Coming Home Canoe
A quill canoe. The Abbe Museum “Coming Home” exhibit opens on Feb. 5. The show includes artifacts borrowed from museums as far away as Pennsylvania. PHOTO COURTESY OF ABBE MUSEUM

Wabanaki objects ‘Coming Home’

BAR HARBOR — Coming Home, the Abbe Museum’s 2015 feature exhibit, will open on Thursday, Feb. 5.

“This exhibit is not only a chance to learn through traditional and cultural knowledge, but to see amazing objects that are coming back to Maine after decades or centuries away,” said Julia Clark, director of collections and interpretation. “Wabanaki community curators chose an intriguing and diverse selection of objects, many very different from those in the Abbe collection. This exhibit is a unique opportunity for our visitors to learn about Wabanaki culture directly from Wabanaki people and objects, rather than filtered through the lens of the museum curator.”

From baskets to beadwork, woodcarvings to birchbark canoes, tools or artwork, many pieces of Wabanaki material culture have ended up in museums far away from the Wabanaki homeland, where it is difficult for community members to see these pieces of their history and culture. In recent years, the Abbe has spoken with several Wabanaki people about Micmac, Maliseet, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy collections residing in museums outside of Maine, and whether it would it be possible to bring pieces “home” for a while so that community members could study them more closely.

Wabanaki community curators worked with Abbe curatorial staff to select and borrow objects from museums from Philadelphia to Maine. Throughout the exhibit, community curators will share thoughts, ideas and perspectives about the objects they selected, which will broaden the interpretation and enrich understanding.

“Familiar objects can often trigger memories and spur curiosity,” said Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Abbe Museum’s president and CEO. “It’s the Abbe’s hope that this exhibit is a beginning, and that there will be future exhibits where pieces journey back from farther afield – across the United States and Canada, into Europe and perhaps beyond.”

An opening reception, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Feb. 5, from 5-7 p.m. RSVPs to Heather Anderson at 288-3519 or at [email protected] are appreciated but not required.

Coming Home will be in the main gallery through the end of the year. The Abbe is closed until the exhibit opens. Winter hours will be Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free through April thanks to the generosity of Machias Savings Bank.

The mission of the Abbe Museum, now 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.

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