To the Maine Maritime Museum Community:
We have watched the nationwide and worldwide protests against racism and other inequities of the past few weeks with anger, anguish, and empathy. The ensuing national debates have challenged us to consider how an institution such as ours can contribute to the dialogue about equity, inclusion, and justice, particularly by raising awareness of how Maine’s maritime enterprise has shaped and been shaped by issues of race, ethnicity, and gender.
As a hallmark of Maine’s maritime history is action, we are taking this opportunity to reflect on changes we can make to the Museum’s programs. As citizens, educators, and historians, it is incumbent upon us to involve and listen to all of Maine’s communities in meaningful ways. We must accurately reflect the cultural, economic, and political context of the people and periods we study and interpret. As we continue this core work, we will seek insight into how past actions and norms may have contributed to the problems of inequality and exclusion that persist today.
With the active support of the Board of Trustees and other stakeholders, we are proud to salute the leadership our staff have shown in developing new ways to educate our audience about issues of equality and diversity in a maritime context. These include:
• Establishing a program for aspiring historians and museum professionals of color interested in Maine maritime history, American studies, museum studies, or education.
• Developing a birchbark canoe-building program working with experts from the Wabanaki community: Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, and Maliseet.
• Normalizing the representation of blacks, indigenous people, people of color, and women as a core principle of our collection development, research, exhibitions, and education.
• Engaging with new immigrant communities to develop cross-cultural programming about maritime traditions worldwide.
• Emphasizing the critical role that all members of shipbuilding families—men and women—played in the economic, social, cultural and political life of their community, as in the new Donnell Family Forum and upcoming exhibit Interwoven: Threads of Power in the Domestic Sphere.
• Increasing economic accessibility by expanding opportunities for free admission to museum exhibits and programs.
• Securing funds from individuals and foundations to support these efforts.
Several of these projects were in the works prior to the current unrest. We look forward to sharing our progress on these and other fronts in the months and years ahead. As always, we welcome your input as we work to develop a more inclusive and responsive museum.
Amy Lent, Executive Director