Patricia Erikson interviewed the new Chief Curator at the Maine Historical Society -- Kate McBrien -- about her transition from the Maine State Museum in Augusta to her position in Portland. Having worked closely with Kate on the Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives exhibit project, Patricia was excited to see that Kate would share her expertise to the Maine Historical Society.
Patricia: What made you decide to transition from the Maine State Museum to the Maine Historical Society?
Kate: I was very fortunate to spend seven wonderful years at the Maine State Museum. Its a great organization with a fabulous collection. But I have long been a fan of the Maine Historical Society and had dreamed of working there for years. High level curatorial positions rarely become available in Maine, so when the Chief Curator position was created, I jumped at the chance. MHS is such a dynamic organization and a leader in the state's museum field. I wanted to be a part of that.
Patricia: What project at the Maine State Museum are you the most proud of and why?
Kate: The Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives exhibit was by far the highlight of my career at the Maine State Museum. It was such an important program for the entire state. I am constantly awed by the fact that I was given the opportunity to truly make an impact on the state of Maine and to heal old wounds. Working with amazing scholars, archaeologists, and educators (such as you!) made the exhibit the success that it was. Best of all, I got know so many of the amazing descendants of the Malaga Island community with whom I continue to stay in touch. They are my extended family.
|Display of artifacts in Malaga Island exhibit|
Patricia: Is there something in particular at MHS that you are looking forward to tackling?
Kate: The incredibly talented people at MHS have so many wonderful ideas and the enthusiasm to try new things, so I know I will never be bored! I'm looking forward to building on the example of the highly successful Maine Memory Network to help MHS reach out to more communities and hopefully partner with them on future exhibits and museum programs.
Patricia: How might the general public notice a change at MHS once you have a chance to get going; is there programmatic change afoot?
Kate: I've just started my first month at MHS so I'm currently busy trying to get up to speed and learn everything that I possibly can about the organization. Hopefully, once I am more settled, the public will see a very active museum program with dynamic, changing exhibits. I also want to bring the public voice into museum exhibits, more so than museums have traditionally allowed in the past. I want to hear from anyone and everyone about what they would like to see in the MHS museum, what they want to learn about, and what of their own history they might be able to share. Maine Historical Society exists for the people of Maine, so I want them to be a part of the organization.
If you would like to hear more about Kate McBrien's approach to "bringing voices into museums," then listen to her interview with Irwin Gratz on MBPN's Morning Edition: http://news.mpbn.net/post/
passion-past-kate-mcbrien- maine-historical-societys-new- curator. You may visit the Maine Historical Society's museum gallery, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, Archives, or garden at 489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine.
Written by cultural anthropologist Patricia Erikson, Heritage in Maine highlights "things to do in Maine" with living connections to Maine history.