Abbe launches new strategic plan

BAR HARBOR — The Abbe Museum has launched a 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. The plan includes the museum’s mission, vision, strategic priorities, goals and key objectives.

“This new strategic plan is transparent and inclusive of the full spectrum of the Abbe’s priorities, including our educational initiatives, business operations and staff development,” said Ann Cox-Halkett, chair of the Abbe board of trustees. “The museum’s entire future activities stem from the principles outlined in the plan.”

The Abbe Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to telling the story of the Wabanaki. Over 10,000 Native people currently live in Maine, and most are Wabanaki, a confederacy of nations that today consists of the four federally recognized tribes in Maine: Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet. In addition, the Wabanaki includes several bands of the Abenaki tribe, located primarily in New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

With a mission to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit, the Museum is trying to do more than just be a cultural and historical institution, which prompted a new vision: 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.

“The Abbe’s mission hasn’t changed, but its vision has a new focus,” President and CEO Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko said. “Decolonization, which means sharing authority for the documentation and interpretation of Native culture, has been the museum’s touchstone and guiding principle for many years. We are committed to an ongoing process of better understanding Wabanaki culture, history and values and examining and changing our practices to assure they reflect those values. It made sense to have a new strategic plan centered on this process.”

Decolonization is an emerging concept in museum practice in the United States, and the Abbe is deeply committed to work that positively impacts the tribal communities and the museum industry. The Abbe Museum is already a resource and a model that the museum field turns to for ideas, solutions and strategies for comprehensive museum decolonization and the board and staff will deepen and broaden that commitment.

The plan, which was approved by the board of directors in August, was developed over 12 months with a consultant and direct input from Native communities, Abbe staff, trustees, members, community partners and museum visitors. The Abbe’s six strategic priorities are

  1. There are expanded opportunities for learning from the Wabanaki people at the museum, in the community and virtually
  2. The Abbe Museum and Bar Harbor are the international center for supporting and selling the work of Wabanaki artists
  3. The museum develops and disseminates new knowledge and understanding through collaborative models of archaeological research
  4. The museum stewards and provides access to collections that represent historical and contemporary Wabanaki people
  5. Key strategic alliances broaden and deepen the museum’s impact and enhance its capacity to achieve its mission
  6. The museum is a responsible and ethical steward of all the assets entrusted to it.

The most significant outcomes will be

  1. An evolving relationship of mutual trust and commitment to the preservation, interpretation and continuation of Native culture in Maine.
  2. A national Indian Market, comparable to the other major markets, bringing artists, collectors and visitors to Bar Harbor in the spring shoulder season, which will secure Bar Harbor’s place as a destination for Native art while also providing critical economic benefit to Native artists.
  3. Engaging and challenging experiences for visitors that encourage and support new ways of thinking about and understanding Native traditions, culture and history.
  4. A new model of archaeological research in Maine, grounded in the experience of Native and academic archaeologists in other regions.
  5. A sustainable institution that is a trusted and responsible steward of all of its assets, including its collections, buildings and financial resources.

The full strategic plan can be viewed at


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