Ok. The blog is woefully out of date so let me bring you up to speed on the MCHP so far. It’s been a very busy beginning to the project. We’ve met with each team 3 times now and the project plans are shaping up. Some teams have even jumped into some work. And even three short months into the project year each team is already on their very own unique path. It’s all very exciting – and Kristie and I are racing to keep up.
Bath: The group in Bath, the Middle School, Historical Society and Patten Free Library are focusing on the downtown area of Bath. Groups of four students will study one building and look into all aspects of its history: architecture, business, events & people. What’s really great about this MCHP team is that the teachers, historical society and library staff have designed a program that focuses on teaching students how to work with historical collections, to develop research skills and how to interpret the information they find. And from that, each student learns about their town history and creates exhibits that share their work.
Farmington: having recently completed a walking tour of the town, the Farmington group is drawing upon the framework of the tour to determine their topics. Mt. Blue Middle School, Farmington Public Library and the Historical Society, along with aspiring teachers from UMF, a primary school class and the Center for Community GIS, has identified a number of interesting research topics: corn canning, 19th century musician Supply Belcher, inventors and early settlement among others. It’s been a rather exciting start in Farmington because some of the group is seeing the Historical Society collections for the first time – and there are some very fine documents and artifacts there.
Hampden: A really strong community team has sprung up in Hampden. Reed’s Brook Middle School, the Edythe Dyer Memorial Library and the Hampden Historical Society are planning a project that takes them into Hampden history through architecture. Starting with a house, researcher will trace the history outward and tie it into the larger themes that affect the community: shipping, War of 1812 and so on. Even more importantly, this is a true collaboration with everyone pitching in on every task – no one topic or exhibit falls to one person or organization. Furthermore, when the Library and School determined that they already had most of the equipment that they needed to work on the MCHP, they decided to make sure that the Historical Society got up-to-date equipment. They contend that a strong Historical Society would make their team – and their community – stronger.
Islesboro: Aren’t you all jealous that we get to visit Islesboro once a month? For a small community, there is a vibrant and active group of people out there involved in education, the museum and other cultural organizations. The MCHP team there includes the Historical Society, Library and school. I never really thought about how isolation and transportation issues might come to impact an island’s history but those are consistent themes we’ve heard in some of the brainstorm sessions. The meetings there began with an open public session that drew 25 people. From that, we heard all kinds of stories and learned about just who has all the local knowledge. From that session, the Local Community Team is working on developing topics for exhibits.
Lubec: Another small town with a lot of talented people working to preserve its cultural heritage. Lubec Landmarks, the Library, the Lubec Consolidated School, Lubec Historical Society and others have joined forces to study the maritime history of Lubec – what you’d expect, maybe, but there are some really interesting things to study there. First of all: smuggling. With the proximity to international waters and to Canada, Lubec has an interesting history related to smuggling. That topic alone promises some great stories. I also got the chance to tour the McCurdy Smokehouse in Lubec. It’s now a museum and operated by Lubec Landmarks. The exhibit of smokehouse technology is fascinating but the best (and I’m serious here) part of the experience is the smell. When does olfactory sense ever enter into a museum experience? Must? Mildew? This is the rich smell of smoked fish that hits you immediately upon going into the museum. It expands the visit into a whole new dimension. Well worth the visit – plus there’s a lot to do in Lubec & the surrounding area – and I heartily encourage you to go.
New Portland: This group is off to a running start. MSAD #74, New Portland Historical Society and NP Community Library are a small but really active team. They have identified eight topics for exhibits, including ice cutting, the New Portland Fair and the Wire Bridge. With a long agricultural history, they’re also investigating a number of related topics. One very interesting thing they’ve done is to use the New Portland Fair this past September as a way to promote the project and to generate involvement. Because this may (rumor has it) be the last year for that fair, it was especially poignant. The group decided to create a brochure about their MCHP project and to feature old photos of the fair. Hundreds were distributed because every carload of people entering the fairgrounds got one. The rest will go to the post office and other local stops.
Presque Isle: Aroostook truly is the garden of Maine and so lovely in late summer. Plus, we were there for part of the balloon festival in August and, of course, got our 10 pound bags of potatoes. The MCHP team in Presque Isle is fostering some really unique and interesting collaborations. The group is the Historical Society, the Turner Library, the Middle School and UMPI, with some High School involvement, as well. The Historical Society has been very active for some time in creating public presentations on local themes so they are building on those. And a really exciting partnership between Middle School and a history class from UMPI has developed. The college students are studying historical methods and will mentor the younger students as they do their projects. In addition, the students will work with the Library and Historical Society to digitize materials and put them on the MMN.
Thomaston: The Thomaston group has developed a project plan that includes oral histories about the Great Depression, exhibits on Henry Knox, Shipbuilding and the Civil War. What’s great about that list is it builds on some of the strong foundations of Thomaston history and things many of us are familiar with – Knox and shipbuilding – and then it also brings in aspects of Thomaston history most of us know little about, as well. The team there is the High School, the Library, the Historical Society and the General Henry Knox Museum.