The Maine State Archives hosts this annual competition in which Maine students in grades 6-12 prepare papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites, or performances that explore a broad historical theme. The theme for 2009, “The Individual in History,” asked students to explore the role of one person, famous or not, in history. Winning entries included the website “Steve Jobs: Apple’s iGod,” the documentary “Judith Magyar Isaacson: Holocaust Survivor Turned Human Rights Activist,” and the paper “Changing the Face of Medicine: Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.” First- and second-place winners qualified to attend the National History Day contest at the University of Maryland in June.
The Freeport Historical Society recently acquired an oil painting of the merchant ship Tam O’Shanter, which sailed out of Freeport in the 19th century. The painting will be exhibited alongside artifacts and documents tied to the experiences of Maine mariners and their families, and especially to Tam O’Shanter. In addition, the Freeport Historical Society planned a series of public events, “Lessons from the Tam O’Shanter,” to engage a broad audience in maritime history. The series began in January with a concert of sea shanties linked to Maine, and continued in February with a program of dramatic readings by descendents of Maine sea captains of letters written during the age of commercial sail. In March, Robert Lloyd Webb presented an illustrated lecture tracing the history of ship portraits created by pier-side artists, of which the Tam O’Shanter is just one example. In April, Freeport welcomed Dr. Glen Gordinier of Mystic Seaport, who portrayed Yankee mariner Josiah Gardener recounting his adventures at sea. The series picks up again on September 25 with a talk entitled “Yankee Shipmasters: Swashbuckling Middle Class Guys...Or Were They?” (suggesting that in fact, most captains were responsible businessmen). Two more lectures, on October 16 and November 20, will address the China trade, both old and new, and the specific voyages that are on record for the Tam O’Shanter. For more program details, please visit www.freeporthistoricalsociety.org or call (207) 865-3170.
In 2008, the 19th Century Willowbrook Village in Newfield, Maine, deployed a number of strategies to increase visitor access to cultural opportunities. They developed a 13-minute orientation video, revised the museum’s visitor guide and website, and recovered historic film footage of rural trades. The museum now features 48 hands-on stations (including four with historic film footage of ice harvesting, sleighing, horse shoeing, and logging) as part of its Passport Through Time booklet program for families. The new materials help modern visitors understand how industrialization impacted 19th-century rural life. Willowbrook is open from Memorial Day through the end of October. Explore their new website, www.willowbrookmuseum.org.
The United Nations has designated 2009 the “International Year of Natural Fiber,” and Maine is celebrating with Fiber Maine-ia, a year’s worth of events culminating in a statewide conference in Orono on October 10 and 11. The conference celebrates our state’s textile heritage and the place of fiber in the cultural economy. A variety of formats, including lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on experiences, will expose participants to fiber arts and economy both current and historic. There will be displays of vintage hand-knit lace, presentations on agricultural practices, instruction on caring for heirloom textiles, readings from letters sent home to Maine by girls working in Massachusetts textile mills, and much more. An exhibit of fiber-related photographs from the “Acadian Hard Times” collection is planned to coincide with the conference, and the Story Bank recording booth will be on site to collect oral histories for the Maine Folklife Center. Teachers will be able to select from a strand that provides them with resources for incorporating fiber study into standards-based social studies, mathematics, science, art, and literature curricula. The conference is coordinated by the Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch and the Page Farm and Home Museum in Orono; to learn more or to sign up, please visit www.umext.maine.edu/fibermaine-ia/conference.htm.
As part of the group’s fifth annual Victorian Tea and in honor of the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the Friends of the Parsonsfield Seminary presented reenactors Phillip Chetwynd and Sally Mummey. Since 1991, Chetwynd and Mummey have been known for their portrayals of President and Mary Todd Lincoln, during which they speak on personal experiences with slavery and the Underground Railroad. Many attendees dressed in period attire for the tea, and a local harpist accompanied the light repast following the Lincoln presentation. Parsonsfield Seminary, formerly known as the Free Will Baptist Seminary in the United States, was a stop on the Underground Railroad in the first half of the 19th century, and it is decorated to recall that era on the occasion of the Victorian Tea. To learn more, visit www.parsonsfieldseminary.org.
This statewide effort to collect, present, and preserve historical information has already placed over 20,000 records of Jewish Mainers on its website. In 2009, volunteers who have been trained in oral history are interviewing residents in their eighties and nineties about the character and quality of family and community life for Jewish immigrants and first generation Americans. The oral history project will enhance the photographs, documents, and information on the website, www.davidkrut.com/pj.
On April 16, 2009, for the third consecutive year, high school teachers and students from Presque Isle, Ashland, and Mars Hill attended Foreign Language Day at the University of Maine in Presque Isle. The students took mini-lessons in language and culture from faculty, staff and students, both native speakers and those who have traveled abroad. Folk or ethnic dance and international food were also components of the day. The cultures represented included France, Italy, Puerto Rico, Portugal, China, Nepal, Poland, and Germany. Project director Claire Davidshofer, Professor of French, comments, “gone are the days when being monolingual was sufficient. Our lives are now intertwined with the lives of citizens of other countries in the world. Foreign Language Day at the University of Maine at Presque Isle is attempting to plant the seeds of understanding and respecting world diversity.”
A special exhibition at the Saco Museum featured work from New England Wax, an association of artists who work in encaustic (a beeswax-based painting medium). Juried by Katherine French, Director of the Danforth Museum in Framingham, Massachusetts, the exhibition offered the opportunity for local and regional artists to exhibit their work together and exchange ideas. This grant helped fund a lecture by Kim Bernard about the history of this ancient medium, as well as art-making activities and school tours. This award was made jointly with the Maine Arts Commission.
This exhibition of historic costumes at the General Henry Knox Museum was curated by Mary Doering, a professor in the Corcoran College of Art and Design’s Masters of Decorative Arts program and a private collector of 18th-century clothing. Its five-week run included a specialized tour led by costume historian Julie Stackpole and a lecture by the guest curator. Participants in the Knox Museum’s 2009 summer teacher institute exploring everyday life in early American history attended Doering’s lecture and used the exhibition as a hands-on resource.
In the spring of 2009, the Museums of Old York presented a series of events exploring the experiences and perspectives of Native, English, and French people in 17th-century Maine. In the one event, two re-enactors (one depicting a French Jesuit priest; the other a habitant, or settler) provided insight into the origins of conflict between Anglo and French populations in Maine. In another, a panel discussion of French-Canadian residents recounted their experiences in light of the history of Anglo/French tensions.