The Abbe Museum’s mission is to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit. This is a decolonizing museum, actively engaging Wabanaki people in all aspects of the Museum, from curatorial roles to policy-making.
The Abbe operates two facilities on Mount Desert Island. The original is a small trailside museum located in Acadia National Park (the only privately-owned and operated trailside museum remaining in a National Park; it is not subsidized by the Park). The second is a modern facility in a renovated historic landmark. It opened in downtown Bar Harbor in 2001, and offers larger exhibition spaces, collections storage, programming and meeting spaces, and staff offices. The Abbe offers changing exhibitions and a robust programming schedule for all ages, welcoming 30,000 visitors each year. The museum is an active member of the International Coalition for the Sites of Conscience and an involved community anchor. In 2013, the Abbe became the only Smithsonian Affiliate in Maine.
The Museum is named for founder Dr. Robert Abbe, an eminent New York physician and summer resident of Bar Harbor who assembled a collection of early Native American artifacts found in the Frenchman Bay area for a museum in present day Acadia National Park in 1928. That year the Abbe became the first institution in Maine to sponsor archaeological research, later expanding its work throughout Maine. Today, the Museum is the main repository for archaeological collections from the Midcoast region and holds the largest, best-documented collection of Maine Indian basketry in the Northeast. The collections represent 10,000 years of Native American culture and history in Maine, and the collections care program is recognized nationally as a model for museums.
We engage visitors through programs, educational outreach, and partnerships with the five Wabanaki tribes (Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, Maliseet, and Abenaki), Acadia National Park, and other regional and statewide organizations. These all represent multiple audiences and communities, including international visitors and those from across the country. Personal interactions with Wabanaki artists enhance the visitor experience–they are looking for personal connections and interactions, and the more that can be folded into interpretation, the more satisfied our visitors are. Annually, we hire over 30 Native artists and demonstrators to lead programs for schools and public audiences, and serve on advisory committees and as content specialists. We represent over 80 Native artists in our shops, making us an economic engine for tribal communities.