Diving Into History: Greely Students Enjoy Two-week Immersion into MCHP

Smiling Greely Middle School students engaged in the process of doing good history

Smiling Greely Middle Schoolers engaged in the fun process of doing good history

School participation in the MCHP comes in all shapes and sizes. Some projects spread across the year and students dip into them once a week or so. Others are highly concentrated and time-limited but nevertheless plumb great depths. Both methods serve the purpose, but the latter has the advantage of keeping students–pulled in multiple directions by our high-speed world–consistently engaged and focused.

Teacher Steve Hill with his students

That was the case at Greely Middle School in Cumberland–which serves students in that town and North Yarmouth–for the last two weeks in January. In a full class period a day, 60 students in teacher Steve Hill’s three social studies classes went from a basic introduction to MCHP to producing scads of scanned or photographed images, each with its own cataloging-ready information sheet.

A stereoscopic image of Cumberland, ca. 1870 (courtesy Cumberland Historical Society via Maine Memory Network)

The first week–only four days long because of the MLK holiday–began with a presentation by MCHP Education Consultant Kristie Littlefield to introduce Maine Memory Network, and the concepts behind the MCHP. Building on that foundation, the next day MHS Education Assistant Rachel Miller led students through a deeper exploration of MMN. After pointing to some of the Cumberland and North Yarmouth items already online, reviewing the cataloging record, and showing off the image zoom feature, Rachel had students spend time in a “free” search on their own laptops.

By day three, it was time to gear up students for the actual process of selecting items and getting them onto MMN. During each class session, three workshops run by team members cycled students through the basics: 1) looking at and handling a variety of primary sources, 2) measuring items, and 3) scanning. It’s a testament to the team members that they could run substantive, interactive, and fun sessions in about 12 minutes each!

Katie Murphy (standing, right) and Carolyn Small (seated) show students a variety of primary sources

The “primary source” workshop was conducted in Steve Hill’s classroom by the two historical society representatives on the team–Carolyn Small from Cumberland and Katie Murphy from North Yarmouth. They set up their session by spreading a wide variety of items–photographs, documents, and artifacts–across several desks.

Items once owned by Civil War soldier Luther Lawrence

After donning white gloves, students reverently handled many of the items–including, movingly, the haversack, diary, and collapsible cup of Captain Luther Lawrence, one of the first men to enlist in the Union Army–while Carolyn and Katie explained the provenance of each.

Students measure a Cumberland lard bucket

Across the hall, Pam Ames, representing Skyline Farm, guided students through a  measuring station using a distinctive group of items from the North Yarmouth carriage museum, as well as from Cumberland Historical Society. A lard bucket, wooden carriage jack, carriage foot warmer, and–jaw-clenching to behold–a horse tooth extractor provided some fun spatial challenges for the students, who already had to contend with converting their inches-only ruler to centimeters to comply with MMN measurement standards.

Two students measure a wooden carriage jack

(All measurements were recorded on a worksheet adapted from the one that the Hallowell team used during its own student workshop in December.)

Team member John Sowles points out particulars of the scanning process

Finally, down the hall in the school library, Thomas Bennett, director of Prince Memorial Library in Cumberland, and John Sowles, another Skyline representative, manned two scanning stations. The pair showed students how to place photographs and documents on the scanning bed, check for file size, and properly save the file.

Skyline Farm's carriage foot warmer

On the last day of the first week, MHS Images Services Coordinator Dani Fazio joined the team to lead the three classes through the rigors of digitally photographing objects that can’t be laid flat on a scanner. Among other items, the students practiced with the foot warmer and lard bucket from the measuring station the day before, working hard to get the shot just right.

Students photograph a shoe "last" (a form for making shoes)

The following week was devoted to putting what they had learned into practice. In groups of three, students scanned or photographed 1-2 items and collectively worked through an MHS-created “Student Processing Guide” to answer questions about the item that would eventually be developed into text for the cataloging record. Team members were on hand to divvy up the items, answer questions about them, and record the process of the students. In all, nearly 70 items were processed by the students — almost half of the total number of items an MCHP team is required to digitize.

That’s an incredible ratio for just a few days of work… leading one to think that while the time-limited nature of Greely’s participation seems to prove the old adage that what counts is “quality, not quantity,” sometimes, in fact, it’s both.

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About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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One Response to Diving Into History: Greely Students Enjoy Two-week Immersion into MCHP

  1. Pingback: Second Time’s a Charm at Greely « LIVING HISTORY

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