Last Thursday, December 10, Hall-Dalers Middle School 7th graders were inducted officially into the MCHP. The day’s process is outlined in the schedule to the left–and it was followed to a T.
Not that this induction served as the students’ first foray into the MCHP — that took place on October 22 with a field trip to downtown Hallowell and environs. (Refresh yourself on that excursion via this post.) But that simply laid the historical groundwork for the project; at that point, the students didn’t even know what “MCHP” stood for.
But by early afternoon last Thursday, they certainly did. After a general discussion on “What is History?” in their homerooms using an 1895 image of a crowd scene in downtown Hallowell, the students gathered in the Hall-Dale theater for a presentation by MCHP education consultant Kristie Littlefield. Via PowerPoint, Kristie introduced the students to Maine Historical Society, the Maine Memory Network and the types of primary sources found there, and the goals and activities of the Maine Community Heritage Project. Perhaps most importantly, she patted them on the back for their role as one of only 16 student teams to pass through the MCHP.
After that, it was back to the classrooms, where students rotated between well-planned and well-executed half-hour workshops detailing the components of the MCHP.
In one room, team members Gerry Mahoney, Sam Webber, and 8th grader Erin Ballew–who had participated in something of a pilot “mini-MCHP” program last year–led an interactive session on handling, measuring, and digitizing historic items.
Gerry’s station reviewed proper handling techniques using some unique local treasures: an artificial leg, spectacles, a glass medicine bottle, an old writing kit, and a number of other goodies. He asked the students to compare each item to its present day version.
Next, Sam explained and demonstrated the details of the digitization process, choosing various students to don the white gloves and assist in placing items on the scanner. Along the way, he shared copious information about the images from his own storehouse of local history knowledge.
Tackling the specifics of measurement, Erin was fantastic. Only a year older than her audience members, she clearly and patiently explained the process and why it was important.
In addition to telling students that providing physical dimensions along with the digital image helps the viewer envision the physical object, she explained why MMN uses the metric system, which she referred to as the “universal system of measurement.” When some students wondered how to use a metric ruler, she graciously taught them.
Students were given a handout explaining the differences between height, width, and depth, and were asked to record their measurements using copies of the same historic photograph.
In another classroom, I joined team member Jane Radcliffe to talk about the particulars of the MMN cataloging record. Anointing the students “history detectives,” we shared the value of research in uncovering an historical item’s true worth.
Students eagerly and ably answered questions about the various parts of the cataloging record — such as “Who do you think is the “creator” of the item?” “What questions might we try to answer in the description field?” and “Why do we have four options for the object’s ‘date’?” — as we used the 1895 Hallowell photo they had started their day with as our example.
Finally, in the third room, team leader Bob McIntire gave students an online tour of the MCHP web page, especially the websites created by the 2008-09 teams.
Dividing the students into eight groups, Bob assigned each group one of the community sites from last year. Their charge? Explore the site and glean some tidbit of information about the community that they didn’t know before.
Bob asked the students to focus especially on the exhibits and think about what might be good for Hallowell’s site. After a few minutes, the groups reported back about they’d learned. The session ended with a close-up look at some of the many items now on MMN relating to Hallowell.
By the time all three groups had rotated through the workshops, the bell rang and it was time to call it a day. But what a day it was — a highly substantive, hands-on introduction to the nuts and bolts of the MCHP.
Next up: Rolling up those sleeves and… getting to work!
(A special thanks to Kristie Littlefield for contributing content for this report!)