Collection + Exhibits
Tying our rich history to our present and future.
Visit and explore our current and permanent exhibits on display that share the stories of innovation, learning, and labor that fuel the dreams of tomorrow. Get to know the people, inventions, and events that shaped our past and how they connect to your worldview and everyday experience.
From celebrating cultural and traditional skills of Maine artisans, to an in-depth look at the influence and power of music, a constant display of ingenuity and design, to accounts of life as a millworker, there’s a treasure trove to discover here.
Unseen Hands: The Hidden Elements of Labor
Maine MILL preserves and celebrates extraordinary stories of work and the industrial ingenuity of Central Maine. But many labor-related stories of Maine people remain untold. This exhibit expands the story of people working in Maine, and the story of their work—seen and unseen. The show is organized thematically, with sections focused on Black labor, child labor, union labor, unpaid labor, and women’s domestic labor. Each of these has been essential to the workplace, and to home and family, but have often been overlooked, trivialized, or simply stolen.
Art has the power to connect history with the present and inspire the future. To that end, we worked with two artists to create interactive works that invite your own contributions. Tanja Hollander, a local artist, photographed selected objects from our collection as well as from community members as part of her larger Ephemera Project. The Anxious / Hopeful work is inspired by artist Candy Chang’s A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful. Both artists’ works speak to and incorporate the museum’s memorial project and the Lewiston community at this particularly poignant moment. We hope you’ll share your own ephemera and add to the ever-growing anxious/hopeful work.
This exhibition is made possible in part by Historic New England. Additional support is provided by Maine Community Bank and Sherwin Williams.
Take a trip through time by visiting our permanent exhibit located on the second floor. Here you’ll find artifacts and examples of ingenuity alongside slices of life related to the textile, shoe, and brickmaking industries in the Lewiston and Auburn area.
These historical objects and stories have been carefully curated and remain on display for all to experience, a testament to the museum’s larger permanent collection.
Visit this ongoing exhibit and you’ll be invited to:
- Learn about the many ways the mighty Androscoggin River played an important role in industrial expansion. Witness how the river was harnessed for power and the intricate design of iron gears and leather belts that eventually converted the flowing water into electrical power, the creation of the canals, and “the company town” that grew up around the textile mills created by Benjamin Bates.
- Follow our “Immigration Timeline” to learn more about how immigrants helped to build our community, influenced the culture, and continue to shape the future of this ever-changing cityscape.
- Trace the journey of textile creation from concept to completion. Explore drawings and paintings in the design room with displays of our collection of original designs and follow the assembly line of steps in the fabric-making process with our industrial machinery collection.
- Discover the challenging conditions workers often faced in the textile mills and how the mill was a “complete” city by viewing our collection of firefighting, medical, and laboratory equipment.
- View our portrait wall of millworkers who have given oral histories and listen to a select number of first-hand accounts.
- Find out how Bates Manufacturing supported the World War II war effort with our collection of backpacks, parachutes, and naval linens.
- Understand the evolution of shoemaking from hand-craft to industrial production and see the innovative tools and machinery that made this transition possible.
- Trail the steps in the brickmaking process from lump of clay to spectacular architectural creations in our collection of archival photographs documenting the creation of water-struck bricks.