Abbe Museum Awarded Almost $170,000 In Federal Grants To Aid In Decolonizing Efforts

Sep 6, 2018

The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor is receiving almost $170,000 in federal grant money to support its efforts to 'decolonize' exhibits — and to help other institutions do the same.

After almost 90 years of digging for Wabanaki artifacts and preserving such collections, the Abbe's viewpoint has shifted dramatically since it was established in 1928.

"Museums aren't great places for native people,” says Abbe Museum President and CEO Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. “They're, in fact, quite harmful.”

Catlin-Legutko says decolonization means rethinking the whole museum's point of view from collections and exhibits to mission, structure, authority and decision making. But, she says, when the Abbe decided to start the decolonizing process a couple of years ago there was little in the way of peer guidance. With the grant, they're hoping to change that.

"We can share our story, we can share our methodology for approaching this work, and then create a community of practice so folks have someone to reach out to and say 'Hey I've got this challenge. I didn't realize we had this problem in our museum. What do I need to look at? What are the pitfalls?’ And really start to create a network of practitioners making change,” Catlin-Legutko says.

The Abbe plans to establish the Museum Decolonization Institute, which Catlin-Legutko says will create assessment tools for museums to use, develop curricula, and hold educational workshops. The grant comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.