Search is underway for new Abbe director

BAR HARBOR — The Abbe Museum, whose last leader Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko left in June to direct the Illinois State Museum, is aiming to bring its ongoing decolonization initiative to the search for a new director.

According to the Abbe’s website, museum decolonization involves “correcting harmful representations of the past” by collaborating with native people to interpret their own history and tell their story.

The open director position has a new job description and title: Executive Director and Senior Partner with Wabanaki Nations.

Julia Gray, the museum’s interim director, said the change in title is “making it clear that this work is done in collaboration and partnership. The idea is that this person is working side by side with people from Wabanaki Nations.”

A search committee is currently interviewing candidates for the position, has held a first round of interviews and is setting up a second round of interviews this month, Gray said. The goal is to have a new director after the first of the year, she said said.

The search committee, co-chaired by museum trustee Margo Lukens and honorary trustee Darren Ranco, Penobscot, has a representative from each of the Wabanaki communities in Maine, Gray said.

The committee has held most meetings by web conference, and the first round of interviews were done remotely. Second interviews will take place on site at the Abbe.

As part of the decolonization initiative, the museum established a Native Advisory Council in 2012. Like most nonprofits, the museum has a Board of Trustees. This group has both Wabanaki and non-native members, Gray said. The Native Advisory Council was set up to be a parallel group, Gray explained, with members appointed by tribal leaders. That way, she said, “sovereign nations have a say in what the Abbe is doing.”

Gray worked previously at the Abbe Museum for 17 years as director of collections and research, and now works independently as a museum consultant. She is filling in part-time as interim director, and sees her role as supporting museum staff through the transition.

Becky Pritchard
Becky Pritchard covers the town of Bar Harbor, where she lives with her family and intrepid news-dog Joe-Joe. She worked six seasons as a park ranger in Acadia, and still enjoys spending her spare time there.

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