Using our archival collections, photographs, and a research library, researchers at the Abbe are encouraged to pursue new learning about the Wabanaki nations through multiple lines of evidence.
The Abbe Museum’s collections focus on contemporary and historic Native American art, artifacts, and objects from Maine and the Northeast, totaling over 70,000 items. Ash splint and sweetgrass baskets, birchbark containers and canoes, other varied traditional and contemporary art forms, and archaeological artifacts that span more than 12,000 years of history represent the ever-evolving culture of Wabanaki people. Using our archival collections, photographs, and a research library, researchers at the Abbe are encouraged to pursue new learning about the Wabanaki nations through multiple lines of evidence.
Some collections highlights:
- A simple, elegant birchbark mocuck (a container used for gathering plant materials), presented by Penobscot Indians to John Perry in 1835 (a surveyor living in Orono). His descendant, Curtis Perry, kept it for 56 years and gave it to the Museum in 1929.
- Ash basket with porcupine curls given by Molly Molasses to Mrs. Manly Hardy as a wedding present in 1862. Molly Molasses was a well-known figure in Bangor and Brewer in the mid-19th century, sometimes compelling people to purchase her wares under threat of a curse!
- Chair with quilled, birchbark panels, Nova Scotia, 1860s-1890s. Mi'kmaq quill workers created porcupine-quill decorated birchbark panels for chairs built by non-Native crafters. This chair is an excellent example of Native artists adapting to the desires of the non-Native market, creating unique and beautiful objects in the process.
- Birchbark mail pouch by Tomah Joseph, Passamaquoddy, ca. 1890, depicting Wabanaki stories and characters. Through his artwork, Tomah Joseph remembered, retold, and recorded the traditions of his ancestors.
- An 18-foot birchbark canoe purchased by Henry Richards, a young architect from Boston, on the boat from Bangor to Bar Harbor in the late 1870s. He bought that canoe from a Native American canoe maker who was on his way to Bar Harbor to rent out his fleet of birchbark canoes to summer tourists.
- More than 30 baskets by Mary Mitchell Gabriel, National Heritage Fellow and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Folk Art Distinguished Award winner. Mary Gabriel’s baskets exemplify the fine work created by Wabanaki basketmakers reviving the craft in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Ash, cedar bark and sweetgrass “urchin” basket by Jeremy Frey, Passamaquoddy, 2007. Frey’s incredibly fine work, along with innovative use of materials, is an outstanding example of the work of a new generation of Wabanaki basketmakers.
- Beaded deer and elk skin wedding dress made by Penobscot artist Susan Galen Thompson for her wedding in the early 1990s.
Friends of the Collection
Are you passionate about Wabanaki culture and art? Are you entranced by the Abbe Museum’s wonderful collection of contemporary art and craft, and culturally significant historic objects? Would you like to support the strategic growth of the Abbe’s permanent collection to better meet our mission to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit?
A gift to the Friends of the Collection Fund is a great way to do just that. It is important to the Abbe’s mission to collect the finest and most innovative contemporary work being done by Wabanaki artists. We have also identified gaps in our collection of historic objects which, if filled, will support outstanding exhibits and educational programs. We welcome your financial gift to the Friends of the Collection Fund to help us fill these gaps.
When we are able to purchase contemporary work directly from Wabanaki artists for our collection, we support their work and their livelihood, keeping these traditions and innovations going into the future.
If you are a collector of museum-quality Wabanaki art or historical objects and would be interested in making a gift to our collection from your collection, we welcome that as well! Just ask Julia Gray, director of collections and research, for more information by giving her a call at 207-288-3519 or sending her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gifts to the Friends of the Collection Fund, and gifts of art and objects to the collection, are fully tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Library & Archives
The Abbe Museum’s research library and archives provide a valuable resource for anyone researching the Wabanaki, Maine archaeology, and Native American history and art. Our archives document the history of the Abbe Museum, and provide select resources on Wabanaki history.
The research library includes more that 1500 volumes, with a focus on the Wabanaki, Maine archaeology and Native American history, culture and art. Other subjects of interest include museum history and practices, Maine history, and general archaeology.
• Annual Reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology and the Smithsonian Institution
• Journals and periodicals about archaeology and anthropology
• The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1632-1674
• Dr. Robert Abbe's original library of approximately 100 rare and
out of print books
• Abbe Museum publications
The library is available by appointment, and is not a lending library. Please contact Director of Collections & Research Julia Gray at email@example.com or call (207) 801-4082 for more information or to make an appointment.
The Abbe Museum archives primarily document the history of the museum, and provide a window in the workings of a small museum over the past century.
Other highlights of the archives include:
• Archaeological site files for projects dating from 1928 to the present (access restrictions apply)
• Photograph collections documenting archaeology, museum history, and the annual Native American Festival & Basketmakers Market
• Historic photographs of Wabanaki people and their lifeways Abbe 1927 Christmas Card
• The Nicholas N. Smith Collection of photographs documenting more that 50 years of ethnographic research among Native communities around Maine and eastern Canada
• The Princess Watahwaso Collection of photographs and ephemera featuring Lucy Nicolar, Penobscot, and her husband, Bruce Poolaw, Kiowa.
The archives are available by appointment only. Please contact Director of Collections & Research Julia Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (207) 801-4082 for more information or to make an appointment.
Rights & Reproductions
To better meet our mission to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit, the Abbe Museum is happy to provide images and other material to researchers, students, authors and publishers.
For information about images for research or publication use, we encourage you to review our Image Use Guidelines and Image Use Agreement. For additional information, please contact Director of Collections & Research Julia Gray at email@example.com or call (207) 288 -3519.