In Maine, one always takes a chance scheduling big events in the heart of winter. Happily, good weather prevailed for the January 14 mid-year MCHP training at Maine Historical Society in Portland. Nearly 50 people from the eight teams — including six students — crowded into the lecture hall for a full-day of community presentations, roundtable discussions, and extensive training on the website- and exhibit-building tools of Maine Memory Network.
The morning kicked off with each team providing a summary of work to date on the narrative history of the community, a rundown of exhibit topics, and the presentation of a storyboard of one exhibit. The storyboards ranged from PowerPoint displays to good, old-fashioned, hand-lettered, cut-and-pasted posters. All were dynamic, illustrative, and shared a historical treasure of the community — from teacher Ron Bilancia’s dramatic retelling of the Brady Gang’s fateful 1937 trip to Bangor to 8th grader Elaine Riitano’s charming description of how Guilford’s school system has consistently overcome challenges.
The teams spent the remainder of the morning on website design, primarily in a tutorial on the user-friendly MMN tool SiteBuilder delivered by MHS Director of Digital Projects Kathy Amoroso. Kathy then met with the teams’ Site Administrators (SAs) over lunch to answer more nitty-gritty questions from the folks that will oversee website construction for their communities.
Also during lunch, the six attending students — Guilford, Hallowell, and Scarborough each brought two students from their participating schools — were treated to a tour through MHS’s museum led by MHS Education Director Carolin Collins and AmeriCorps Education Assistant Rachel Miller.
Meanwhile, MCHP Education Consultant Kristie Littlefield covered a variety of topics in an educators roundtable, while MMN cataloger Fran Pollitt held a Q&A session for interested participants on the minutae of cataloging.
After lunch, it was time for an in-depth and hands-on exploration of ExhibitBuilder, the tool that teams will use to build their online exhibits. After an overview of the exhibit page template, teams had time to explore the system and, in some cases, even begin uploading prepared text and images.
And that was that! By 3:00 PM, teams were packing up and rolling out of Portland. The overall assessment of the day? One comment on a post-training survey may sum it fairly well:
“If other groups were like us they wondered just how difficult it was going to be to understand SiteBuilder and ExhibitBuilder. I think we all found out we shouldn’t be intimidated by the process but should see it as an opportunity to be creative and to make our sites interesting and informative.”