At the end of a busy year, and in the midst of scrambling to finish building a website, the logistics of pulling together an event for the community surely was a little dizzying. Looking back, most of the Maine Community Heritage Project team members probably would agree that planning for one final celebration was more than enough. What team would have dared to take on two? One, apparently, that wanted to go out not just with a “bang” but–in honor of its granite-quarrying past–with a KA-BOOM!
So last Thursday, Hallowell closed out the 2009-2010 MCHP year (and the entire, three-year MCHP pilot program!) with daytime and evening final events in the Hall-Dale Middle School theater. And what a fond farewell it was. Highlighted by an array of poised and personable student speakers, the simple-yet-sophisticated, leisurely-but-lively program mirrored a team that stood out all year long for its high level of experience, expertise, and energy.
Team leader Bob McIntire got things started at both the 1PM and 6:30PM events. A dynamic speaker, he treated the crowds–the entire 6th-8th grade and about 75 members of the public, respectively–to a colorful PowerPoint presentation about the project’s process and the website’s content.
Following congratulatory remarks by Maine Historical Society staff and Hallowell VIPs–a town councilman in the afternoon and the mayor in the evening–some of the nearly 70 7th graders who had participated in the project ascended the stage to speak. About 10 addressed the crowd at each event and many of the faces in the evening were different from those that had presented in the afternoon.
But all were charming and clearly cared about the work they had done as part of the MCHP. Each spoke about a different aspect of the project, such as the fall field trip, the December kick-off at the school, or the process they undertook to build their Disasters exhibit on the Hallowell website.
The website then took center stage. In the afternoon, the 6th and 8th grade classes followed the 7th graders back to their homerooms to get a guided tour of the various exhibits. Every time a buzzer rang, students moved to another classroom to see a different part of the site. Amid all the hubbub–this was only three school days before summer vacation after all!–this peer-to-peer process worked wonderfully.
The evening event cycled attendees into the cafeteria for treats and online tours. A number of laptops, some hooked up to projector screens, were staffed by students ready to show off the many-layered site.
Meanwhile, the team had laid out an array of historic Hallowell images provided by the Penobscot Marine Museum and asked attendees to vote for their favorite by placing a sticker beneath the image–an activity that proved to be extremely popular. The museum has generously agreed to make a poster-sized print of the winning image to hang in Hallowell’s Hubbard Free Library. (You’ll just have to visit Hallowell this summer to find out which one won!)
This fun and enriching activity is but one of the many ways Hallowell plans to celebrate and continue its history work. Already, the team has arranged for a library staff member to continue digitizing collections over the summer, and Bob McIntire is working on developing a series of short podcasts with team member and encyclopedic city historian Sam Webber called “Mr. Webber’s Suitcase.”
Knowing all this–and that each of the other seven MCHP teams have such fabulous resources to continue on with what they’ve begun–made yours truly feel a little bit better at the end of last Thursday evening. Sure, the 2009-2010 Maine Community Heritage Project year has indeed wound down, and some might see that as an ending. But based on what I’ve seen this year around the state–in places big and small, with people who care deeply about history and community–I’ll put my money on it being a new beginning.