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Who Makes History? How People, Museums & Archaeology Can Tell the Full Story

This exhibition in the Museum’s second-floor galleries explores the Brick Store Museum’s own collecting history and how museums can change with the help of two local archaeology projects now underway to help expand our community’s history.

The concept of American museums held roots in European precedent: collecting objects worthy of study by the elite class who could afford to spend time exploring their world. Showing off collected items fueled public fervor for museums. This means that museums developed through a colonial mindset; a perspective of the majority community (mostly of European descent) that often ignored or misunderstood the stories of Black and Indigenous peoples when creating a national  “origin story.”  In the first gallery visitors will encounter typical donations to the Brick Store Museum in its first years of existence (1936 onward).  Real newspaper clippings from the time show Museum announcements of what was donated, who it came from, and sometimes, why it was important to collect.

On view in the adjoining gallery are artifacts uncovered through two archaeology projects, one uncovering the history of the indigenous people in the area and the other at the site of Kennebunk’s historic formerly enslaved people’s community (c. 1785-1830), a  significant archaeological resource because it is one of a very few known to exist in Maine. What makes it particularly unique is its early time period, which immediately followed emancipation.  The narrative that can be told from careful archaeological investigation is of extreme importance in helping create a more complete history of the region.

As we begin our journey of decolonization in our exhibits and programs, this means we are opening up the historical narrative and museum work to community members who can help make this Museum, and the stories held within it, stronger and more expansive.