The Friendship Museum, in partnership with the Friendship Village School, received a Maine Memory Network grant in the fall of 2012 to build an exhibit about the village’s historic Jameson & Wharf. The exhibit went online in June just as school drew to a close for the year.
A well-researched, multi-faceted, and visually-compelling exhibit, The Historic Jameson & Wotton Wharf is the product of a lot of hard teamwork between historical society members, students, and a teacher.
While there already existed a 10-year foundation of partnership between the two institutions conducting community oral histories, project coordinator and museum member Sally Merrick and teacher, Gaylea Hynd, had to start from scratch to embed the project into the sixth grade curriculum.
In her final report, Sally outlined their method and process:
- To orient the 19 students to the project, they first took a walking tour of the wharf as it exists today. Included on the tour were the homes of the two original partners of the wharf, and other buildings where wharf-business took place. A worker at what is now the Friendship Lobster Co-Op gave a short talk about the changes to the wharf over the past 115 years.
- The next day two descendants of the original owners, Patricia Jameson Havener and Margaret Wotton Gagnon, came to the classroom and shared their knowledge, as well as documents, artifacts, and photographs pertaining to the wharf. Most of the children come from lobstering families and what engaged them most was tracing the route of the Foster D, a lobster smack used to pick up lobsters for the wharf. They placed stickers on a nautical chart of Muscongus Bay to show the various islands and shoreline communities visited by the Foster D.
- Sally assembled many of the materials for the exhibition–photographs, postcards, documents, and artifacts–and provided background material about them. A local photographer set up a studio in Margaret Gagnon’s kitchen and took pictures of artifacts from the Jameson & Wotton store on the wharf.
- Two students traced the ownership of the wharf with a town assessor. Several people in the community helped date the photographs.
- Students worked in alternating pairs to scan photographs. One student scanned while the other one wrote down the data. Later the class was divided into five groups to write descriptions of the photographs.
- One of the students, Elizabeth Flanagan, collaborated with Sally in the writing of the essay for the exhibit. They share the byline.
- Sally, with input from MMN staff, constructed the actual exhibit herself.
- On one of the last days of school, Sally and Gaylea showed the students the completed exhibits and they immediately zeroed in on parts they had contributed.
- On July 24, the museum will host a presentation about the project at the Town Office. Sally plans to invite attendees to share their recollections of the wharf, and actual artifacts will be on display.
While Sally had initially envisioned engaging the students more fully, and in more parts of the project, classroom logistics and scheduling made that difficult. This is a common challenge for outside organizations when trying to work on unique community projects with schools, and creating content on Maine Memory is no different.
When all is said and done, the Friendship model serves as an excellent example of biting off exactly what you can chew–no more, no less–and doing it methodically, and with just the right amount of historical context and hands-on involvement.