Abbe Museum Receives $144,350 Grant

The Abbe Museum has been awarded a $144,350 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  This three year, federal grant is a Museums for America Award, which funds projects that will help museums to better serve their communities.  These projects can represent a wide spectrum of activities including: exhibitions, community outreach programs, collections management activities or behind-the-scenes projects. 

Raney Bench leading a group through
an Abbe Museum educational program.
The Abbe’s IMLS grant will support a three-year community outreach project called Training Maine’s Classroom Teachers to Meet the Wabanaki Initiative.  The Maine law, L.D. 291, more commonly known as the Wabanaki Initiative, is an unfunded mandate requiring Maine schools to incorporate teaching about the history and culture of the Wabanaki --- the collective term for the tribes in Maine.  Teachers have a need for training regarding the Initiative, about the resources available, and sample lessons to use in the classroom.

When first passed, the Abbe responded to the mandate by partnering with the Maine Department of Education, the National Park Service and Wabanaki governments and created a series of resources, including: a traveling trunk of artifacts, lesson plans, an award-winning on-line curriculum and two museum-based school programs.  Alongside curriculum development, the Abbe began hosting teacher training workshops and facilitated direct interaction between educators and Wabanaki scholars and cultural leaders, reaching over 100 teachers per year.  But with changes in state education standards, more work is needed, and this grant will help to address those needs.

“We are so excited about this opportunity, not only because of what it means for the Abbe in terms of helping us meet our mission and strategic goals, but because of the improved access teachers and students will have to resources specific to the Wabanaki,” said the Abbe’s Curator of Education, Raney Bench.

 “This is a very competitive federal grant,” she adds, “There were 470 applicants nation-wide and the Abbe was one of the 152 projects that were chosen to receive the award.”

“When L.D.291 became a law in 2001, Maine teachers started seeking resources to help meet this mandate, and that’s where the Abbe came in,” said Bench.  Now, 11 years later, the demand for resources has only continued to grow, but the Abbe staff has not.  The IMLS grant has allowed the Abbe to hire a second Museum Educator for three years, freeing up Bench to work with teachers and Wabanaki advisors to create and evaluate the new resources, and then conduct the teacher trainings. 
“George Neptune was just hired as our second Museum Educator,” announced Bench.

George Neptune|
Photo by Anna Travers
“As an accomplished Passamaquoddy basketmaker, George has led many workshops and demonstrations at the Abbe, in addition to participating in a number of exhibits.  In his new role, George will be able to use his experience as Unit Director for the Passamaquoddy Boys and Girls Club to work with students, his work as an artist to connect with visitors, and his degree in Theater from Dartmouth to create exciting public programming at the Abbe.”

In addition to hiring a new educator, the grant will expand the Abbe’s professional development program for Maine teachers by increasing the number of free workshops, as it continues to partner with the Maine Department of Education and tribal communities. Other project outputs will include: a resource CD for teachers with lesson plans and samples of student work , activities, resource lists and other useful instructional tools and content; an Outcomes Based Evaluation logic model; fully realized evaluation strategies that include front-end, formative, and summative evaluation; and a highly functioning Education Advisory Committee and Native Advisory Council.

“Thanks to this grant, we will offer 16 free workshops throughout the State, reaching 800 classroom teachers,” said Bench. “One of our goals as we reach out to all 16 counties is to connect teachers with resources and Wabanaki artists and scholars in their own regions and give them the tools they need to be more self-sustaining.” said Bench.

A complete listing of the 2012 projects funded through the IMLS Museums for America  program can be found at

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.  Through grant making, policy development, and research, IMLS helps communities and individuals thrive through broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning.
Excerpt from the Wabanaki Curriculum.