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June 7, 2007


The University of Maine at Fort Kent's Acadian Archives will host an opening of its new exhibit, Woven in Wood: Brown Ash Basketry of the Northeast, on Friday, June 15, 2007, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Archive's Gallery on the UMFK campus.

The exhibit opening is free and the public is welcome.

Woven in Wood is a multi-media exhibit which explores the tradition of split ash basket making in the St. John Valley and among the Wabanaki tribes of the northeast. The exhibit is itself a weaving of the knowledge, expertise, and craftsmanship of a number of individuals.

The core of the exhibit is a collection of six, antique split ash Wabanaki baskets given to Dr. Mariella Squire, a Chippewa/Métis and Anthropology professor at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Dr. Squire provided information about these baskets and the history of Wabanaki basket-making. "According to Wabanaki mythology," reports Dr. Squire, "The brown ash tree is the mother tree of our culture. By continuing to create ash splint baskets and other art, Wabanaki artisans and craftspeople keep alive our ancient culture of the American northeast."

The art of basket making is alive and well in the St. John Valley, thanks to makers like Brian Theriault of Eagle Lake, and his parents, Edmond and Joanne. Brian Theriault kindly loaned the Archives tools of the trade as well as examples of his family's baskets and the materials used to make them. Danielle Leblanc of Fort Kent also loaned a collection of beautiful Wabanki sweet grass, ash, and birch bark crafts.

To understand and appreciate the botany of basket making, the UMFK Forestry Department and Acadian Archives staff, with help from Web Services administrator, Steve Michaud, produced posters about brown ash and sweet grass.

Archives Director Lisa Ornstein worked with fellow folklorist, Kathleen Mundell, and the Maine Indian Basketmaker Alliance, both of whom kindly made available Kathleen's wonderful photograph exhibit documenting contemporary Maine Wabanaki basket makers.

Lori Levesque of Fort Kent graciously made available a complete set of Pow-Wow regalia which is on display on the mannequin along with information by Levesque about the regalia.

Archives director, Lisa Ornstein, and work study student, Jenna Beaulieu, worked together to create the signage and to mount the exhibit pieces on display.

The result is Woven in Wood, a woven-together portrait of an ancient and on-going tradition, from the mother tree to the basket; from the myth to the people to the creation--woven in wood.

Woven in Wood will be on display at the Archives through Tuesday, July 10. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and by appointment.