Northern Threads Exhibition Opens Eagerly Awaited Part II

Following its successful and well-received Part I, NORTHERN THREADS: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society opens Part II on Friday, August 12, 2022.

From flapper dresses to leisure suits, Maine Historical Society (MHS) presents clothing, vintage wear and fascinating stories of Maine people spanning late 19th and 20th centuries (1890 to 1980.) All-new vignettes include Turn-of-the-Century; Designer fashions; the Maine Outdoors; Women at Work and a World at War; Chemistry and Fashion; Bridal and Formalwear; and Silhouettes in Sequence.

New and returning visitors will encounter even more beautifully dressed mannequins, accessories and artifacts beyond those in Part I (which focused on 1790-1889 clothing). Trends, fibers, themes, and narratives will contextualize garments into distinct facets of 19th and 20th century Maine and American history. Many visitors will relive memories of parents, grandparents, high school, weddings and proms as they view a progression of styles that were once all the rage. Younger gallery guests attracted to retro and vintage clothing will find inspiration in the variety of surprising patterns, colors, and funky fashions.

Central to MHS’ 200th anniversary, NORTHERN THREADS considers how the clothing Maine people have worn reveals the social, economic, and environmental history of our state. For example, the exhibition explores fabric production and accessibility, women’s independence, and the devastating impact of the fur industry.

Virtual Access: Illuminating history though never-before-exhibited items from MHS’ permanent collection, NORTHERN THREADS also opens unprecedented online public access through the Maine Memory Network. A 3-D virtual tour and detailed digital exhibit (online August 31) increase accessibility 24/7 for those unable to visit the gallery in person, or for guests seeking to explore the MHS Historic Clothing, Costume and Dress Collection portal.

Public Programs: Most public programs are free and virtual, such as Black Fashion History in Maine: Examining the Clothing in Nineteenth-Century Photographs with Karin J. Bohleke on August 9.

Companion Exhibits: The following in-person mini-exhibits rotate within the MHS galleries. Check for these exhibition dates, NORTHERN THREADS programming, and for updates on MHS’ 200th anniversary activities and events.

  • Cosmopolitan Stylings of Mildred and Madeleine Burrage;
  • Representing every particular: John Martin’s 19th century fashion illustrations;
  • Fashion for the People: Maine Graphic Tees;
  • Wadsworth-Longfellow family historic clothing, 1780-1825 on view in the popular Wadsworth-Longfellow House during the peak summer season; and
  • Chansonetta Stanley Emmons: Staging the Past

How to see NORTHERN THREADS: Visit for details on tickets and admission to the MHS gallery on 489 Congress Street in Portland. Access for MHS members is free; general admission adults $10; children (6-17) $5, and under 6, free. Become a member before you book!

Northern Threads is made possible by dedicated staff, contributors, partners, and donors, including:

BHA Foundation Fund

Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust

Elsie A. Brown Fund, Inc.

The Coby Foundation for Textiles, Ltd.

The Davis Family Foundation

Down East Magazine (Media Sponsor)

Institute of Museum & Library Services

William Sloane Jelin Foundation

The Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust

Karen and Kirk Pelletier

Deborah S. Reed

The Phineas W. Sprague Memorial Foundation

Doris S. Stockly


Maine Historical Society Celebrates 200 Years

Celebrate with us! Visit for updated events and news.

It’s not every day an organization reaches its 200th birthday, let alone is entering its third century of service to the people of Maine. Yet, Maine Historical Society (MHS) is doing just that! On February 5, 1822, MHS was established as the third state historical society in the United States – two years after Maine became a state. Its founders consisted of civic leaders from across Maine, including first Governor William King and others who also spearheaded separation from Massachusetts.

Key to gaining Maine statehood in 1822, William King of Bath was Maine’s first governor. James Phinney Baxter, six-term mayor of Portland, was president of MHS from 1890-1921.

MHS’ mission is to preserve and share Maine’s story. Our vast collections provide critical insights into the political, socio-economic, and environmental dynamics of Maine. They include European settlement, interactions with Indigenous peoples, Maine’s role in the slave economy, land use, and items from early families, businesses, and governmental leaders. Whereas for much of its early life MHS could be perceived as an exclusionary and colonial-focused organization, over time, and especially since the 1960s, the world and MHS have markedly changed.

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Keith’s Theater, Congress Street, Portland, ca. 1908. Today, the MHS Library is next to the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, boyhood home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Today, MHS is a major and vibrant thought leader in Maine history. In recent years, we have focused on building a modern organization that nimbly addresses ever-changing community needs. A main emphasis has been on developing programming and content that explores how history shapes Maine today, centering on the needs, interests, and passions of contemporary Mainers.

Our collaborative exhibitions and programs strive to recognize, study, recover, and amplify diverse voices and experiences of working people, Indigenous Nations, Black communities, ethnic minorities, women, and many others whose perspectives and histories had largely been ignored. Recent exhibits – 400 Years of New Mainers; Making Paper, Making Maine; Holding Up the Sky: Wabanaki People, Culture, History & Art; State of Mind: Becoming Maine; and Begin Again: reckoning with intolerance in Maine – provided the community with context, information, and a place to explore crucial contemporary issues.

Located in Portland’s cultural arts district, MHS is comprised of our Museum Gallery, Brown Research Library, Museum Store, world-famous Wadsworth-Longfellow House, and award-winning digital history platform, Maine Memory Network. Rooted in research, scholarship, and collections, we continually expand greater access to Maine history resources for all Maine people through these pathways.


Central to our 200th birthday is the two-part Northern Threads: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society. This beautiful, two-part exhibition in our main gallery brings historic clothing to life, illustrates key themes in Maine history, and explores the impact of fashion on Maine’s society, economy, and environment.

  • May 5: Maine History Maker Award: Honors civic leaders Severin Beliveau and Harold Pachios. This in-person event at USM’s Hannaford Hall also celebrates the profound contribution of immigrant communities to Maine’s special sense of place.

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED to attend ANY exhibitions, programs, or events, including free Zoom programs. Please visit for details on exhibit admission fees, timed-ticketing, scheduling your gallery visit, and to check program updates. Exhibit access for MHS members is free; non-member adults $10; children (6-17) $5, and under 6, free. Join before you schedule your visit!

Exhibition: The Advent of Green Acre, A Bahá’í Center of Learning

Maine Memory Network is Maine’s online digital museum, administered by the Maine Historical Society with over 270 Contributing Partner institutions. One of the first Maine Memory Network Contributing Partners, The Eliot Bahá’í Archives has 57 items and 1 exhibit featured online.

The Advent of Green Acre, A Bahá’í Center of Learning: Selections from the Eliot Bahá’í Archives is a new MHS exhibition from July 7 to October 2, 2021. Featured in the Shettleworth Gallery, the onsite exhibit highlights these collections that preserve the fascinating history relating to Green Acre, which continues operating today in Eliot, Maine.

Swami Ramanathan, Myron Phelps and Countess Canavarro at Green Acre, circa 1900. Collections of the Eliot Bahá’í Archives, MMN #16593.

In 1894, Sarah Jane Farmer established the Green Acre conferences. Lecturers discussed peace, world religions, health, freedom, and social justice topics. In a life-changing experience, she traveled to Palestine in 1900 to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, imprisoned leader of the Bahá’í Faith. She subsequently converted to the religion and infused the conferences with Bahá’í teachings, transforming Green Acre into a Bahá’í Center of Learning.

In addition to the Shettleworth Gallery installation, viewers can access an online component on Maine Memory Network. Learn more about Green Acre on their website.

Also on exhibit in the MHS main Gallery through December 31, 2021, is Begin Again: reckoning with intolerance in Maine which explores deep historical roots of contemporary social justice issues in the state.

Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 10AM – 4PM through advance ticketing. Walk-ins, via the MHS Museum Store, are subject to availability.

Cost: Free Adult/Youth MHS members, children under six; $10 per Adult non-member.