A: Opportunities for Learning

There are expanded opportunities for learning from the Wabanaki people at the Museum, in the community, and virtually.


• Work with the Native Advisory Council and Board of Trustees to develop processes and protocols for public education on legal, policy, and social issues

UPDATE: In fall of 2016 we introduced a decolonization policy and developed a format for protocols that build permanence to this work. The first two protocols introduced were about governance and religious appropriation/spritual practice. The policy and protocols are approved by the Board of Trustees but do not have final approval until the Native Advisory Council approves. These documents were  presented at the June 2017 NAC meeting in Sipayik. NAC appreciated the documents but would like to see them in action before approval. All present agreed that we could begin adopting these operationally and report back at a future meeting for possible approval. This is the beginning of a larger protocol development process that will build momentum in 2018.

• Develop resources and educational materials on core issues or questions related to decolonization for the general public and teachers

UPDATE: As we finalized the strategic plan in August 2015, it was clear that the Decolonization Task Force should evolve into a standing Decolonization Committee. Meeting bi-monthly, the Committee considers current museum practice and reccommends opportunities to develop decolonizing protocols. In October 2016 the Board of Trustees approved a Decolonization Policy and two protocols – governance and religious appropriation/spiritual practice. These become operational when the Native Advisory Council members concur; their next meeting is June 8, 2017.

A brief about our approach to decolonzing museum practices is regularly updated. Copies of this brief are available by contacting cinnamon@abbemuseum.org.  

• Actively support and contribute to professional development opportunities for the Museum and archaeology and anthropology communities regarding decolonization

UPDATE: Abbe staff members regularly attend and present at national conferences including the American Alliance of Museums and the American Association for State and Local History. Topics include decolonizing museum practices, museums and social change, and museum leadership. Beginning in July 2016, Abbe staff began acting as a consulting resource for other museums and historic sites looking to implement decolonizing museum practices. Plans are underway for the development of a comprehensive training strategy that will initially be funded through grant awards.

• Develop and support dialogue-based programming that considers difficult topics; support people as they engage in these conversations

UPDATE: We continue to develop and embed dialogic elements in our faciliation and program design. Throught 2016 we piloted programs including a daily tour for People of the First Light, encouraging visitors to dig deeper into the content and to share their thoughts and questions. This level of engagement creates lasting memories and learning that will, hopefully, inspire understanding and decision-making in the future. In 2017, the education team is taking the lessons learned from the 2016 trials and launching a newly-formed educational program. The Abbe calendar is filling up now with exciting programs for all ages.

• Overhaul web presence to be more responsive and better integrated with social media strategies

UPDATE: Throughout 2016 we have designed sites like this to promote events and in the winter of 2016/2017 we launched a new website and blog structure. Social media strategies continue to thrive, attracting new audiences daily. COMPLETE.

• Complete new permanent exhibition that includes interpretive content accessible on personal devices

UPDATE: On May 1, 2016 People of the First Light opened with critical acclaim. Visitation is strong and donors express enthusiasm for the results. In future phases, regalia will be commissioned and installed (new pieces arrived in fall 2017), a few structural elements will be enhanced, new technologies will be explored, current digital content will be available on the web, and annual (possibly quicker) changes will be made to keep it fresh and current. To help us deliver content, a special blog was launched in late 2016. 


• Restructure our public program series with a focus on Native-led programming and dialogue-based programs

UPDATE: The education team led by Curator of Education, Starr Kelly, re-formed in 2017 and they focused on creating an inviting learning environment for all visitors and reassessing educational goals in all existing museum spaces. Both Starr and Manager  of Guest Experience, Angela Raup, have instituted many changes to the educational    lineup including a broadening variety of tours, dialogue-based programs, and hands-on learning experiences. In addition, the admissions desk and shop are now aligned under the Education Department and each Guest Services Associate is trained as a museum educator and is responsible for selected programs.

Starr and Angela are dedicated to creating more spaces and programs for young people, adults, and families.  In 2017, the Abbe hosted over 230 programs curated for over 11,000 children and adults, including Story Hour, Crafting Hour, Family Days at our Sieur de Monts location, and the annual Native American and Basketmakers Festival, all of which are well attended and received by our guests. Be sure to check the Abbe calendar of events regularly to be part of the fun and learning. 

• Make public programs more accessible virtually

• Create or contribute to a network of organizations working on decolonizing museum practice


• Develop plans for the use of the backyard to support programming

midsummer_logo_transparent-05UPDATE: On September 10, 2016 the Abbe hosted the Backyard Bash fundraiser to benefit museum operations. The event demonstrated effective and ineffective uses of the backyard and kickstarted planning for the space. On August 3, 2017 the gala and bash merged into one as we produced the inaugural The Abbe Midsummer as a fundraiser for the museums operations, programs, and initiatives. The next event is August 1, 2018. We are also producing the 25th Native American Festival and Basketmakers Market in the backyard on July 7, 2018. With these additions and continued planning and idea generation, we have successfully utilized the backyard and will continue to do so in a sustainable way.


Concerns still exist about the aesthetics of the backyard, namely the lights, fence, and lawn. In 2017 we repaired the lights around the Circle of Four Directions and in the parking lot. We also hydro-seeded the lawn. With these improvements in place we can now focus on next steps for the fence’s repair/replacement. 


• Expand the use of interpretive content accessible on personal devices throughout the facilities and for temporary exhibitions

• Increase education outreach to schools and teachers   

UPDATE: In November 2016, Julia Gray, former Director of Collections and Research, participated in a teacher in-service day for the MDIRSS, focusing on resources available for teaching about the Wabanaki in K-12 classrooms. Tools for evaluating resources are a cornerstone of this workshop. Teachers were provided guidance as we evaluated resources together ensuring a collaborative process.

The workshop resulted in an extensive resource list which we have available on our website. This training was part of more extensive ongoing work the Abbe is doing with the school district to more effectively integrate Wabanaki studies into the social studies curriculum. We continue to grow our relationship with local districts in the hope that the Abbe Museum can be a stronger voice across the state for Wabanaki Studies and curriculum reform. This work continues under the guidance of Starr Kelly, Curator of Education.

• Develop a seasonal artist in residence program and secure studio space

• Create more satellite and virtual exhibits


When this goal is realized, the Abbe will be known as a decolonizing museum where increasing numbers of Native advisors and educators are engaged in the Abbe’s work.

Abbe Museum audiences will feel comfortable in the supportive environment created for dialogue in exhibitions and educational programs. And, audiences will connect with the Abbe in multiple ways – in Museum spaces; across the state and region in schools, libraries, and other public venues; and virtually.


B: Wabanaki Artists 〉