“Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations.” So wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in the second volume of Democracy in America, published in 1840. “In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge,” he went on to say. “On its progress depends that of all the others.
De Tocqueville’s observation of Americans as prone to associating with one another to get things done was referred to last Thursday night by Blue Hill Historical Society president John Roberts.
“Collaboration is the foundation of community,” he said, explaining why the MCHP means so much to him, the historical society, and by extension, Blue Hill and its environs. And paraphrasing JFK, he encouraged attendees to remember that “it’s not what we can get from the town, but what we can give to the town” that counts.
The community event was all about giving the town a sneak preview of what the team has planned for the year ahead. After an intial meet-and-greet over delicious blueberry crisp and Indian pudding, team leader Tom Bjorkman’s introduction of team members, and MHS assistant director Steve Bromage’s Maine Memory Network presentation, each team member in attendance spoke briefly about his or her role in the project.
Following John Roberts, Caroline Werth, with the Jonathan Fisher House, talked about how the symbolic gesture of cutting down trees in front of the house literally had brought in more visitors. “But most of them are from away,” she said, expressing her desire to open up this National Historic Registry treasure for more people in the community, including the schools.
Then came Consolidated School 8th grade teacher Della Martin, who lauded MCHP’s unique opportunity to refresh a particular aspect of the curriculum. “Middle school students have been writing Blue Hill reports for 40+ years,” she said, “but this puts a new twist on it for kids in the digital age.” She relishes the chance for her students, who are “just beginning to know we’re a special community,” to make connections with people on the team.
Those students–who are themselves focusing in on an exhibit theme of “From the Earth” relating to past Blue Hill industries like ice, quarrying, and mineral springs–contributed the evening’s artfully-decorated posters on topics that other team members, and students from other participating schools, plan to undertake. These included themes like “Fishing and Lobstering,” “Tourism, Rusticators, and the Summer Colony,” “Music and the Arts,” and “Blue Hill’s Neighborhoods of the Past.”
George Stevens Academy history teacher Bill Case spoke next, explaining that while he and his 11th grade students are in the early stages of determing how the MCHP will play out in their class, they have already launched into deep discussions of the team’s overarching questions: “Who are we?” and “How did we get here?” Meanwhile, he feels that “the project has already helped because I’ve met people from other schools.”
Closing the team presentation portion of the evening was Brook Minner, assistant director of the Blue Hill Public Library. “It’s a great opportunity to partner,” she said, explaining that collaboration such as the MCHP facilitates is at the heart of a public library’s mission.
Attendees then spent 15 minutes discussing what else might be included in a website on Blue Hill’s history. Reports from the tables included such diverse topics as hygiene and medicine, women’s temperance, the brick industry, and–last but not least–an old trail leading from Salt Pond to Walker’s Pond which once was used to “haul stone in one direction, and ice in another.”
Not a bad way to close out the evening for a town that’s clearing a new path to collaboration through the MCHP.