March 13, 2020-Jan. 30, 2021

Maine Historical Society presents ‘State of Mind: Becoming Maine’

Major Bicentennial exhibition explores Maine’s journey to statehood through descendant communities
Sat, 02/15/2020 - 8:45am

Portland, Maine: March 15, 2020 marks the 200th anniversary of Maine separating from Massachusetts to become the 23rd state in the Union. Maine Historical Society (MHS) recognized that it would be impossible to consider Maine’s Bicentennial without first acknowledging the 13,000 years of Wabanaki history in this region. It planned two complementary and consecutive exhibits, starting with Holding up the Sky: Wabanaki People, Culture, History & Art which ran from April 12, 2019 to Feb. 1, 2020.

On March 13, 2020 – two days before the official birthday of Maine’s Statehood -- MHS will open its second major Bicentennial exhibition, “State of Mind: Becoming Maine,” in its Portland gallery on 489 Congress Street.

State of Mind: Becoming Maine will analyze Maine's separation from Massachusetts, the Missouri Compromise, and how people and communities perceived and experienced Statehood. It will explore the perspectives of four communities: the Wabanaki (the first people of Maine) and the earliest settlers —Acadien-French, Black, and English-speaking peoples. Working with collaborators — including James Francis, Bob Greene, Deborah Cummings Khadroui, Lise Pelletier, Darren Ranco and Donald Soctomah — the exhibition is grounded in these questions:

·       What was Maine before 1820?

·       How and why did it separate from Massachusetts?

·       How did the Missouri Compromise put Maine at the center of the slavery debate?

·       How has Maine been shaped by thousands of years of history?

·       How did Statehood affect existing communities?

Tilly Laskey, MHS Curator points out, “As the public has come to expect from Maine Historical Society, State of Mind features our outstanding collection of documents, maps, and correspondence about Statehood and the Missouri Compromise. There will be lots of surprises, too, including contemporary artwork by Decontie & Brown, James Francis, Daniel Minter, and Thérèse L. Provenzano. Some really fun items include a grosse tête (giant head) used in Acadien tintamarre parades, and a diorama of an 1820 parlor.“

MHS Executive Director Steve Bromage adds, “Holding Up the Sky laid the groundwork for State of Mind to help fundamentally reframe how many are thinking about the Bicentennial. The Bicentennial is an opportunity to explore how history has shaped Maine, and helps us understand the present, and envision the future. This year, as MHS turns to Statehood, we are hosting wonderful offerings for everyone.”

Additional MHS program offerings include:

~ A new Bicentennial Education Initiative on Maine Memory Network ( features a platform developed with the Maine Bicentennial Commission for teachers to share lesson plans with students across the state;

~ Scholarly Forums that discuss Statehood, the Imperial Crisis, and land use, and free Public Programs on topical issues;

~ The popular May 9 Magical History Tour will feature Bicentennial-related sites in Greater Portland;

~ Republication of Ronald Banks' book Maine Becomes a State about the Statehood movement;

~ Publication of a new book, Up for Grabs, about Maine's Public Reserved Lands by Thomas Urquhart. Co-published with Down East;

~ Maine Memory Network offers vast resources for the public to learn about Statehood and all aspects of Maine  history.

State of Mind: Becoming Maine opens Friday, March 13 at the Maine Historical Society museum gallery on 489 Congress Street in Portland.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday till April 30; then starting May 1, Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays noon-5 p.m. Admission is free to MHS members; $8 adults; discounts for seniors, children and AAA members.  

Special one-on-one Curator Tours occur one Wednesday a month on March 18, April 15, May 20 and June 17 from noon to 1 p.m.

MHS preserves and shares the story of Maine to enrich contemporary life.