D: Historical and Contemporary Wabanaki Collection

The Museum stewards and provides access to collections that represent historical and contemporary Wabanaki people.


• Make the non-archaeological collections database accessible online

• Re-assess collections regarding the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) eligibility and respond to inquiries and claims in the spirit of collaboration and shared interest

• Develop a Friends of the Collection program


• Make the archaeological collections database accessible online

• Document Wabanaki knowledge about the collection

• Consult with Wabanaki spiritual leaders (advocates for the ancestors) and other tribal community members on the treatment and disposition of collection items excavated from burial sites

• Begin to inventory Wabanaki objects in other museums, other institutions, and private collections


• Develop a tiered collections model to increase physical access to collections, ability to do outreach exhibits, etc.

• Review and revise the collecting plan


  • In 2018, the Abbe landed a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to collaboratively develop and assess processes, systems, tools, and workflows to connect traditional cultural knowledge (TK) to Wabanaki collections at the Abbe. These processes and tools will at the same time enable Native communities to reclaim control over access to and use of their cultural heritage. Recognizing that there is a wealth of significant humanities content that rests in the traditional knowledge of the Wabanaki people, the goal of this project is to create a framework that gathers this knowledge and makes it accessible for scholarship, education, and public programming in a way that honors and respects the communities who created it. Working with Local Contexts and the TK Labels initiative, using Mukurtu CMS and applying the results through PastPerfect Online (our current collections management database software), we are partnering with the tribes to:
    • Share Abbe collections records with tribal reviewers.
    • Within communities, collect traditional knowledge about ethnographic and archaeological objects, contemporary art and craft, documents, images, and audiovisual material from the Abbe’s collection.
    • Facilitate and support the tribal review process to allow for the integration of cultural knowledge into Abbe collections documentation in culturally appropriate ways.
    • Identify and utilize tools to manage the knowledge and the knowledge-sharing process, to include Mukurtu and PastPerfect Museum Software.
    • Create a workflow for the review and sharing process.
    • Refine the processes, protocols, and technical requirements for implementing Traditional Knowledge (TK) Labels to Wabanaki material shared online by the Abbe using PastPerfect Online, re-establishing source community control over the use of and access to cultural knowledge and heritage. (To date, 95% of the Abbe’s non-archaeological collection is up on Mukurtu, with the rest being uploaded by mid-February 2019.)
  • In 2017, the Abbe was awarded a NAGPRA consultation grant of $11,275 to support renewed and more collaborative consultation with the Wabanaki Repatriation Committee (WRC) to address potential unassociated funerary objects in Abbe collections. WRC was formed in 1993 by the four tribes/five federally recognized tribal governments in Maine to jointly address NAGPRA compliance in Maine and to serve as their consultation body for the NAGPRA process. Since initial consultation with WRC, Abbe has received new collections that may contain unassociated funerary objects.  Input from our Native Advisory Council, Wabanaki trustees, and other Wabanaki and Indigenous stakeholders led us to the recognition that while Abbe had met the letter of the law in NAGPRA, if we were to truly pursue a decolonizing museum practice, we needed to approach the spirit of NAGPRA within a fully collaborative framework. Working with collections assistant, Frances Soctomah, this consultation is:
    • Identifying unassociated funerary objects and determine cultural affiliation for items in the Recipient’s initial NAGPRA summary as well as collections received after the initial summary was completed
    • Conducting two on-site consultation visits with members of the Wabanaki Repatriation Committee
    • Conducting background research and prepare documentation both pre- and post-consultation
    • Providing any additional information and/or support to the Wabanaki Repatriation Committee as they develop repatriation requests
  • The Friends of the Collection fund was created in 2011 with a generous gift from an anonymous donor. This was a timely donation as the Diane Kopec fund was created as a sinking fund and it was getting low. The Abbe traditionally makes purchases for the collection at the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) markets and will occasionally participate in auctions. Our goal is to keep $10,000 in the fund each year, made possible through targeted fundraising initiatives. We plan to launch this in 2019.

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. – Article 31, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2008


When this goal is realized, the Abbe collections of Wabanaki material culture will be growing and will be visible and accessible to a much broader audience. Wabanaki curators will offer enriched interpretive content for the collections catalog and will be empowered in collections decisions.


〈 C: Collaborative Archaeological ResearchE: Strategic Alliances to Achieve Mission