Bath museum aids effort to keep historic banners in Maine

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BATH — A cooperative effort by Maine Maritime Museum and 15 other organizations and individuals will keep a collection of historic banners in Maine and on public display.

The consortium bought the set of 17 early 19th-century banners last month for more than $125,000. The Portland-based Maine Charitable Mechanic Organization, which created the banners to promote skilled trades, decided to sell them for financial reasons through a public auction on Aug. 26 in Fairfield.

The banners, designed to be carried in parades or placed on display, had a pre-sale estimated value of between $100,000 and $200,000.

While the banners well be kept permanently at the Maine Historical Society in Portland, consortium members are developing a plan to display them at the participating museums starting later this year.

“Maine’s leading cultural organizations were able to succeed in saving these banners by working together in a spirit of shared mission and purpose, and I’m grateful to the institution’s trustees and the donors involved for supporting this collaboration,” Maine Maritime Museum Executive Director Amy Lent said.

Besides Maine Maritime Museum, the museums that came together to buy the banners are the Maine Historical Society, Portland Museum of Art, Maine State Historian, Maine State Museum, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Bates College Museum of Art and Colby College Museum of Art.

Corporate and individual support came from James Julia, L.L. Bean, Diana and Linda Bean, Chris Livesay, Elsie Viles, Libra Foundation and an anonymous Boston foundation.

Richard D’Abate, executive director of the Maine Historical Society, said “the focus, hard work, and unselfish generosity of the cooperating museums was unprecedented in my experience. I think we owe that to our common recognition that the banners were one of the state’s true artistic and historical treasures. They had to be saved.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.