Celebrate with us! Visit www.mainehistory.org/mhs200 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.
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.
2022 DYNAMIC PROGRAM YEAR SNAPSHOT
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.
- Mar 16–Jul 30: Part I Northern Threads.
- Throughout 2022: Check often for companion historic clothing mini-exhibits that will rotate in our Showcase and Shettleworth galleries, and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.
- Mar 16–May 21: Maine Historical Society in Pictures: exploring our first 200 Years. In our Shettleworth Gallery, explore MHS’ five locations over two centuries through paintings, photographs, and stories of pivotal MHS leaders. Also online.
- Mar 16-Aug 6: Representing every particular: John Martin’s 19th century fashion illustrations. In our Showcase Gallery. Also online.
- Aug 12–Dec 31: Part II Northern Threads.
- Apr 13: Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History. Richard Thompson Ford.
- Apr 26: American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850. With Pulitzer-prize winner Alan Taylor.
- May 27: Songs of Ships and Sailors. Book Talk and Performance with Castlebay.
- 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. www.mainehistorymaker.org.
REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED to attend ANY exhibitions, programs, or events, including free Zoom programs. Please visit www.mainehistory.org 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!