A Decade of Gratitude

by Hannah Whalen,
Director of Development

As we reflect on the end of a year of celebrating our first decade in downtown Bar Harbor, there is much to be grateful for at the Abbe Museum.  The hundreds of people who, ten years ago, participated in the Campaign to Bring the Abbe Museum to the Community made it happen! Many things that could not have even been imagined then, are now possible because of this beautiful new facility.

There are intangible moments; consider what a Wabanaki child experiences when she visits the Abbe for the first time and sees her artwork framed and hung on a gallery wall next to the works of other young Wabanaki students.  The Waponahki Student Art Show is an annual spring tradition and over its 10 years downtown, more than 400 young people have delighted in seeing their art on display at the Abbe.
Watie Akins performing in the Circle of the Four Directions
Some of you may recall that during the planning phase of the building, the Abbe consulted with Native communities in Maine, seeking their ideas for design.  Again and again they said that there needed to be a circle somewhere in the building.  The circle is an important symbol in Native culture and represents continuity and wholeness.  With the guidance of Wabanaki advisors - especially engineer, Watie Akins, Penobscot, and through the generosity of John and Ruth Overton, who named the Circle of the Four Directions in memory of John’s mother Joan Blair Overton - the Circle was constructed on site.  The roof is slanted and faces east toward the rising sun.   The walls are made of fir paneling and the floor is white ash and often there is Native flute music in the background.  Over the years many guests have commented that they enjoy just sitting in the Circle and the peaceful, calm feeling it ensues.  

The word philanthropy means, “the love of humankind.” Every year our donors demonstrate their philanthropy for the work we do at the Abbe.  Thanks to our donors, members and volunteers, we are able to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations for the 25,000 who visit us every year.  Because of our contributors, we are able to properly care for over 50,000 historical objects, including the largest and best documented museum collection of Wabanaki basketry.  And with the Abbe being downtown, we can now offer year-round exhibitions and educational programs that tell the story of the Wabanaki.

Ten years later, we truly have achieved “neke naka toke” (Passamaquoddy for “the best of both worlds”) by having a-state-of-the-art downtown museum with exhibitions and programs year round, and the historic Abbe at Sieur de Monts Spring open seasonally.

Thank you for your interest in the Abbe Museum and for your support. Happy Holidays!