During the brainstorming period, back in August, teams were asked some version of these two questions: 1) What are the local history stories you must tell–that would clearly be missing from the website if you left them out? and 2) What are the lesser known, but compelling, stories that haven’t been told enough, or in the right way?
That process, as well as the feedback received during the community conversation events in September and October, led to the creation of the five topics (and in some cases, more) now being worked on by the teams. Some are “front and center” subjects–major institutions, prominent industries, natural disasters and other seminal events. Others, however, reveal sides of the community few outsiders would know existed. Achieving a balance between the obvious (but important) and the not-so-obvious (and equally important) was the goal.
While all the topics are specific to the community in question, the larger story is one of Maine, and indeed national, history. Nothing ever happens in a vacuum, and each topic gains value by setting it against the backdrop of what was going on in the state and the country at the time. The teams will strive to place their stories in a larger context, using their local community as a lens through which to examine a more global experience.
Bangor High School students will tackle the turning point topic of the 1911 Fire that forced a rebirth of the city and ushered it into the Progressive Era, while Cohen Middle School students are investigating the infamous Brady Gang’s fateful foray into Bangor in the 1930s and its larger significance in the history of criminal justice. The Bangor Museum and History Center will focus on its noteworthy Civil War collection in advance of 2011, the 150th anniversary of the start of the war. Transportation in the form of railroads will be covered by the Bangor Public Library. The final partner, the Doughty School, is still refining its topic, which may look at Bangor during the 1940s.
The Civil War era in Biddeford, marked by a rapid growth of industry and influx of immigrants, is the topic of choice for the dozen Biddeford High School students participating in the project. Other topics, spearheaded by various members of the team, include post-Revolutionary Biddeford’s prominent citizens, artists and inventors who lived and worked in Biddeford, the vibrant shipbuilding industry along the Saco River, and the impact of ladies’ social and benevolent clubs and organizations in the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Most topics in Blue Hill are school-centered, with significant research and mentoring being provided by the various historical organizations on the team. Classes at the middle-level Consolidated School will study the town’s seafaring history and natural resources industries. George Stevens Academy High School students plan to focus their efforts on Blue Hill in the Gilded Age, with sub-topics on rusticators, music and musicians, tourism, and education. The Waldorf-affiliated Bay School will investigate first families of Blue Hill and agricultural traditions like the Blue Hill Fair. Other team members will create exhibits on Blue Hill renaissance man and first minister Jonthan Fisher, the Long Island community, and the evolution of the Blue Hill landscape.
In the spirit of their two-town, one-community partnership, the Cumberland-North Yarmouth team has doled out their exhibit topics as equally as possible. Two will be spearheaded by Cumberland organizations, two by North Yarmouth, and one will be a joint effort. That doesn’t, however, mean the content of the topics won’t cross town lines. Cumberland folks will focus on the evolution of area schools which culminated in the creation of a district school in 1961 and the perhaps little-known but booming early 20th century carnation industry that supplied Boston and New York with flowers. Meanwhile, North Yarmouth Historical Society will take the lead on the area’s involvement in the Civil War via the Lawrence Family, prominent farmers and businesspeople who sent two sons into service. The entire team will work collaboratively on a transportation-related theme, focusing primarily on Route 9, which connects the towns. Students from Greely Middle School will work help digitize and research items for several of the topics, especially the Civil War.
No history of Guilford would be complete without an in-depth look at the manufacturing industries that have flourished in the town over the years — and that have kept this central Maine town a viable center of business despite numerous challenges. Team members are largely working together on this and other topics including the importance of town fairs and festivals, memories of historical buildings, the history of the school system in Guilford, and a veterans’ tribute to two exceptional Guilford residents–Wilbur Trafton, the town’s most decorated soldier who lost his life at Iwo Jima, and Mattie Pinnette, Dwight D. Eishenhower’s personal secretary during WWII.
Hallowell Granite Works artisans produced stunning public monuments that were sent far and wide. Those will be the subject of one of the team’s exhibits. Others, all done collaboratively, will focus on the Hallowell Fireman’s Association and its collection of ephemera, natural and manmade disasters that beset the small city, The Hallowell House and other architectural landmarks, and the weaving and shoemaking industries so prevalent in Hallowell in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Finally, the team will chart the unique role Hallowell played in medical advances including midwifery, research and vaccinations, and patent medicine.
It almost goes without saying that the Lincoln team will devote one exhibit to the economic importance of paper mills and related wood-based industries like logging and sawmills to the town. Another topic will examine how the evolution of Lincoln’s lively Main Street has paralleled the town’s rich history and culture. Other exhibit topics: how various modes of transportation, from horse-and-buggy to ferries and steamboats, have changed over the years; the effect of wartime on Lincoln; influential institutions; and early settlers. Students at Mattanawcook Middle School will work on all aspects of the exhibits with significant input from Lincoln Historical Society members.
By geographic imperative–meaning, the 1,300-acre marshland that physically separates one part of the town from another–Scarborough developed as a series of villages with names like Dunstan Corner and Prout’s Neck. How they contributed to the character of the town and sustained themselves as close-knit communities will be the focus of one of the team’s exhibits. The marsh itself will be the main character in its own exhibit. Notable residents, including Maine’s first governor, William King, will populate a third exhibit. Additional topics include industries related to the sea, sawmills, and hospitality; transportation, particularly shipbuilding and trade; and the settlement-abandonment-resettlement pattern that characterized the town’s early history. Students at Scarborough Middle School will be involved in some aspect of each topic.