Local & Legendary Activities Ramp Up in Scarborough

Sunday afternoon, January 24, was the kick-off for Scarborough’s Civil War-era Sunday film series. Bowdoin College Professor Patrick Rael presented “The Civil War in Film” to an appreciative audience of about 25 at the Scarborough Public Library.

Rael showed clips from and discussed how these films shape our view of history: Gone With the Wind, Birth of a Nation, Gettysburg, Glory, Sommersby, and Django Unchained. He talked about how the early films focused on the lost cause mythology, honor, and how the war changed civilization as it was in the South, and how more recent films focused on combat and male endeavors moved life on the homefront to the side.


After watching a clip from Gone With the Wind one gentleman remarked, “The South was not just Rhett and brandy, but human beings forced to work 18 hour days. This movie is just about the aristocracy.”

This led to a discussion on how inaccurately slaves were portrayed in films, a concept expanded during the discussion of Glory. In Glory, the African American soldiers are portrayed as former slaves when in reality most were educated freemen. Birth of a Nation caused one man to ask whether movie-goers at the time of its release took the film for humor. Rael explained how D. W. Griffith’s intent was to portray (create?) history.

For two hours participants were immersed in thinking about films from a new perspective and many said that they would be back in February for screenings of Gone With the Wind, Glory, and Lincoln.

The next day, thanks to the wonders of technology and the persistence of Louise Capizzo, Scarborough Youth Services Librarian, 20 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in the Gifted and Talented Education program at Scarborough Middle School had the opportunity to Skype with author Adele Griffin.

SkypeAdeleAuthor Questions_201501Griffin and co-author Lisa Brown wrote and illustrated “Picture the Dead” which the students read as part of their Civil War studies. Students came prepared with no fewer than 47 questions about the plot, primary sources, and the author’s purpose to ask Ms Griffin.

Griffin talked about the research that went into the book. For example, a fact-checking mission with Brookline Historical Society led the authors to alter a part of the plot where they intended to have a character drown in a particular, real-life, pond. The historical society informed them such a tragedy would be difficult in what was really little more than a bog.

When asked by Griffin what they had learned in their studies of Scarborough in the Civil War, the students commented on what the soldiers carried and how meaningful it was to handle artifacts.

One girl said that hardtack actually felt and sounded like a rock when tapped on a table. Another student was intrigued by the number of pleasure items (tobacco, playing cards, coffee, mini-bibles) the soldiers carried in their heavy bags.

Griffin cheerfully answered all the questions and concluded her interview by singing “The Old Tobacco Box,” a Civil War song that her grandfather taught her.

Stay tuned for much more activity in Scarborough with their One Book, One Community events on March 7 & 8. Follow the library’s Facebook page for all the details!

Many thanks to Janet Lyons, Maine Humanities Council’s Consulting Project Coordinator, for writing this post.

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Midway Through Local & Legendary, Cohort 2

“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” – Booker T. Washington

On the surface, January is a quiet month for our Local & Legendary teams, but the reality is that they are hard at work organizing events and working on their Maine Memory Network exhibits. The dedicated volunteers in Bethel, Jay/Livermore Falls, Pittsfield, the Rumford area, and Scarborough are fine examples of Mr. Washington’s quote; they work hard to bring well organized interesting programming to their communities. To quote a Bethel team member, “the project is on track because the committee has a lot of enthusiasm. They take responsibility and do what needs to be done.”

The first week in January, representatives of all teams met with Meghan Vigeant of LegacyPreserves.com to reflect on their progress to date. The Pittsfield team nicely summarized lessons that all teams mentioned.

  1. Learn how other organizations work
  2. Value clear communications
  3. Manage expectations
  4. Evaluate skill sets among team members.

All teams commented on the students involved in the project and their enthusiasm, such as this comment: “Student days are my favorite days. It is great to see students and people get excited about Norlands.”

Rumford teacher shares a Civil War artifact with two of his students working on the Local & Legendary project.

Rumford area teacher Craig Milledge shares a Civil War artifact with two of his Local & Legendary students.

On the Rumford area team, a teacher has been happily surprised by the impact this project has made on his students. He feels that it can often be difficult for teachers to think outside the box and take on new projects. His experience with the Local & Legendary project has really altered his thinking. He has even noticed his students have better attendance on the days his class concentrates on local Civil War history. In Scarborough middle school students were excited to touch and handle Civil War artifacts and the librarian was impressed by how the students absorb what is presented to them. “They have an incredible way of making connections to their world that adults don’t make. They can connect the Civil War to today; it fascinates me. They get it and take it and go beyond.”

On January 7, Bethel had its first community book discussion of Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce. A small, but enthusiastic group of readers braved the wind and sub-zero weather to meet with facilitator Doug Rawlings at the Bethel Library. The discussion explored questions such as, “How much is real and how much is made up in the stories?” One woman came despite electing not to finish the book because it was too dark and gory; a man commented on how Bierce keeps you off balance and how that can lead you to not trust the writer. Another participant commented that Bierce was a very dark and egotistical person which led to a conversation about Bierce versus Stephen Crane and how much the author’s personality should influence us when deciding to read his books. The question  left hanging, to be considered at the next discussion was, “Is Bierce being true to the war experience?” Books are available at the Bethel Public Library and readers are encouraged to join the next discussion on February 4.

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

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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.


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.
Norlands discussion

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.


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.



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.


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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