Two current exhibitions in Maine, one at Colby College Museum of Art and the other at Maine Historical Society, are looking at Wabanaki art and culture. Both exhibitions feature important Wabanaki pieces borrowed from the Maine State Museum’s collection.

At Colby, Wíwənikan…the beauty we carry, shows a Maliseet chief’s coat and accoutrements that were reproduced at the Maine State Museum from historical fragments in the collection of the New Brunswick Museum. Three Wabanaki artisans, Rose Tomah, Gal Frey, and Jennifer Neptune, joined museum curator Laurie LaBar and consultant Marion Scharoun in 500 hours of work to hand sew and apply beading to the pieces of the outfit, including the dramatic cap and sashes. The entire piece was then exhibited for nearly a year in the Maine State Museum’s 2008-2009 exhibition, Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing, and Costume. The piece has not been on view since that time.

Maine Historical Society’s exhibition Holding up the Sky: Wabanaki People, Culture, History, and Art shows nine pieces from the Maine State Museum’s collection, including a Tomah Joseph birch bark box, wampum collar, silver gorget, Madeline Shay basket, powder horn rattle, and a crooked knife.

The Maine State Museum has a large permanent exhibit, 12,000 Years in Maine, devoted to archaeological evidence of Maine’s early people, as well as more recent pieces associated with Maine’s four Wabanaki tribes. But, the museum’s current exhibits don’t include all of the Wabanaki pieces in the collection. Collaboration with sister museums, fellow curators, artisans, and the Wabanaki people provide great ways to ensure that more individuals see, appreciate, and learn from fine Wabanaki collections, regardless of which museum collection cares for them.

Learn more about Maine Historical Society’s exhibition, Holding up the Sky: Wabanaki People, Culture, History, & Art

Learn more about Colby Museum of Art’s exhibition, Wíwənikan…the beauty we carry

After finishing their work to dress the mannequin, Maine State Museum curator Laurie LaBar, left, and Colby Museum of Art guest curator Jennifer Neptune pose with the Maliseet chief’s outfit currently featured in Wíwənikan…the beauty we carry.

Maine State Museum