Portland and Presque Isle, the final two Local & Legendary communities to hold their initial team meetings, happen to be the southernmost and northernmost sites in the 2013-2014 project year. This is a fact not lost on those of us overseeing a Civil War program. Far from being a “north vs. south” situation, however, the two Maine cities are moving toward a common goal of celebrating community, local history, and the Pine Tree State of 150 years ago.
The building, which sits on the corner of Congress and Chestnut Streets, is mammoth and a bit awe-inspiring. Woodwork, carpeting, and wall colors in the cavernous meeting and function rooms–which can be rented out–are original, dating back nearly 100 years. And an early 20th century elevator in the building served as the model for the elevators on the Titanic!
A number of team events will be held here, including the project kick-off on Saturday, October 7, which will also serve as the grand opening for the library. The team, which consists of Friends of Evergreen Cemetery (the lead organization), and Walker Memorial Library and My Place Teen Center in Westbrook, in addition to the Masonic Library, is hard at work organizing that event. Not to mention thinking about how best to tell the story of the Masons during the Civil War in their Maine Memory exhibit, and trying to select just the right text for their “One Story” community read and related activities. They have also drafted a detailed “Phase 1-3” document outlining the project year.
At (not quite) the other end of the state, the Presque Isle team–made up of the Presque Isle Historical Society (taking the lead), the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library, the Presque Isle Middle School (focused in teacher Bill Guerrette’s 8th grade classes), and Northern Maine Community College (NMCC)–has already made a number of decisions about how to proceed.
Although they are still narrowing down book choices–and whether they’ll use one text or several–other parts of the projects are well-outlined. A whole host of “One Story” extension activities have been brainstormed including:
- Involve students from 4th grade all the way through college level with book discussions (youth readers, veterans, college students, community members).
- A tie-in with Constitution Day at NMCC, focusing on the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.
- Setting up Little Free Libraries stocked with Civil War books.
- Have middle school students “adopt” a civil war veteran who was buried locally and research the soldier, then march in Memorial Day parade representing that soldier.
- Host a traveling Civil War exhibit at NMCC, the middle school, and the public library.
- Publish a 2015 calendar with Civil War photos from the historical society’s collection; middle schoolers will research and write captions.
And team leader Kim Smith, president of the historical society, already has a good idea of what the team will focus the Maine Memory part of the project on.
Using a number of valuable collection items–a poster-sized enlistment record, discharge papers, photos, letters, and more–the exhibit will tell the story of what changed to the “Star City” during and after the war, given the men who left the area and didn’t come back.
That’s a question all Maine communities–north, south, east, and west–can relate to.