Last Local & Legendary Events of 2014

As the year wound down, three Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War teams hosted major events related to their projects.

IMG_9782On November 19 at the Rumford Public Library, about 60 Mountain Valley Middle School students gathered for the first culminating celebration (and pizza lunch!) of the district’s 2014-2015 Quest program.

As part of this semester-long program, which offers an alternative curriculum every Wednesday, students read the Gary Paulsen novel A Soldier’s Heart and created projects based on Civil War battles.

IMG_9810At the celebration, students broke into discussion groups with local community veterans of the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars, who had also read the Paulsen book. It was an extremely moving experience to hear the conversations. The students were well prepared with a variety of questions, including some tough ones for the veterans: Were you scared? Did you get bombed? Did you ever have to kill someone? For their part, the veterans–including the county sheriff and local members of the police force–took each question seriously and answered them honestly. It was a memorable afternoon for all involved. The program will take place two more times at the end of the next two trimesters.

To track the Rumford team’s Local & Legendary activities, “like” their Facebook page.

SHSArtifactsOn November 20, Gifted and Talented teacher Jessica Kelly’s 20 students from Scarborough Middle School took a field trip to Scarborough Historical Society as the next step in their involvement in Local & Legendary.

Four members of the historical society facilitated the 90-minute visit. In addition to learning about how the society members have been researching Scarborough’s role in the war, students broke into groups to view and talk about photographs, letters, and objects in the society’s Civil War collection.

StudentsArtifactsStudentsTintypesThey also were able to handle reproduction artifacts loaned by a local re-enactor. The Civil War soldier’s infantry kit fascinated the students, particularly items like the overly large toothbrush, which led one student to announce, “No wonder their teeth weren’t very good!”

Finally, they learned about and viewed a number of tintypes as a segue to receiving copies of their community read book, Picture the Dead, by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown. The book makes heavy use of faux Civil War-era primary sources–including photographs, letters, and newspaper clippings–in a scrapbook format. Jessica asked the students to keep track as they read of how the primary sources are used to tell the story, as well as the Civil War’s impact on the homefront.

Tom-Desjardins-1024x768On December 4, the Bethel team held the public kick-off for their project with the annual Howe Lecture, named after retired Bethel Historical Society director Stan Howe. About 200 community members and students attended the event.

Delivering the talk at Gould Academy was one of Maine’s foremost Civil War experts, and consultant to the Local & Legendary program, Tom Desjardins. Tom focused on Maine’s contribution to the war effort and the effects of the war on Maine. Gould history students who attended the talk were overheard later enthusiastically retelling some of the stories Tom shared.

Bookmark frontTo round out the event, Civil War era music played during and after the talk, and library trustee Tom Davis and his wife, Ann, shared a variety of Civil War desserts and foods they had made including johnnycake, apple cider cake, and even authentic hardtack.

Attendees also took home a bookmark announcing the 2015 community read activities, which will take place January-May. For a full list of those events, check out the team’s team’s Facebook page.

The two remaining teams in the 2014-2015 cohort, Jay/Livermore and Pittsfield, are busy planning their events to take place after the first of the year. Stay tuned for more details as the calendar turns to 2015!

 

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Local & Legendary Communities Choose Their Books

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten. - Rudyard Kipling

One component of the Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War grant is that communities come together to discuss books that are relevant to the Civil War. The intent is to get people talking about big ideas and making connections.

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Books for these discussions are chosen for their ability to raise questions and lead to discussion about motivation, transformation, and legacy. Why did Mainers care about and fight in the Civil War? What did the Civil War change at home and in the wider world? Why does the Civil War still matter today? What would I have done?

So often our conversations about the Civil War revolve around battles and slavery but don’t challenge us to think about how our lives were changed by events 150 years ago, and why states’ rights and race are still divisive issues today.

In order to delve deeper into the Civil War and create lively discussions, our teams reviewed books to find titles that will reach a wide variety of readers in their communities.

All five teams have chosen books to discuss primarily throughout February and March; some have even started to get them into the hands of local readers through libraries and schools.

Most of the book discussions will be facilitated by a local scholar, and discussion dates and locations will be published locally and on the Maine Humanities Council website. If you are looking for an interesting Civil War read consider one of these titles, and join in on a discussion near you!

  • Readers in the Western Foothills region will travel to 1861 Wiscasset, Maine, as they read and discuss the young adult book Uncertain Glory by Maine author Lea Waite. If you are a mystery lover in the Rumford area consider also joining “The Mystery Readers Group” at the Rumford Public Library to read and discuss Faded Coat of Blue by Ralph Peters.
  • Students at Gould Academy and residents of Bethel will be going back in time as they read and discuss short stories written by Ambrose Bierce, the only major author to have been a front-line soldier in the Civil War. His Civil War Stories is intriguing and full of the unexpected.
  • In March, community members in Scarborough will come together for a weekend of all things Civil War and will discuss two young adult books. Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, a historical fiction and mystery book, will be read by middle school students and adults. Billy Boy: The Sunday Soldier of the Seventeenth Maine by local author Jean Flahive follows a young man from Berwick, Maine, to the battlefield and back home again. This book is inspired by an actual event and a real Maine person, Billy Laird.
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The first discussion held by the Jay/Livermore team, held at Washburn-Norlands Living History Center.

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Mexico Students on a “Quest” to Study the Civil War

Quest2014-10-15-10.25.25-225x300The Western Foothills in the Civil War: Local & Legendary team is actively sharing their Civil War knowledge. Sixty-five 7th and 8th grade students at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico are in the midst of an in-depth study of Maine and the Civil War.

Every Wednesday throughout the year students do hands-on, project-based learning as part of the new Quest program. Each trimester students engage in a new Quest.

During this first trimester, students are learning about literature, history, math, and music through their study of Maine and the Civil War. They are reading Gary Paulsen’s Soldier’s Heart, creating exhibits and movies about the War, and hearing from guest speakers.

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Teacher Craig Milledge talks to students in the Quest program.

The program is under the guidance of teachers Craig Milledge, a Local & Legendary team member, Ryanne Prevost, Steve LaPointe, and David Rossler. According to Mr. Milledge, “Students have taken a lot of ownership over their learning and we have seen a genuine increase in student engagement.”

IMG_0016On Wednesday, October 29, Doug Barber, Mountain Valley Middle School teacher, discussed and shared his amazing collection of Civil War documents and artifacts with the students. Barber’s great-great-grandfather, Private Henry Holden of Bangor, fought for the Union in the Civil War.

Barber shared several years of diaries, letters to and from home, certificates, photographs, buckles, buttons, a musket, and the bullet that felled his ancestor mere minutes into the First Battle Of Bull Run. Private Holden was subsequently captured and detained in a Confederate prison, but survived and was discharged in 1863.

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The first group of students will finish their studies on November 19 at a culminating event at Rumford Public Library from 11:45AM-2:00PM during which they will demonstrate what they have learned. In addition to displays of their work, local veterans will be joining students for a Soldier’s Heart book discussion.

For more images of Doug Barber’s visit to the classroom, taken by Local & Legendary team leader Nick Waugh, visit this RSU 10 photo site for the project.

Thanks to Janet Lyons, Consulting Project Coordinator for Maine Humanities Council, for this post.

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Local & Legendary Student Seminars in Scarborough

Kick Off PresentationThe first in a series of monthly student “seminars” as part of Scarborough’s Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War project took place in early October. Sessions take place at the Scarborough Public Library, within walking distance of Scarborough Middle School.

The participating students are 6th-8th graders enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Education program taught by Jessica Kelly. The seminar format offers them a chance to be together at an off-site location to explore the Civil War themes of the project, and meet with other community partners. They will also have the opportunity to visit the Scarborough Historical Society in November.

Student TeamCW Early Student AssessmentThe students started by working on personal assessments of what they currently know about the Civil War. This was followed by an overview of the year, a review of what primary and secondary sources are, and a great book talk presented by Scarborough Public Library’s Youth Services Librarian, Louise Capizzo.

CW Book Talk wtih Youth Librarian, Louise Capizzo 2CW books waiting to be checked out

Louise created a book list for the students of Civil War titles in the youth collection, then pulled the books so she could talka bit about each of them. At the end of the seminar, the students returned to their assessments to write down what they wanted to learn more about–based on this first introduction.

As part of the project, any student who didn’t already have a library card was issued one. And as if proving the wisdom of that decision, many students returned to the library after school that same day to check out materials.

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Our Hands on History

Our Hands on History, a new class at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, created and co-taught by Susan St. Pierre, Nate Purrington, and Kymberli Bryant, is offering 10 students the opportunity to do the work of historians and delve deeply into the Civil War.

Our Hands on history 10.7.14A little more than a month into the start of the school year these juniors and seniors have already had a refresher course on the Civil War, learned how to handle historic artifacts, and participated in a community wide book discussion of The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

Part of the experience involves several field trips to the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center. Norlands is the family home of the Washburns, one of the great political and industrial dynasties of the 19th century. Of the ten children born to Israel and Martha Washburn, seven sons rose to serve as governors, congressmen, a United States senator, Secretary of State, foreign ministers, a Civil War general, and a Navy captain.

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On one field trip day in early October, students were happily ensconced with laptops and scanners in the 1883 Norlands library, busily scanning 19th century calling cards (carte de visites) and letters, measuring them, and completing detailed cataloging worksheets on each item. Norlands Director Sheri Leahan, along with the teachers, has been helping students identify and analyze collection items for the project.

Scanning Norlands 10.7.14Back in the classroom students have begun transcribing the letters and continuing to conduct research, looking to gather as much information as possible on each item that they hope to include in their Maine Memory Network exhibit. The working title for the exhibit is, “Livermore in the Civil War: A Hand in Transforming the Nation.” It will touch upon Livermore’s and the Washburn family’s participation in the Civil War and the effects of the war on the local community.

In addition to The Killer Angels, students will read three more Civil War themed books to gain a richer understanding of life in that era. Students and community members will then again engage in scholar facilitated discussions of these books, focusing on not only the direct subject matters of the books, but also the effects of the War on the greater Livermore Falls/Jay area.

For more information on the hands-on, technology aspects of the project, check out this blog post by teacher Kym Bryant.

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Local & Legendary’s Second Cohort Gets off to a Good Start

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Amy Marcotte, Team Leader of the Sanford Vet Center, leads a session on “Veterans Now and Then.”

Community teams from Bethel, Jay/Livermore Falls, Pittsfield, Rumford, and Scarborough met at Bowdoin College in July for a two-day orientation to the Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War community grant program.

Team members–-from local historical societies, libraries, and schools–-received an orientation to Maine Memory Network, participated in project planning, and were immersed in Civil War history.

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USM history professor Libby Bischof

Scholars Libby Bischof (USM), Tom Desjardin (Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands), and Patrick Rael (Bowdoin College) provided historical context through readings, lecture, and discussion. Amy Marcotte of the Sanford Vet Center helped to tie the Civil War era to the present day with a short lecture and discussion on “Veterans Now and Then.” Theater professional David Greenham spoke to attendees about creative ways to interpret the “performance event” required as part of the project.

In August local teams began their monthly meetings. At the first meetings of the year they developed plans to create their Maine Memory Network exhibit based on the artifacts and documents they have in their communities and began the process of picking books to read for their “One Book, One Community” book discussions.

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Part of the Rumford team takes a break from orientation on the lovely Bowdoin Campus. At the far left is Kate Webber, Maine Humanities Council Communications Assistant.

Local & Legendary is a partnership between Maine Historical Society and Maine Humanities Council, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project involves 10 Maine towns over two years. First year teams included Belfast, Gorham, Portland, Westbrook, and Windham. Teams research local Civil War history, digitize collections, create an exhibit on Maine Memory Network, run a “one book” program in their community, and host a custom-designed performance piece.

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Second Civil War Statewide Symposium

Morgan Hill Event Center in Hermon was the setting for the second Civil War Symposium on Saturday, May 10. Presented by Maine Humanities Council and Maine Historical Society as part of the three year NEH funded Local and Legendary grant, the event drew 60 Civil War aficionados, community members, and scholars to learn about and discuss the war’s aftermath in Maine.

IMG_7076The morning began with actors Michael Pullen and Rhiannon Ludder performing Coming Home: A Civil War Veteran Returns, a short play written and produced by Maine Humanities Council theater consultant David Greenham.

IMG_7092This thought provoking performance about a young veteran who returns home to Sebec and the girl who waited at home for him could as easily take place in 2014 as in 1865. How does a soldier return to a “normal” life upon coming home, and how does the loved one who remained at home understand the experience of war? During the audience discussion following the play both young actors revealed that they could relate to one dilemma raised in the play–to stay in Maine or move elsewhere for better opportunities.

IMG_7117The ever popular Tom Desjardin, Maine Civil War historian and Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Governor, expanded on this topic as he discussed the alarming trend of out-migration and the ensuing economic impact post-Civil War.

The impact of the war was felt in every community in Maine. Maine sent the highest number of men to fight in the war in proportion to its population of any northern state. One of the fascinating themes of the morning was discovering the parallels between 1864 and 2014.

Chandra Manning, Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University, explored the question, “What did the Civil War Change?” Some of the changes that Chandra discussed focused on issues related to more complex reasons why the war was fought.

IMG_7128For example, Lincoln’s belief that by allowing the south to secede the U.S. would be admitting that self government as envisioned by the Founding Fathers was not a viable form of government. Another example she discussed is how a secondary outcome of abolishing slavery was the U.S. stepping up and becoming an enforcer of a more global ban on the slave trade.

Both Chandra and Candace Kanes, Maine Memory Network Curator and Historian, talked about race relations, depictions of slavery, and attitudes towards newly freed slaves. They spoke about Mainers who made significant contributions to the war effort and reminded us that Maine was the first state to ratify the 13th amendment in February 1865. Candace’s presentation focused on her experience researching and curating Maine Historical Society’s 2013-2014 museum exhibition, This Rebellion: Maine and the Civil War.

Attendees had the opportunity to view displays and the Maine Memory Network online exhibits created by the 2013 Local & Legendary community teams. The new 2014-2015 community teams–Bethel, Jay-Livermore Falls-Livermore, Pittsfield, Rumford, and Scarborough–were in attendance and had opportunities to ask questions of those who participated in year one.

IMG_7064People left with a new understanding of the legacy of the Civil War in Maine and how our understanding of the past is shaped. As one participant said of speaker Chandra Manning’s talk: “She makes an excellent point that instead of simplifying, we should look at the complexities of history.”

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