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September 7, 2018

Abbe Museum receives $169K grant to ‘decolonize’ its practices

Courtesy / The Abbe Museum
Courtesy / The Abbe Museum
Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko has been president and CEO of the Abbe Museum since 2009. The Bar Harbor museum has received a $169,070 grant to 'decolonize' its practices.

The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor has received a $169,070 Museums for America grant to continue "decolonizing" its practices in documenting and interpreting Native American history and experience.

As Maine's first and only Smithsonian affiliate, the Abbe Museum's mission is to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations at its two locations: in downtown Bar Harbor and inside Acadia National Park at Sieur de Monts Spring. The museum works closely with the Wabanaki people to share their stories, history and culture and has a collection of over 70,000 archaeological, historic and contemporary objects.

It also holds the world's largest and best-documented collection of Maine Native American basketry.

Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, who has been president and CEO of the Abbe Museum since 2009, has been co-leading the museum's decolonization initiative, which includes developing policies and protocols to ensure collaboration and collaboration with Maine's Wabanaki people.

In a recorded TEDxDirigo talk in Portland delivered on Nov. 5, 2016, Catlin-Legutko explained the urgency behind the museum's efforts to decolonize its practices and displays.

""How does the work I do cause another person's pain and anguish?" she wrote in a blog posting accompanying the link to her TEDxDirigo talk on the museum's web page. "How dare I ignore this pain?"

In a news release announcing the grant awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Catlin-Legutko said the grant will enable the museum to fulfill two goals:

  • Continue working closely with the Wabanaki peoples of Maine to share their stories, history, and culture with a broader audience
  • Share lessons learned with peer museums that also work with indigenous peoples.

"We know that we have a great deal to learn," she said in the news release. "This project will help us find our blind spots and help us continue to build community spaces that are inclusive and meaningful to Wabanaki people."

How the grant will be used

The Institute of Museum and Library Services stated that it received 472 applications this for Museums for America grants. From that group, it selected 133 projects that will be funded with a total of $19.9 million in grants. Institutions receiving the awards are matching them with $27.7 million in non-federal funds.

The institute stated that in addition to decolonizing its practices, the Abbe Museum plans to use its grant to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Develop the Museum Decolonization Institute to share its process and experiences with others.
  • Establish a methodology and practice group of museum professionals and expert advisors, cultural anthropologist, decolonization practitioners and others to inform and guide the project.
  • Produce webinars and provide ongoing curriculum resources to workshop participants.

"The project will support the museum's position as a teaching and inquiry-focused institution for decolonizing public approaches to documenting and interpreting Native American history and experience," the Institute of Museum and Library Services stated in the news release.

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