Exhibits & Collections

Curator of Collections Julia Clark has been busy returning objects from our past exhibits to their rightful space--whether it be in our collections or another museum.

The past couple of weeks have been hectic, but productive weeks in the realm of exhibits and collections. First thing after returning from a holiday vacation, I de-installed the Transcending Traditions exhibit. This included taking all of the baskets out of their cases and moving them down in the lab and collections storage, and removing the wall panels. With the exception of nine baskets from the Abbe's collection included in the exhibit, all the other baskets were borrowed from other institutions or individuals. When the exhibit traveled from the Hudson Museum, where it was initially created, the baskets were packed by artists. But now, I had to sort them out by lender and get them packed up to return to each lender, from Falmouth to Indian Township. For most of the baskets this involved wrapping them in an archival plastic bag, padding them with bubble wrap, and packing them in plastic totes. The grand exception was George Neptune's large twig basket- a tiered cake with many, intricate twigs radiating out of the back, decked with ash flowers and birds (http://www.umaine.edu/hudsonmuseum/exhibits/tt/georgeNeptune.php). For this basket, I created a kind of back-board support that will protect the twigs in transit.

Once this project was underway, I then had to de-install the objects and graphics from Indians & Rusticators. There were a lot of objects and graphics in Indians & Rusticators... In no time, the lab and any spare shelves in collections storage were full, and many of the prop objects from the show were tucked in the activity tent section in the main gallery until we could make space for them elsewhere.  Working with Raney, we then took down all of the graphics, and moved as many of the cases as we could out of the way so that deconstruction of the built parts of the exhibit could begin, leading into the construction for Wabanaki Guides. This has been where a wonderful new addition to the Abbe team, Allison Shank, our new part-time exhibit specialist, has been a great help! She is working with Raney, the designers and our carpenter, Mida Ballard and her crew, to bring about the transformation. Believe me, it will look completely different when you walk into the main gallery come February!
New team member Allison discusses
wall placement for the new exhibit.

So now that I had all the objects (with the exception of the canoe, which I will get to in a minute!) downstairs, I had to go through all of these pieces and get them sorted out. Jane Clifton, who most folks encounter in her position in guest services or as my indispensable field school assistant, came in and spent a full day getting the Abbe collections objects re-united with their tags and put back in their permanent storage locations. Meanwhile, I began to get the loaned objects grouped by lender, so that like the baskets from Transcending Traditions, they can be returned to the institutions and private collectors who generously lent them to the exhibit. Several groups of objects had to be packed to ship to places like Kansas and New Mexico. The bulk of the loan will get loaded into my car and driven to places like Bath, Bangor, and Mount Desert. So sometime in the near future, I will be making an almost statewide road trip returning precious objects to their homes after two very successful exhibits.

This large birch bark canoe proved quite a challenge.
So, the canoe. There was one large (19 foot) canoe in Indians & Rusticators, and two somewhat smaller canoes that are currently in storage but will be on exhibit in Wabanaki Guides. The only way to get our full-size canoes between collections storage and the gallery is to take them out the front door, down School Street, in the back door and into storage, where they go onto the custom canoe rack (or vice versa). I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but there is some snow, and slush, and ice outside. Plenty of it between the front and back doors of the museum if you take the outside route. So for the moment, the big canoe that was in Indians & Rusticators is hanging out in Layers of Time, hoping that soon enough of the snow/slush/ice will have been cleaned up or melted to that we can safely lug the canoes back and forth.

These are just a few of the busy, exciting things that have been happening with the collections and exhibits while the museum is closed. To answer the question I occasionally get, "So, do you work in the winter?" - yes, plenty!

If you would like more information on the exhibits Julia has mentioned in this article, please refer to the following links:
  • Though Transcending Traditions can no longer be visited in a museum, it can still be viewed online!  Please visit the web version of this beautiful exhibit at:  http://www.umaine.edu/hudsonmuseum/exhibits/tt/index.php
  • More information about Indians & Rusticators can be found here.  Miss the exhibit already?  Don't worry, an online version of the exhibit is coming this spring to a computer near you!
  • Want to learn more about Julia's work in Collections?  Visit our online exhibit about collections care, Objects of Our Affection.