Skip to main content
Maine Historical Society




Admission to gallery: Free for MHS members. Non-members: Adults - $10; Children (age 6-17) $5; age 5 and under, Free.

All exhibitions are located at 489 Congress Street in Portland unless otherwise noted.
Hours and Directions

See current visitation information.

Buy Tickets link

NORTHERN THREADS: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society

Part I: Clothing circa 1780–1889 : March 16–July 30, 2022
Part II: Clothing circa 1890–1980 : August 12–December 31, 2022

MHS main gallery at 489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine

Northern Threads exhibit logo

Experience Maine history through fashion in a landmark two-part exhibition NORTHERN THREADS: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society. Organized by themed vignettes, Northern Threads shares stories about Maine people, while exploring how the clothing they wore reveals social, economic, and environmental histories. This re-examination of MHS' permanent collection is an opportunity to consider the relevance of historic clothing in museums, the ebb and flow of fashion styles, and the complexities of diverse representation spanning 200 years of collecting.

There exists a broader myth that the people in Maine historically did not have access to, or care about fashion. As evidence to the contrary, Northern Threads aims to dispel this myth through two installations. The first (March–July 2022) includes garments, military uniforms, and accessories from circa 1780 through 1889. The second installation (August–December 2022) includes selections from 1890 through 1980. A companion exhibition in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House featuring family clothing is schedule for the summer season. Stay tuned!

Buy Tickets link

If you can't visit our gallery, or want to re-visit the exhibition after you've viewed it in person, you can:

NORTHERN THREADS is made possible by 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, Institute ofÆ’ 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, and Down East Magazine (Media Sponsor)

Maine Historical Society in Pictures: Exploring Our First 200 Years

March 16–May 21, 2022
Shettleworth Lecture Hall.

Maine Historical Society in Pictures exhibit logo

Two years after separating from Massachusetts, Maine leaders—many who were part of the push for statehood—also separated from Massachusetts Historical Society, creating the Maine Historical Society in 1822. The legislation signed on February 5, 1822 positioned MHS as the third-oldest state dedicated historical organization in the nation.

On February 5, 2022, Maine Historical Society will mark our 200th year with the exhibition, Maine Historical Society in Pictures. The exhibition features images of MHS's five locations over the institution's two centuries, alongside images of leaders who have steered our organization through pivotal times.

View the online version of Maine Historical Society in Pictures.

Representing every particular: John Martin's 19th century fashion illustrations

March 16–August 6, 2022
Showcase Gallery.

Representing every particular: John Martin's 19th century fashion illustrations graphic

Fashion was one of accountant and shop keeper John Martin's (1823-1904) many interests. Martin, from Bangor, began what would become a 650-page journal in 1864. He intended to create a history for his family, accentuated with his "own editorials" and laced with strong opinions on fashion and society. To accompany his written descriptions, Martin illustrated portions of the text with hand drawn sketches.

Martin compiled four scrapbooks in addition to his journal, reflecting on events and people from the 1820s to the 1890s, a time period concurrent with the rise of Maine's lumber industry. Bangor's status as the world's largest lumber shipping port led to an era of extreme wealth. Access to international trade goods in Bangor's harbor added to the city's fashion consciousness.

In this exhibition, John Martin's drawings are paired with images of clothing in the MHS collections to demonstrate how Martin's art imitated life. Several of the garments appear in Northern Threads: Two Centuries of Dress at Maine Historical Society exhibited in the MHS main gallery.

Martin's journal and scrapbooks are available in their entirety on Maine Memory Network:

Buy Tickets link

COMING SOON: Cosmopolitan Stylings of Mildred and Madeleine Burrage

May 25–September 24, 2022
Shettleworth Lecture Hall.

Cosmopolitan stylings exhibit logo

Sisters Mildred Giddings Burrage (1890-1983) and Madeleine Burrage (1891-1976) were renowned artists and world travelers. Mildred's experiences studying painting in Paris and Italy, and the sisters' trips to Mexico and Guatemala inspired their artwork and shared passions for cosmopolitan and stylish attire.

This exhibition features original drawings from Parisian fashion houses dating from 1928 to 1936 and images of Madeleine's gemstone jewelry and Mildred's artwork accompany intimate family photographs.

View the online version of Cosmopolitan Stylings of Mildred and Medeleine Burrage.