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Abbe Museum’s online auction combines ancient Wabanaki arts and technology

BAR HARBOR, Maine – People all over the country and beyond will have a unique opportunity to bid on the works of Wabanaki artisans during a first-of-its-kind online auction that combines contemporary technology with ancient arts.

Indian Summer Online will be hosted by the Abbe Museum and will take place live on the museum’s Web site from through Nov. 19 at midnight.

The Abbe Museum specializes in the art, artisan productions, culture and history of the Wabanaki nations which include the Penobscot, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Micmac nations, whose ancestral territories comprise the coastal and large inland areas of Maine and extend across the U.S.-Canada border into Quebec and New Brunswick. The museum is located in Bar Harbor in the Acadia National Park in Maine.

Museum officials said their decision to hold the online auction came in response to suggestions from the community.

“The Abbe has a long-standing relationship with tribal artisans from the Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Penobscot Indian nations. Through 12,000 years of cultural development and refinement, the Wabanaki or People of the Dawn are producing some of the finest examples of Native American basketry, carvings and birch bark art on the market today,” museum spokesman Jason Brown, a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, said.

The online auction will promote traditional Native arts to support the Abbe, as well as Wabanaki artisans.


A barrel basket made by Gerald Neptune Jacobs, Passamaquoddy, will be part of the Abbe Museum's online auction that will run through Thursday, Nov.19 at midnight.

“There are 15 Native American artists representing the Micmac, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes of Maine and the Maritimes. There are 30 items to bid on, a selection of handcrafted basketry, carvings, birch bark art and also some beautiful Abbe Museum themed gift sets which include books, music, Abbe logo items and other unique Abbe Museum gift shop items,” Brown said.

Among the auction offerings are fancy baskets made by Sarah Sockbeson, Penobscot; Stuart Tomah, Passamaquoddy; Kim Bryant, Penobscot; Gerald Neptune Jacobs, Passamaquoddy; and Donna Sanipass, Micmac.

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David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy and Aron Griffith, Maliseet, offer birch bark artistry.

“The more of these artists’ work that we can move, the more we can purchase additional works from Native artists,” Brown said.

The museum will set a minimum bid on items since some of the artwork, especially the fancy baskets, are worth hundreds of dollars. But there will be items to suit most checkbooks. Museum officials expect prices to range from around $50 to hundreds of dollars.

Founded in 1926, the Abbe is the only museum in the world solely dedicated to Wabanaki art and culture. The museum is named after its founder, Dr. Robert Abbe, who was born in 1851 and died in 1928, the year the museum opened to the public.

Abbe was a New York physician who summered in Bar Harbor during the 1920s and collected early American Indian artifacts in the Frenchman Bay area. He persuaded others with similar collections to join him in establishing a museum that would protect the objects and display them for public education and enjoyment.

In addition to its permanent collections of more than 50,000 objects representing 10,000 years of indigenous culture and history in Maine, including the present, the Abbe offers innovative exhibitions and programs, including an archeological field program that is tuition-free to American Indians “to encourage Native people to go into archeology,” Brown said.

The museum Web site also links to a National Park Service Web site where a free a copy of “Asticou’s Island Domain: Wabanaki Peoples at Mount Desert Island 1500-2000” by Dr. Harald Prins and Bunny McBride can be downloaded. The book was commissioned by the National Park Service in cooperation with Acadia National Park, the Abbe Museum, and the Wabanaki Indian nations.

The massive two-volume, 620-page, abundantly illustrated study is based on extensive, in-depth scholarly research, thick with footnotes and a 37-page list annotated bibliography. The work offers new insights into cross-cultural relations in the contested borderlands between colonial New England and French Acadia and relays the troubling but fascinating stories of the region’s indigenous peoples, their colonial friends and foes, fishermen, fur-traders, missionaries, privateers, militias, farmers and visitors, from the time of first contact with European seafarers nearly 500 years ago, through today.

The Abbe also has a blog and is on Facebook.