“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” – Booker T. Washington
On the surface, January is a quiet month for our Local & Legendary teams, but the reality is that they are hard at work organizing events and working on their Maine Memory Network exhibits. The dedicated volunteers in Bethel, Jay/Livermore Falls, Pittsfield, the Rumford area, and Scarborough are fine examples of Mr. Washington’s quote; they work hard to bring well organized interesting programming to their communities. To quote a Bethel team member, “the project is on track because the committee has a lot of enthusiasm. They take responsibility and do what needs to be done.”
The first week in January, representatives of all teams met with Meghan Vigeant of LegacyPreserves.com to reflect on their progress to date. The Pittsfield team nicely summarized lessons that all teams mentioned.
- Learn how other organizations work
- Value clear communications
- Manage expectations
- Evaluate skill sets among team members.
All teams commented on the students involved in the project and their enthusiasm, such as this comment: “Student days are my favorite days. It is great to see students and people get excited about Norlands.”
On the Rumford area team, a teacher has been happily surprised by the impact this project has made on his students. He feels that it can often be difficult for teachers to think outside the box and take on new projects. His experience with the Local & Legendary project has really altered his thinking. He has even noticed his students have better attendance on the days his class concentrates on local Civil War history. In Scarborough middle school students were excited to touch and handle Civil War artifacts and the librarian was impressed by how the students absorb what is presented to them. “They have an incredible way of making connections to their world that adults don’t make. They can connect the Civil War to today; it fascinates me. They get it and take it and go beyond.”
On January 7, Bethel had its first community book discussion of Civil War Stories by Ambrose Bierce. A small, but enthusiastic group of readers braved the wind and sub-zero weather to meet with facilitator Doug Rawlings at the Bethel Library. The discussion explored questions such as, “How much is real and how much is made up in the stories?” One woman came despite electing not to finish the book because it was too dark and gory; a man commented on how Bierce keeps you off balance and how that can lead you to not trust the writer. Another participant commented that Bierce was a very dark and egotistical person which led to a conversation about Bierce versus Stephen Crane and how much the author’s personality should influence us when deciding to read his books. The question left hanging, to be considered at the next discussion was, “Is Bierce being true to the war experience?” Books are available at the Bethel Public Library and readers are encouraged to join the next discussion on February 4.
Thanks to Janet Lyons, Consulting Project Coordinator for Maine Humanties Council, for writing this post.