January Means Major Exhibit Changes at the Abbe!

Behind the Scenes with Raney Bench, co-curator of the upcoming exhibition Wabanaki Guides:

Raney removes a panel as she deconstructs
the award-winning exhibit, Indians & Rusticators.
As wonderful as Indians and Rusticators was, it is time for a major exhibit change at the Abbe!  We are tearing down the tents and waterfront to make way for Wabanaki Guides, opening February 7.  Join us for a sneak preview on February 6 by contacting Johannah for details (johannah -at- abbemuseum.org). 

After two years in development, we are in the final stages of the project.  Julia and I have been working with designers to create the look and feel of the exhibit, which will be installed over the next three weeks.  We will be painting, building new features, moving walls, and printing, cutting, and installing labels and artifacts.  We have been selecting objects from our collections and working with other institutions to borrow images and objects to help tell this story.  George and I are working on hands-on activities and a gallery guide to enhance family experiences.  Cinnamon and Astra edited the first draft of the script, and are on call to help with final edits, and their artistic eyes helped us select the final image for marketing.  Cinnamon and Hannah have been raising money, and Hannah and Johannah are finishing a press kit, sponsorship, and marketing for the exhibit, as well as planning the reception.  The whole staff will be on call to move three canoes and paint the gallery - most of this happens in the one month window of January!  As with all major exhibits, this is truly a collaborative effort.

Wabanaki Guides was inspired by the Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail mapThe map is a collaborative project that follows the three trips author Henry David Thoreau took in Maine, his notes were later published as his book The Maine Woods.  While Thoreau was in Maine he relied on two Penobscot guides, noting that their knowledge of this place often transformed his understanding of plants, animals, and geography. 

Julia and Raney carefully remove exhibit objects,
including this stuffed seagull, with a smile!
Wabanaki Guides travels through time and place to better understand and appreciate the long and sustained relationship the Wabanaki have with this region.  Wabanaki people were historically engaged as guides for the first European explorers and military expeditions.  Once Maine became a state and a popular place for recreational activities, Wabanaki guides were hired to take clients hunting, fishing, and for pleasure trips into the back country, or for the afternoon.  Guiding continues to be an important cultural and economic driver for the tribes, primarily the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy, who manage resources on large tracks of tribally owned land. 

The exhibit was co-curated by Donald Soctomah, Passamaquoddy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, and James Francis, Penobscot, Director of the Cultural and Historic Preservation Department.  The exhibit is based on stories told from guides, and about guides as told from their clients and friends.  Because this topic is new for the Abbe, we are able to introduce you to several new notable figures.  Of note, Henry Red Eagle Perley, Maliseet, who was a guide in the Moosehead Lake region for decades.  The youngest guide licensed in Maine at the age of 14, Perley traveled the country as a performer before returning to Maine to continue his work as a guide.  We have secured a loan from the Hood Museum at Dartmouth for Perley's feather bonnet and moccasins that he wore to sportsmen shows to promote Maine guiding. 

So, with other projects happening at the same time as this exhibit change, there is never a quiet time at the Abbe!
Julia and Raney move the cumbersome exhibit case tops with
high-tech suction cups...no fingerprints are left behind.