MCHP Lives On!

The MHS office/museum building at 489 Congress Street in Portland

In more ways than one.

First, the big news from MHS: The Institute of Museum and Library Services, the funder of the Maine Community Heritage Project, recently awarded Maine Historical Society another three-year National Leadership Grant to greatly expand upon the work of MCHP–to disseminate it much more broadly throughout the state.

Or, to put it more simply: WE GOT IT!! WE GOT IT!!

Scarborough's local history website, created in 2010

What we got is a chance to work with a significantly higher number of communities than we have over the past couple of years. While a total of 16 teams built comprehensive local history websites on Maine Memory Network from 2008 to 2010, over the next three years, roughly 25 community teams each year will get a chance to make their mark on Maine’s statewide digital museum.

A Greely Middle School student in Cumberland adjusts a scan of an historic photograph in 2010.

That doesn’t mean each team has to work for a year to build a comprehensive website, however. This new grant allows for a wider variety of options including digitization-only projects structured around a particular collection and single online exhibit projects, which might be ideal for a smaller group eager to explore a theme or topic in depth. This time around, teams also will have more flexibility in developing their own project timelines.

A promotional header from IMLS's report on 21st century skills in which MCHP appears as a case study

In addition, the new grant features an entirely new component: Professional development workshops designed to expand the 21st century skills of librarians, museum/historical society professionals, and educators.

Maine Community Heritage Project and Maine Memory Network staff will spend the fall and early winter refining the new program, and developing program resources and application cycles. Expect to see announcements on the MCHP website, this blog, and in the media generally in the early part of 2011!

Second, and equally exciting, there’s plenty of local news as well. We caught up recently with some 2009-2010 MCHP folks who have taken to heart the notion that websites–and community teams–are meant to be dynamic, not static, creatures.

First Lieutenant Grace Manning gets a manicure (for fifty cents!) from the WAC beauty shop at Dow Field.

The Bangor team used some of its stipend to support two summer interns–one at the library, one at the history center–to continue to digitize and upload items to Maine Memory. At the Bangor Public Library, this included working on some dormant Dow Field images that had long ago been uploaded to Maine Memory but needed to be cataloged. The resulting items offer a rich look at daily life at the airfield (the predecessor to today’s Bangor International Airport) during the World War II years.

Over at Cohen Middle School, teacher Ron Bilancia reports that his Maine Studies students voted “Bangor floods” as their exhibit topic for the year from a list of several possibilities. Four sections of students will work on the topic throughout the year, resulting in a multi-layered exhibit to be published on the website in the spring. Both Bill Cook from the library and Dana Lippitt from the Bangor Museum and Center for History will again visit the classroom a couple times a month.

Bangor looks like a war zone after the fire of 1911.

Meanwhile, team leader Debe Averill, Bangor High School librarian, and Lori Patterson, Doughty Middle School librarian, plan follow-up work on the site’s 1911 fire exhibit, created by the high school. They have been meeting with the city’s 100th Anniversary Fire Commemoration Committee since August and intend to involve both schools in activities, including scanning maps and blueprints.

McArthur Public Library's summer intern hard at work.

Also taking advantage of the highly-trained students that MCHP produced, McArthur  Public Library in Biddeford has offered both a summer and fall internship program. Archivist Renée DesRoberts reports that the summer intern did “an amazing job! She cleaned, catalogued, photographed, and rehoused the bulk of our artifact collections.” This was no small job as the collections were in pretty poor shape before getting some TLC.

A "before" picture of some of the artifacts in McArthur's collections.

An "after" picture of artifacts after time spent in the hands of the intern.

The fall intern will be working on an entirely different project–getting 100+ years of local history index cards in digital form so they can go online. Now that school is back in session, he’ll be working weekdays after classes get out. Renée reports he’s already a real trooper!

From the Blue Hill website: A hot air balloon "raising" in 1909.

Blue Hill team leader and historical society member Tom Bjorkman reports that two more exhibits are in development for that town’s website. Teacher Cathy Snow at the Consolidated School plans to have her middle school students create an exhibit on Blue Hill during the Civil War era, in commemoration of 2011 being the 15oth anniversary of the start of the War. Blue Hill Public Library staff Leda Beth Gray and Brook Minner, both active team members during the 2009-2010 year, are eager to develop an exhibit on the area’s pre-European peoples.

Riding instructors and students at Skyline Farm, circa 1955 (courtesy Skyline Farm)

Skyline Farm, one of the three historical organizations on the Cumberland/North Yarmouth team held a “Riders’ Reunion” in August during which 25-30 people came to share stories about riding horses at the Farm in the 1950s and ’60s. Everyone in attendance was introduced to the CNY website and Skyline rep Pam Ames reports that the pictures and slides brought by some attendees will be added to the site as a side exhibit. Best of all was that Richard Semmes, who lived at Skyline Farm in the 1940s and ’50s (and is mentioned in the Skyline exhibit), attended the reunion with his family. His two granddaughters rode horses on the same ground as their great-grandfather had 60 years before.

The "Student Corner" section of Guilford's MCHP website

Elaine Riitano and Spencer Martell, MCHP student leaders for their Piscataquis Community Secondary School class in Guilford, were hired as summer employees of the Guilford Historical Society. As they had done throughout the project year, they continued to scan and photograph items in the Society’s collections. In addition to cataloging them in the Society’s PastPerfect database, and preparing them for uploading to Maine Memory, they organized many of the images for eventual inclusion into the “Student Corner” of the Guilford website.

Hallowell historian Sumner "Sam" Webber's famed "suitcase" full of history.

Team Hallowell’s full complement of players began meeting again in September–almost as if they’d never taken a summer vacation. City historian Sam Webber is working on a “Mr. Webber’s Suitcase” series, featuring audio adventures in Hallowell history, for the website. Author and historian Gerry Mahoney is researching a Hallowell tour in 1840 by a city native who was the first Ambassador to Hawaii. Museum consultant Jane Radcliffe is at work on the Firemen’s Association collection. And teachers from Hall-Dale Middle School will once again weave all this, and more, into their curriculum.

The crowd in Lincoln at the community's MCHP final celebration and website unveiling in May.

Hearty congratulations are due to Mattanawcook Jr. High School teacher and Lincoln team leader Heidi Harris, who gave birth to baby Jackson in September! On maternity leave for the fall, she is planning to have a small group of students add on to the Lincoln site when she returns in January. She also would like to fit in some time for her entire 7th grade to be introduced to the project.

The Scarborough team plans to regroup soon to look at some new exhibit topics to add to the site over the coming year. Scarborough Middle School teacher Jessica Kelly also will be adding lesson plans for the current exhibits. And she had a chance to show off those great exhibits at two professional conferences over the summer.

Jessica Kelly's students Skype with Scarborough Historical Society members in early 2010.

First, in June it was “Tech Camp,”–a week of 42 in-service training sessions focusing on technology integration offered by the Sebago Educational Alliance to its six collaborative school districts. With the help of MCHP education consultant Kristie Littlefield, Jessica taught her session participants how to create an MMN account and make an album, and how to incorporate a project like MCHP into the classroom using tools like Skype and Ning.

A month later, Jessica and Kristie took the show on the road to Castine. The MLTI Summer Institute “Digital Citizenship – Raising the Flag” was held July 28-30 at Maine Maritime Academy. Jessica reports that a number of teachers there knew about MCHP and even more were excited about the prospect of working with their own towns’ libraries and historical societies.

Hallowell residents pour over historic images of the city provided by Penobscot Marine Museum at the MCHP celebration in June.

That bodes well for the news we reported at the very beginning of this post. In fact, all of this energy at the local level bodes well. The more that former MCHP communities add to and promote their sites, the more others in surrounding communities will want to be a part of reconnecting to and celebrating their own local history. Good ideas have a way of catching on.

So though blog posts before–including my pre-summer-hiatus post–have said it, it cannot be said enough:

MANY CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF YOU who worked so hard last year, and the year before, and are continuing to do so. It’s because of you that we are lucky enough to now be rolling up our sleeves once again and shouting from the virtual (and nearly literal) roof-tops: MCHP LIVES ON!


About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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One Response to MCHP Lives On!

  1. Pingback: New Year, New Look, New Grants | LIVING HISTORY

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