured to the Sunbeam for lunch, including cookies for dessert.

Where will the Sunbeam take Jen and George next?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Skype-A-Docent Program

At the 2014 New England Museums Association annual conference, the Fairfield Public Library in Connecticut presented about its Skype-a-Docent program, where the library arranges for a video-tour of museums, historic sites, and other places of interest for visitors with mobility issues. After learning about the program, the Abbe couldn't wait to get started!

Museum Educator George Neptune, equipped with his personal iPad, has now given three tours to close to 50 individuals through the Skype-a-Docent partnership, expanding the Museum's outreach to the southernmost parts of New England. Through visitor feedback, we have learned that our Skype tours are fun, interesting, and provide crystal clear images of our exhibits. We plan to not only continue our partnership with the Fairfield Public Library, but expand our Skype tours to make them available to school groups and other institutions.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Abbe Museum's new membership program is here!

You don't want to miss this!

The Abbe Museum's membership program has received a much needed reboot for 2015.

Thanks to our members, the Abbe Museum is able to fulfill our mission to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit through education, exhibitions, and innovative programs. Members support the financial well-being of the Abbe Museum, while enjoying exclusive benefits that are renewable each year at various levels of support.

We work closely with tribal communities in Maine, northern New England, and eastern Canada to produce award-winning exhibits, educational programs for students, teachers, and Museum visitors, and collaborative projects. Native people lead programs, serve on our board of trustees, and are staff members. We are also a part of the local Bar Harbor and MDI economy and we have a direct impact on the tribal economies in Maine.

The Abbe Museum:

  • Annually hires over 30 Native educators to lead programs and more than 80 Native artists are represented in our shops.
  • Is the main repository for archaeological collections from Maine’s midcoast  and downeast region.
  • Hosts more than 100 schools participating in class trips, serving 60 school districts.
  • Cooperates with school districts on curriculum topics that include: Social Studies, Geography, Economics, Science and Technology, English Language Arts, Fine and Performing Arts.
  • Serves more than 3,000 schoolchildren each year through field trips to the Museum.
  • Hosts more than 200 educators who have participated in our teacher training programs.
  • Serves 30,000 visitors each year, locally and from across the globe.

If you are not currently a member of the Abbe Museum, please consider joining or renewing now to enjoy special benefits throughout the year, such as free admission to the Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate membership, a 10% discount in the shop, and reciprocal benefits at museums and historical sites around the country.

Take advantage today, either by renewing or becoming a new
member, and receive 5% off your 2015 membership.
New Membership Structure

Season-Ticket Membership
Curate Your Own Membership
Upgraded Membership Levels

You can visit us to become a member!
Stop by the Abbe Museum during our visiting hours and a Guest Services Associate will help you become a member at the level of your choice. Use your receipt to enjoy the benefits of membership that same day, and your complete membership materials will be mailed to you.

You can call us to become a member!
Call the Abbe Museum at (207) 288-3519 and ask for Jill Sawyer or the Abbe Shop. Please be ready with your Visa or Mastercard.

Questions & Other Membership Info
If you have questions about membership, please ask! Send an email to Jill at or call (207) 288-3519.

Memberships are renewable annually and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by current law. Most Abbe Museum members also choose to further support the museum through volunteering or contributions to the Annual Fund.

Friday, April 10, 2015

AAM President Ford W. Bell to visit the Abbe

Photo courtesy of AAM

American Alliance of Museums (AAM) President Ford W. Bell will visit the Abbe Museum this afternoon to meet with Abbe trustees, staff, and museum professionals from across the state of Maine. Bell, who has served as AAM president since 2007, is retiring on May 31, 2015.

Bell began his tenure at the helm of the AAM in June of 2007, following years working as a veterinarian and an assignment as the CEO and president of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. He had also served as chair of the board of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and was a longtime board member of the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota. Upon retirement, Bell and his wife plan to move back to Minneapolis.

The AAM counts some 3,8000 institutions across the US among its members. Its mandate includes advocating for museums on relevant issues, and establishing operational standards and best practices across the industry. Under Bell's tenure the AAM went through a major restructuring that saw its staff cut by 27 percent. He also oversaw the organization's name-change in 2012, from the American Association of Museums to the American Alliance of Museums.

During his seven years at AAM he has visited more than 450 museums across 46 states! The Abbe is incredibly honored and excited to be one of those museums!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

2015 Maryann Hartman Award Recipients Announced

Photo by Read D. Brugger
Maria Girouard is a recipient of the Maryann Hartman Award for her advocacy for the preservation of the cultural heritage and rights of the Penobscot Nation. Maria is the Director of Dawnland Environmental Justice, and a leading force behind the Justice For The River campaign. She joins a long list of distinguished Maine women who have been honored with Maryann Hartman Awards, named for the late University of Maine Associate Professor of Speech Communication. Hartman Awards are given by UMaine’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and recognize Maine women for their inspirational achievements in the arts, politics, business, education, healthcare, and community service.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Honoring Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals during Women's History Month

April marks the final month to see the first exhibit curated by Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy.  Kikehtahsuwiw: It Heals is a story about several women in the Passamaquoddy Tribe, residing at both Motahkomikuk (Indian Township) and Sipayik (Pleasant Point). Each of these women shares a common goal: healing their communities.

"I grew up at Township for most of my life. I was taken from my mother when I was three months old—I was told that she left me in a crib for three days, with no food or water. My aunt found me, barely alive, and they took me away. That was the first time I went to my foster family. I was nine when I was taken to my biological father’s house, and was there for just a few short months. I went to another foster family, where I suffered a lot of abuse.
I discovered drinking as a teenager—as most teenagers do—but it was never really a problem for me. After my second son was born and passed away, I didn’t care anymore. And after my daughter was born, I got into the drugs. I stayed into the drugs for eleven years, doing anything from snorting to I.V. use. Once my children were living with their fathers, I’d lost everything. I moved in with one of the biggest drug dealers around. 
The drum really helped me on my road to recovery. The drum is very powerful medicine in and of itself. My partner said we needed female voices in another group, so I said I would try. I just wanted to be around the drum. They took me to a drum practice on Indian Island, and the power of that drum beat—the music, the vocals that come with drumming—it opened my mind, my spirit to everything around me.
If I didn't have the drum or my partner’s family, I don’t know where I’d be. I always felt the drum at powwows and socials, but I never sat down and learned the songs—the words, and what they mean. The combination of it all was very powerful for me. I owe a lot to that family—they are an amazing family. They’ll help anybody. For them to take an interest in me, and to show me the right way, the right path that I should be on—that was amazing." April Tomah, Passamaquoddy at Indian Township

"I think it’s important for us to remember that we are matriarchal people. That is who we have been for thousands of years. The fact that women’s role has been diminished over the last 500 years is not our way, it’s the Western culture’s way. And if we’re going to truly survive, we need to get to the point where we respect our women, we believe in our women, and we take care of our women. We are the ones who have been entrusted as givers of life. I’m not saying that men’s roles are diminished, we just need to be reflective of and remember who we are. I think that’s important." Elizabeth Neptune, Passamaquoddy at Indian Township

"Women are still the leading force here. We’re a matriarchal society, and people have always followed the women’s lead. I think the women are still pretty strong in that—it’s set in our DNA. Women were the givers of life, we nurtured the children, and today, we’re really still pushing to make our people complete again. We’re the caregivers—if there’s going to be healing, we’re the ones to do it. I’m not saying that men are any less, because we’re all equal, but that’s what our role is. We’ve been given a very special gift, by being able to give life—we’re Life Givers, and with that comes great responsibility. Whenever I go to something having to do with community members voicing concerns, I take a look around, and I always see more women." Plansowes Dana, Passamaquoddy at Sipayik