At the Abbe Museum Downtown

Emergence: Root Clubs of the Penobscot Nation

April through December 2018

This exhibit celebrates a uniquely Wabanaki art form, a centuries-old craft that has frequently been dismissed by museums and academics as not “traditionally” Wabanaki. These clubs, carved from the root balls of birch and poplar trees, have been created by Wabanaki artists for hundreds of years. 

The exhibit highlights the diversity of past and contemporary themes found in root club carving. Each club is made out of a sapling, with the slender trunk becoming a chip-carved handle and the complex wood of the root ball’s burl transformed into evocative representations of people and creatures. Some are painted; some have ornaments attached. 

Root clubs have been viewed by museums and anthropologists as “tourist art,” not “traditional” enough to warrant a place in museums. Decades of research by exhibit curators Stan Neptune, Penobscot, and Joan Lester have built the body of evidence to show that this uniquely Wabanaki form, in fact, is very much a part of Wabanaki traditions going back centuries or more. And while new styles have been created over the years to support an economy tied to tourism, the earlier forms have continued and are still being made today. Over 70 clubs are exhibited and are on loan from the Penobscot Nation, Hudson Museum, private collectors, and more. 

Emergence was made possible through major support from:

Anonymous Foundation
Bangor Savings Bank Foundation
Fisher Charitable Foundation
Hattie A. and Fred C. Lynam Trust
Mr. and Mrs. Douglas and Ann Sharpe

People of the First Light

Visit the page for our core exhibit here.

Four Directions of Wabanaki Basketry

Four Directions of Wabanaki Basketry, located in our unique Circle of the Four Directions, offers a place of quiet reflection for visitors to the Museum. The exhibit features a basket from each of the Wabanaki tribal communities: the eastern basket made by a Maliseet child, the southern baskets made by Passamaquoddy women, the western basket made by a Penobscot man, and the northern basket by a Micmac elder. Visitors will also hear the creation story of Koluskap and the Ash Tree in the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy/Maliseet, and Micmac languages.

Made possible through the generosity of John and Ruth Overton.

Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland

The Abbe Museum partnered with schools in the Wabanaki communities to give students the opportunity to research, learn about, and photograph the cosmos using telescopes owned and maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The resulting exhibit, Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos II: Star Stories of the Dawnland, features photos taken by children in the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Penobscot, and Micmac communities in Maine.

In affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution

Maritime Indigenous Artists Exhibit

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This exhibit, a collaboration between the Maritime Indigenous Artists, Inc. (MIA) and the Abbe Museum, explores the protection of waters sacred to the Wabanaki and the conservation of sea-life living in those waters. It will feature original artwork created by indigenous artists living in the New England region of the United States and the Canadian Maritimes (from Connecticut to Labrador). 

At Sieur de Monts Spring in Acadia National Park

The Abbe at Sieur de Monts Spring is open daily 10-5 from late May through early October.

Dr. Abbe's Museum

Ongoing at our Sieur de Monts Spring location

Visit the original Abbe Museum, built as a trailside museum in 1928.The exhibits focus on the archaeology of Maine and are reminiscent of the way the museum would have looked when it originally opened. See how bone and stone tools and pottery were made, explore artifacts from the museum's early collections, and find examples of artifacts from many towns around eastern Maine.

An introductory exhibit gives you a brief history of the Abbe Museum, and is complimented by a giant map of Mount Desert Island and the surrounding area, made by museum founder Robert Abbe. A visitor favorite, four dioramas depict life on Mount Desert Island before the arrival of Europeans.

The Basket Tree

This exhibit will be on display at the Abbe Museum’s downtown location, 26 Mount Desert Street, from October 29, 2018 to March 2019.

In recent decades, a new threat has endangered the basketmaking tradition in Maine -- the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle which kills ash trees. On May 29, 2018, the presence of the emerald ash borer beetle in Maine was officially confirmed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

 Ash and sweetgrass baskets are one of the best-known Wabanaki art forms, and many people make or supplement their income through basket production. The Abbe’s new exhibit, The Basket Tree co-curated by Darren Ranco (Penobscot) and Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot), explores the ability of the Wabananki to protect this important cultural resource on and off reservation lands, so that livelihoods of Maine’s Indian basketmakers can continue and flourish for generations to come.