The Year of the Canoe

Did you know that it takes 500 hours to build a birchbark canoe?  Invented over 3,000 years ago by the Wabanaki, the birchbark canoe remains a beautiful and efficient vessel.  Perfectly suited to Maine waterways and easy to transport, this innovation is also a remarkable vehicle for engaging our visitors in learning about the first peoples of Maine.

This is truly “the year of the canoe” at the Abbe Museum and it was successfully launched back in January with a generous response to last year’s appeal. Thanks to your support, we have had a vibrant 2013 with six new exhibits between Sieur de Monts and downtown and over 50 programs, workshops and demonstrations (most of which are free).  By the end of this year, we estimate that more than 30,000 people will have visited the Abbe, a 7% increase from last year.

Back in February, we installed our lead exhibit, Wabanaki Guides. Upon entering the main gallery, visitors are invited to journey down a Maine river through the four seasons to learn about the woods, wildlife and history of guiding in Maine from a variety of viewpoints. Throughout the year, programs were designed to accompany the exhibit, including tracking and mapping workshops, lunch lectures with contemporary Wabanaki guides and a month-long artist-in-residence program. 

As the summer season peaked, expert birchbark canoe builders, David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy, and Steve Cayard spent a month building a 14’ canoe from start to finish in the courtyard.  Museum guests were encouraged to ask the builders questions as they worked on the various stages. As the first birchbark canoe built on Mount Desert Island in over 100 years, this canoe now resides as the centerpiece of the museum’s education collection.  We will bring it to classrooms around Maine and use it for demonstrations and lectures in and outside of the museum.

At the Abbe, making accessible educational experiences is what we do, but we cannot do it without you. Will you please consider making a contribution of $50 or more to our autumn Annual Fund drive to support our work in 2014?  Your gift makes all the difference, ensuring that our curators and educators can research, build and create the exceptional exhibits and programs that you expect from your Abbe Museum.  The impact of our work resonates with visitors, who leave more informed about the Wabanaki and with different perspectives on complex social issues that affect all of us. Thank you for your support.