Abbe Museum Launches Online Collections Database

The Abbe Museum, the first and only Smithsonian Affiliate in the state of Maine, is excited to announce the launch of its online collections database. The Museum’s in-house collections focus on contemporary and historic Native American art, artifacts, and objects from Maine and the Northeast, and totals more than 70,000 items. The goal is to upload all of the non-archaeological items to the database over the course of the next 12 months.

“We have been looking forward to sharing our collections online for a long time,” said Director of Collections and Interpretation Julia Gray. “With only a small portion of our collections on exhibit at any time, this gives people a chance to see so much more, and to learn about Wabanaki history and culture through art and objects from anywhere in the world. We are also excited to use this as a platform to welcome Wabanaki community input and perspectives on our collections.”

The Museum has been using PastPerfect museum software since 2000 to manage its collections, and as part of the current strategic plan, they are now using their online platform to share its collections with everyone, near and far. The database allows users to browse the collections, carry out a general keyword search, and even dig a little deeper with a more targeted advanced search. Images and detailed information about each piece are available and virtual visitors can share what they find with friends through email and social media, as well as share feedback with the Museum, directly from the website.

To start, approximately 375 of the roughly 1,800 records in the Museum’s local database have been uploaded, and more will continue to be added until all of the non-archaeological collections can be seen on the site. Work to put the archaeological collections online is scheduled to begin in 2018.

Visitors can check out everything from an etched birchbark box by Tomah Joseph that illustrates Passamaquoddy life to mid-19th century Penobscot baskets that are still vivid with indigo and other natural dyes. Intricate porcupine quill boxes created by Mi’kmaq artists during the late 1800s and some of the most outstanding work being done by Wabanaki artists today can also be viewed. Visit for more details.

The launch of the Abbe’s online collections database was made possible by the outstanding work of summer intern Katy Matthews, who spent the past several months preparing records for upload and gathering information that was missing from the database.

This project is funded by grants from the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Community Foundation.

Addition to the Abbe Museum Collections

Maliseet artist Gina Brooks and the Abbe's Director of Collections & Interpretation, Julia Clark

Maliseet artist Gina Brooks and the Abbe's Director of Collections & Interpretation, Julia Clark

TheDiane Kopec Collection Fund at the Abbe Museum was created to acquire works by living Native American artists. The collection reflects the vitality and vibrancy of Native American art today, and we recently added a birchbark box by Maliseet artist Gina Brooks to this important collection.

The imagery on the box includes the wampum pattern representing the Wabanaki Confederacy, the people holding up that confederacy, and on the lid, the double curve that represents the unity of the four tribes. Native people sent and received Wampum woven into belts as a form of communication. Through the geometric patterns of the beads, Native people wove wampum designs to remember and recall important events like oral histories, treaties, and agreements. These belts were brought back and forth from important events, and passed down from generation to generation.

Gina Brooks, Maliseet, is from St. Mary’s First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada, and resides in nearby Fredericton. She considers herself an artist informed by Wabanaki traditional knowledge, and her art includes brown ash basketry, porcupine quill and birch bark basketry, carving, and print making. Her original prints include acrylic and ink, and lithographs, monotypes, and copper etch plating. Her basketry and print art has been commissioned by private art collectors and Aboriginal organizations across Canada, and her work has been exhibited at the Charlotte Street Arts Center in Fredericton, Sudbury Nature Center in St. Andrews, (Weaving Traditions), and is featured in the New Brunswick Museum’s Wabanaki contemporary art collection.