Dr. Robert Abbe became interested in archaeology in the 1920s.
He decided to begin his own museum to preserve artifacts from the Mount Desert Island region. He acquired collections from archaeologists working in Maine and from interested local residents. These early artifacts include stone tools, bone tools and pottery
from the mid-coast region of Maine around Mount Desert Island.
In 1928, the same year that the museum opened, it became the
first museum in Maine to sponsor a professional archaeological excavation. Over the next six decades, Abbe archaeologists excavated sites throughout the mid-coast region. These collections include approximately 50,000 stone and bone tools, pottery and food bone collections. The collections are important because they help us understand how people lived in the past. The collections date from 6,000 years ago to the Contact Period (ca. AD 1600). The collections are also important because many of the sites are now either badly damaged or completely gone, due to coastal erosion and development.
Starting in the 1980s, the Abbe began is annual Archaeological
Field School. The field school provides an opportunity for anyone with an interest in archaeology to try their hand at excavating a site and analyzing the results. It also allows the Abbe Museum to continue our tradition of archaeological research, adding to our knowledge about the Wabanaki, changing environments, and other information preserved in the archaeological record.
The Abbe also continues to accept archaeological collections made by private collectors and from projects where archaeological excavations
were done in advance of development. This is called cultural resource management archaeology (CRM). The Abbe Museum is one of a few federally approved repositories for CRM collections in Maine. This means
that the museum's collections care policies and facility meet federal guidelines for the care of collections.