Current Exhibition at Bar Harbor's Abbe Museum
On a recent journey by sea to Maine and through the Canadian Maritimes, three visits to two museums and a reenacted venue stood out as examples of just how different such institutions can be. Two were reached by sea, one by land (via a rental car), and were all worth a side trip, as the Michelin Guide might put it.
Technically, the first one chronologically isn’t part of the Canadian Maritimes, but rather a doorway to them, namely in the town of Bar Harbor, Maine. It’s an easily overlooked gem, given all there is to do in the area (notably, of course, Acadia National Park), but a rewarding one nonetheless. It’s the Abbe Museum in downtown Bar Harbor. (It has a small branch in the park grounds as well, but that was not open at the time of this visit). It has a truly unique focus on the Native American nations of the area we now know as the State of Maine, consisting of the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy, collectively referred to as the Waponahki or “People of the Dawnland” displayed with emphases on community outreach and involvement as well as archeological research. One of the most satisfying aspects of this museum is its emphasis on student art. It also concentrates, in its temporary exhibits (such as the current “Twisted Path: Questions of Balance”, concerned with the environment) on important social issues. It’s a valuable adjunct to a visit to an area so greatly appreciated for its natural splendor but often neglected with respect to its historical importance. Easily reached by car or by sea, it’s a very worthwhile stop.
The next highlight, reached by car from Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, is the recreated venue of “Anne of Green Gables”, based on the series of novels made so universally popular by author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Part of Parks Canada, this is the Cavendish National Historic Site, officially named Green Gables Heritage Place. While Anne herself is of course a fictional character, the farm formerly owned by relatives of Montgomery was the setting for exteriors filmed for the phenomenally successful films based on her several works. While interior filming was produced in sound stages in Ontario, Canada, the outdoor scenes that depicted Anne’s musings about the Haunted Wood Trail, Lovers Lane, and Balsam Hollow Trail, as well as the daily workings of the farm itself, were filmed on this site. It was clearly a magical experience for many of the tourists thronging the complex, especially visitors from Japan, where the series (both in written form as well as on film) gained a huge following. The Green Gables House has been faithfully furnished to recreate the film sets, and guided tours are offered in season. For anyone who’s a fan of Anne, it’s a must-see destination.
So is the last in this threesome of attractions, easily reached by sea, namely the new Museum of Civilization in Quebec City. Although a bit controversial architecturally, this museum is filled with fascinating examples of Canadian history, including a 1720 shallop that was unearthed when excavating for the building itself. The site is also used for temporary exhibits such as the current one on Greek statuary on loan from Berlin, beautifully displayed and dramatically lit. With its easily accessible location in the lower level of the city, it has proven to be a successful addition to the other museums in Quebec City.
These are just three examples of what can be enjoyed on a cultural level while travelers take in the dramatic visual splendors of Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, the rolling green hills of Prince Edward Island, and the majestic heights of Quebec City. Add in a lobster roll, some mussels, and an authentic French crepe, and you have the makings of a great voyage indeed…followed most likely by a month of a South Beach Diet regimen.