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MMM Part of Effort to Keep Historic Banners in Maine

May 3, 2011

Seventeen early 19th century banners, originally commissioned by the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association, will remain in Maine and will be available for public viewing thanks to the effort of a number of Maine museums, historical organizations and supporters.

Last week, a consortium of sixteen organizations including Maine Maritime Museum, joined forces to preserve intact the collection of rare hand-painted linen banners, which are now extremely fragile due to their age.

The Maine Charitable Mechanic Association, located in downtown Portland, created the series of banners in the early 1800s to promote skilled trades. The banners were designed to be attached to wooden arms for display or for carrying in parades. The association decided to sell the banners for financial reasons and elected to put them up for public auction. Before the sale, the auction house estimated the collection's value at $100,000 to $200,000. The consortium of Maine museums, historical organizations and supporters purchased the entire collection for $125,350.

The banners will be permanently housed at the Maine Historical Society in Portland, but consortium members are working on a plan to display them at the various participating museums beginning later this year.

"Maine's leading cultural organizations were able to succeed in saving these banners by working together in a spirit of shared mission and purpose, and I'm grateful to the institution's trustees and the donors involved for supporting this collaboration," said Amy Lent, executive director of Maine Maritime Museum.

In addition to Maine Maritime Museum, the organizations working together to keep the banners in the state with public accessibility are Maine Historical Society, Portland Museum of Art, Maine State Museum, the Maine State Historian, Bates College Museum of Art, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and Colby College Museum of Art.  Corporate and individual support was provided by James Julia, L.L. Bean, Diana and Linda Bean, Chris Livesay, Elsie Viles, Libra Foundation, and an anonymous Boston foundation.

"The focus, hard work, and unselfish generosity of the cooperating museums was unprecedented in my experience," said Richard D'Abate, executive director of the Maine Historical Society. "I think we owe that to our common recognition that the banners were one of the state's true artistic and historical treasures. They had to be saved."

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Maine Maritime Museum

243 Washington Street
Bath, Maine 04530