AUGUSTA — The Maine State Museum will open its Maine bicentennial exhibition, “Regional Struggle – National Story: Maine’s Path to Statehood” on Saturday, March 14, in the Cultural Building, 230 State St.

The museum will be open free of charge from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day. In a special commemoration of Maine Statehood Day on Sunday, March 15, museum admission also will be open free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to a news release from the museum.

First Maine Militia Uniform, probably worn by James C. Spaulding, Buckfield, 1820-1840. Spaulding turned 19 when the new state of Maine’s first militia was organized in March 1821. The 1821 “Act to Organize…the Militia of the State of Maine” required that each soldier pay for his own uniform. The color and style were determined by the officer commanding the unit. Courtesy Maine State Museum

“Our new exhibition provides a remarkable look at the events and people, woven together over centuries, that led to Maine’s independent statehood. Through artifacts and documents, the exhibition reveals the world of Maine’s Wabanaki people before and after Europeans came to Maine’s shores,” notes Museum Director Bernard Fishman. “The exhibition uncovers conflicts between elite landowners and farmers in the late 1700s. It also shows how the War of 1812, along with political and economic disagreements with Massachusetts, set the stage for debates over Maine’s separation. The exhibition takes a fascinating look at Maine’s part in the slave trade and shows the dilemmas faced by Maine people who, because of the Missouri Compromise, were forced to choose between independent statehood and the expansion of slavery in the United States,” according to the release.

“Through the museum’s own collections, as well as pieces on loan, we are featuring many objects never or rarely seen by the public,” according to Angela Goebel-Bain, the exhibition’s curator. “These include stunning portraits of Maine’s first governor and his wife by famed artist Gilbert Stuart, an early frock coat worn by a Maine farmer, the oldest known ballot box used in Maine, a colorful uniform worn by a soldier in the new state of Maine’s first militia, a watercolor showing Maine’s first State House in Portland, and an important 1815 Moses Greenleaf map with notations from an 1820 expedition into Maine’s northland,” according to the release.

“Regional Struggle – National Story: Maine’s Path to Statehood” has been funded in part by a grant from the Maine Bicentennial Commission. The exhibition will be on view at the museum through March 2021. Related educational materials for use by teachers will also be available on the museum’s website by the end of the month, and several museum-sponsored or co-sponsored special events will take place throughout the bicentennial year.

For more information, visit mainestatemuseum.org.

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