The Great North Basin on the Katahdin Massif as seen from Martin Pond in Baxter State Park. PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

‘Greatest Mountain’ focus of Abbe exhibit

BAR HARBOR — “Greatest Mountain,” a multimedia display which pays tribute to Mount Katahdin, has opened at the Abbe Museum.

Curated by Penobscot artist and historian James Francis, the exhibit is a combination of research, both through Penobscot histories and accounts of non-native travelers and writers, with images, music, stories and the Penobscot language, all of which bring this sacred mountain to life. “Greatest Mountain” will be in the Abbe’s main gallery through August.

“’Greatest Mountain’ is the fascinating and engaging result of James’s unique perspective as an artist, historian, guide and Penobscot tribal member,” said Julia Clark, director of collections and interpretation at the Abbe. “Together, these result in a view of Katahdin unlike any other.”

“Katahdin” translates from Penobscot to English as “greatest mountain.” While some say this reflects the fact that Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine, Francis points out that when the mountain was given this name by the Penobscot people, Maine and its boundaries did not exist, and the Wabanaki people were certainly familiar with higher mountains in their traditional territory, in what is now New Hampshire.

Baxter Peak is the highest point in Maine, some 5,267 feet.

Images move and flicker across “Greatest Mountain,” a compilation of time-lapse photographs taken by Francis at night back in November 2014. The images were captured from Millinocket Lake looking toward Katahdin’s south face. Francis went to the mountain and set up his camera to take repeated six-minute exposures. When he came back to the camera in the middle of the night, he discovered a wonderful, additional gift: the northern lights had come out to frame the mountain. Along with these time-lapse photographs, there is a song composed by Francis, various other video and still imagery, and spoken word pieces of Penobscot people sharing stories.

“Greatest Mountain” will be in the main gallery of the museum’s downtown Bar Harbor location daily through August from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 per adult, $7 for senior citizens and $4 for children ages 11-17. Children 10 and under enter free. Admission is free to Native Americans and Abbe members.

The mission of the Abbe Museum, Maine’s first Smithsonian Affiliate, is to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit. The Abbe has a collection of over 50,000 archaeological, historic and contemporary objects including stone and bone tools, pottery, beadwork, carved root clubs, birch bark canoes and supporting collections of photographs, maps and archival documents. It holds the largest and best-documented collection of Maine Native American basketry in any museum. Its collections conservation program is recognized nationally as a model for museums. The Abbe’s two locations – downtown Bar Harbor and at Sieur de Monts Spring in Acadia National Park – are now open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit

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