Frederic Edwin Church’s “Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp,” an oil-on-canvas from 1895, is part of “Stories of Maine” online and opening soon at the Portland Museum of Art. Photo by Luc Demers, courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

It was supposed to be one of two big shows this spring at the Portland Museum of Art and part of a much larger statewide network of exhibitions to help interpret Maine’s 200-year history of statehood. Of course, “Stories of Maine: An Incomplete History” didn’t open as planned, though it will when the museum reopens to visitors, likely sometime this summer.

For now, much like everything else, it’s online. The exhibition is a collection of stories, told through objects and the voices of Mainers closest to those objects. Diana Greenwold, curator of American art who helped coordinate the exhibition, said this show adapts pretty well online.

“To be perfectly honest, this was not anything we envisioned as a digital exhibition. This had everything to do with bringing these objects from four corners of our state to Portland,” she said. “But when the COVID crisis hit, we realized this was an opportunity, and a really exciting one, to pretty quickly pivot and figure out how to bring this rich content out to audiences in a digital way.”

The museum worked with the Maine Humanities Council and statewide partners and advisers to pick 19 stories and 19 voices to tell those stories. A 2oth story is open to nomination by everyday Mainers.

It hinges on two questions: What is the story of Maine’s history and who tells it?

Among the Mainers who offer interpretation are Seth Wescott, the Olympic snowboarding champion, who writes about the high-performance Swallowtail snowboard, made by Winterstick Snowboards in Carrabassett Valley; James Francis, Penobscot Tribal Historian, who comments on the significance of a wooden voting box, used for the first time when Maine tribal members were granted voting rights in 1955 and still in use today; and Myron Beasley, an associate professor of American studies at Bates College, who relates racial history of Malaga Island through a Daniel Minter painting.


Other objects include paintings by David Driskell and Frederic Edwin Church. There’s an oil lamp from the lighthouse at Monhegan Island and an Old Town canoe, more than a century old.

While many exhibitions that were lost to the pandemic have been lost forever or exist only online, “Stories of Maine: An Incomplete History” will exist in reality and digitally. Nearly all the objects are at the PMA and will be installed in the Palladian Gallery soon, Greenwold said.

The tribal voting box is back on tribal lands, for use in upcoming elections. It will come back to the museum after those elections, Greenwold said. Meanwhile, it will be represented by a photo that appeared in the Bangor Daily News on Sept. 13, 1955, showing the box in use for the first time.

“It’s one of those terrific moments when its absence is just as interesting as its presence,” Greenwold said.

To visit the exhibition online, go to

Painters, Glaziers and Brush Makers Banner, created by William Capen Jr. in 1841, is part of a new online exhibition of the Portland Museum of Art marking Maine’s bicentennial. Courtesy of Portland Museum of Art

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