Christopher Newell, former executive director of the Abbe Museum. Credit: Courtesy of the Abbe Museum Credit: Courtesy of the Abbe Museum

Chris Newell, the first indigenous head of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, is resigning after only 18 months on the job.

Newell, a member of the Passamquoddy Tribe who was born and raised in Indian Township in Washington County, was named the head of the museum in February 2020. The mission of the museum, which was founded in Acadia National Park in 1926, is to preserve the art, culture and history of the Wabanaki tribes in Maine.

In a Friday statement recorded and posted on YouTube, Newell said the decision to resign from the post was difficult. He said he deliberated extensively with his family, friends, spiritual leaders and elders about whether he should leave the post, which he called “the dream job of my career.”

Newell frequently traveled back and forth between Maine and his family in Connecticut, where prior to taking the Bar Harbor job he worked as education supervisor for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Ledyard, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Newell declined to go into specifics about the reasons he decided to resign, many of which he said were personal. He did say the ongoing pandemic and difficulties that are “out of anyone’s control” were factors in his decision, which he acknowledged that some would find surprising and disappointing.

“The choice is difficult to make, but my path was made clear to me, and I have to follow it,” Newell said.

Newell said he will “forever” be grateful to the museum for the opportunity to serve as its executive director and senior partner to the Wabanaki nations, and is proud of the work he accomplished with other museum staff.

In a statement released Thursday, museum officials said Newell’s resignation is effective Saturday, Sept. 11 and that they are sorry to see him go.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....