Belfast: A Must-See Stop on the Civil War Trail

__photo 3The second Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War community team to hold its first official meeting was the Belfast team on August 7. The team consists of staff or volunteers from the Belfast Free Library, the Belfast Historical Society and Museum, the Belfast Senior College, and the Game Loft, an afterschool program serving kids ages 6-18.

__photo 4After a two-hour discussion at the library on a range of topics–the most lively of which concerned what book or books the team might choose for the “One Story” part of the project–team members, along with MHS and Maine Humanities Council staff, toured the Historical Society’s museum.

For a small space, the museum is impressively packed–albeit with great attention to neatness and organization. From the stunning outside landscaping (a volunteer does the flowers) to the bustling reception area (an intern greeted us as we walked in) to several small rooms full of eye-catching displays, the museum sparkles like a true gem in the center of this seaport city.

An early 19th century apothecary's bench and shelves, stocked with "cures."

An early 19th century apothecary’s bench and shelves, stocked with “cures.”

Exhibits range from general local history about businesses and industry, the sea, baseball, and notable individuals, to a featured series on the Civil War. Like MHS, Belfast is one of 23 stops on Maine’s new Civil War Trail.

The centerpiece of the Civil War exhibit, sharing space with topics like the homefront and recruitment, is the society’s stunning Civil War bed quilt that was created by the Ladies Aid Society in 1864. The return of the quilt to Belfast in 2011, by way of Montana, and how BHS has cared for it since, is a great tale of historical reclamation.

Belfast Library staff Betsy Paradis and Brenda Harrington admire the quilt.

Belfast Library staff members Betsy Paradis and Brenda Harrington admire the quilt and related materials.

Naturally, the quilt has pride of place in the largest exhibit space in the museum to show off its patriotic design and still-visible handwriting–snippets of poems and sentiments. It also will be featured prominently in the Maine Memory exhibit the team produces for the Local & Legendary project.

BHS president and curator Megan Pinette shows Maine Humanities Council staffer Janet Lyons part of the recruitment exhibit.

BHS president and curator Megan Pinette shows Maine Humanities Council staffer Janet Lyons part of the recruitment exhibit.

But the quilt is only a part of the story; several other displays illustrate a variety of topics, such as recruitment. Given what has been accomplished in the physical museum, expect the digital version to be equally rich and multi-faceted.

Next up: reports from Portland/Westbrook team (which meets on Thursday, August 15),  followed by Presque Isle (August 20)!

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About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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