Maine Historical Society



Current Exhibitions

Admission to gallery: Adults - $8.00; Students with ID, Seniors & AAA members - $7.00; Children 6-17: $3; 5 and under, free
Free for MHS members.

Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland

June 27, 2014 - present

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Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland uses the Wadsworth-Longfellow House as a prism to explore how Portland has grown and changed over more than 230 years. When Peleg Wadsworth built the House on Back Street in 1785, it was on the rural outskirts of Portland. By the early 1800s, the House was at the center of a bustling, modern New England city. Since then, Portland has boomed, burned, boomed again, busted, and reemerged as a vibrant, forward-looking city. Through it all, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House has been a constant, and witness to the life of an emerging community.

The exhibition will feature family belongings that tell the personal and yet universal story of how people live in their homes—including ways of heating, cooking, and plumbing—and how those functions evolved within Portland. The stories of the Wadsworth and Longfellow families and an ever-changing cast of neighbors on their block—families, hotels, businesses, tenements, etc.—help explain how Portland has become the beloved, livable city we know today.

With gratitude to our sponsors:

Your Home, Past & Present
Participate in our exhibition and share your images with us!

We are interested in seeing what your home looked like in the past and how it appears today. Submit your images and we'll install them in our exhibition Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland and share them online. We welcome images from all towns and all states. Your childhood home, the residences of friends and family members, or intriguing houses in your area are all acceptable.

Details and submission instructions are on on our blog.


Early Maine Photography, 1840-1870

November-April: Wednesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm
MHS Brown Library

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Within the short span of a quarter century, photography became an integral part of life in Maine. Between 1840 and 1870, photography in its various forms recorded the appearance of individual Mainers as well as Maine itself. A host of pioneer photographers left us a precious visual legacy of Maine people and places which so enriches our understanding of the state's past. To celebrate the technological and artistic achievement of photography, and to better understand its impact on Maine, Maine Historical Society (MHS) is opening the Early Maine Photography, 1840-1870 exhibition on September 25.

All images featured in Early Maine Photography are of Maine subjects or were made by Maine photographers between 1840 and 1870. The exhibition will explore the meaning of the images, and delve into the notion of how early photographs provide the background and context for the culture we live in today.

Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Maine's State Historian and an authority on Maine photography, is curator of this exhibition, which is part of the Maine Photo Project – a statewide collaboration among museums, historical societies, photographers, and collectors that is bringing Maine's photographic heritage to national attention. Throughout 2015, more than 30 organizations will offer exhibitions and public programs exploring the best of Maine photography – from early documentary images to contemporary art forms. MHS holds the largest and most comprehensive collection of the earliest images of Maine, and its exhibition will provide a historic framework for the overall Maine Photo Project activities.

The Exhibition is open to the public through January 16, 2016 during regular library hours, and is included in regular museum admission.

Baskets from the Dawnland: Weaving the past and future together

August 14 - November 28, 2015
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. Lecture Hall

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Our exhibition--Baskets from the Dawnland: Weaving the past and future together--explores the rich history of the baskets made by Wabanaki people, a tradition that has thrived for thousands of years. Highlights include historical baskets from the MHS collection as well as modern examples by artists from all four Wabanaki nations. The exhibition features works by award-winning basket artists such as Theresa Secord, Jeremy Frey, Sarah Sockbeson, George Neptune and Clara Neptune Keezer.

The opening reception on Friday, August 14 features an evening of Native American stories and poetry. Six contributors to Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England will share their work following an introduction by the anthology's editor, Siobhan Senier.

See related programming


Imbued with Hues

December 4, 2015 - February 27, 2016
Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. Lecture Hall

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Maine has always been a colorful place - from our autumnal foliage to our rich green fields and crisp blue sky, people have always enjoyed Maine in full color. But the black and white technology of our historical photographs do not capture that color, often leaving us with an impression of the past as distant and different. Portland artist Patty Allison brings historical images to life by colorizing them, showing the Maine of our past in the full color in which it was originally experienced.

For the exhibition Imbued with Hues, Patty Allison colorized select images from the Maine Historical Society collection. Never before seen in full color, these images document Maine's places and its people. Patty's attention to historical accuracy and interest in images that demonstrate typical daily activity provide us with a rich perspective of life in Maine.

Patty's colorized images appearing in this exhibition are available for sale as prints through the Maine Historical Society store.

This exhibiton is sponsored by Malone Commercial Brokers.