MHS Receives $300,000 Grant to Install Solar Panels on Offsite Collections Management Facility

Solar PanelsMaine Historical Society (MHS) has been awarded a $300,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the installation of a solar energy system to provide sustainable preservation in a facility housing the rich collections of the Maine Historical Society and the Portland Public Library (PPL). Solar panels on the roof of the building will generate enough electricity to cover the needs of climate-control – an energy-intensive necessity for the long-term preservation of art, artifacts, manuscripts and other materials – as well generate sufficient electricity to subsidize electricity usage at MHS and PPL’s Congress Street campuses.

The grant, specifically designed to help museums and libraries operate more sustainably, is part of $36.6 million given out by NEH to support 212 humanities projects administered by institutions and independent scholars across 42 states; MHS is one of just three Maine organizations awarded funding.

“NEH gives out very few of these grants,” said Steve Bromage, Executive Director of MHS. “We are honored that they recognize the significance of Maine Historical Society’s efforts to incorporate environmental sustainability into how it cares for the collections that document the history of our state.”

In 2014, MHS formed a partnership with PPL to jointly purchase a 35,500 square foot former warehouse at 1000 Riverside Street in Portland and develop it into a state-of-the-art collections management facility. In addition to providing much-needed storage for MHS’s growing collections, the facility allows for the freeing of nearly 18,000 square feet of space at the MHS campus on Congress Street, and increases the organization’s ability to engage and serve the people of Portland and communities throughout Maine with expanded programs, services and outreach.

“I’m thrilled that this federal investment will help one of Maine’s oldest institutions enlist the latest green technology to preserve important pieces of Maine’s history,” said Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees NEH funding. “I applaud Maine Historical Society and the Portland Public Library for joining forces to make this possible. In receiving funding through a very competitive program like this, their collaboration is a great example of what multiple organizations can achieve by working together.”

Visit NEH online for more information about the grant awards.

Lost Skills, Found!

Our Lost Skills summer workshop series highlighting traditional crafts was a hit! Including Knot Tying, Basket Making, Calligraphy, and Drying and Using Herbs and Flowers, each workshop filled quickly and was full of energy. Attendees had fun learning a traditional skill, socializing with each other, and enjoying food and drink. See photos from the workshops below:

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MHS Teacher Workshops in Portland & Bangor

Maine Historical Society hosted teacher workshops on August 4 in Portland and August 6 in Bangor as part of a grant from the Library of Congress to create lesson plans pairing Maine Memory Network primary sources with items on the LOC’s digital museum, American Memory. The workshops, which were open to a total of 50 teachers, were completely reserved out. The Portland session was held at MHS, and the Bangor session was graciously hosted by the William S. Cohen Middle School.


Maine Historical Society, Portland

In addition to presentations by MHS Manager of Education Kathleen Neumann, each group heard from a veteran Maine Memory teacher on the benefits of using primary sources in the classroom, as well from Maine Department of Education Social Studies Specialist Kristie Littlefield.


William S. Cohen Middle School, Bangor

Nearly 40 of the 50 attendees have responded to a survey, offering high marks and glowing comments about the content-rich day and the practical application for the classroom. One teacher wrote, “Thank you for your time and effort in planning today’s workshop. I can’t wait to start delving into [this] in greater detail. I’m so excited. I’ve emailed the History department head to put me on the  beginning of school agenda to share what I’ve learned.”

Five case study teachers will be chosen via a competitive application process to develop their own lesson plans and be observed throughout the academic year by Kathleen. Those plans will eventually end up on Maine Memory.

Junior Docents Delight with Heartfelt House Tours

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At Maine Historical Society, we like to think that every tour of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House is special, and we know that a large part of what makes them special is the dedication and knowledge of our volunteer docents. On July 10, MHS’s newest crop of volunteer docents had the chance to ply their newly acquired tour-guiding skills for the very first time, delighting the visiting public with an open-house style tour of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s childhood home from a perspective the poet would have surely appreciated: a youthful one!

The hosts of the open house that day were fourth and fifth grade Portland-area students who had just completed MHS’s third annual Junior Docent Camp. Campers spent a week learning not only about the Longfellow family, their home, and Henry’s poetry, but also about what life was like for kids in the 19th century, the best practices for leading public tours, and about the work of history museums.

The camp was a unique opportunity for kids to interact with museum staff and collections in ways that are not often available to history buffs who are so young. Collections Manager Holly Hurd-Forsyth showed the campers objects from the collection, explaining how to handle historic artifacts and how they can be read just like books as a way to learn about the past. Director of Library Services Jamie Rice shared documents associated with the Wadsworth and Longfellow families and provided campers with a behind the scenes tour of the Brown Research Library.

Other popular activities included spirited rounds of “games of graces,” making butter, exploring the Portland Farmer’s Market, and even dipping candles. After escorting an impressive 59 visitors through the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in just two hours, the campers and their families celebrated their graduation from the program with a small ceremony in the Longfellow Garden.

For inquiries about the 2015 Junior Docent Camp, contact Kathleen Neumann at 207-774-1822 ext. 214, or

Highlights From Our 193rd Annual Meeting

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Ellsworth Brown delivers the keynote at Maine Historical Society’s 193rd Annual Meeting

On Saturday, June 6 we convened in the Brown Library Reading Room for the 193rd Maine Historical Society Annual Meeting.

Ellsworth H. Brown, Ph.D — Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society — delivered an engaging keynote address to our crowd of 80. Brown discussed how history shapes place and region, entertaining the audience with anecdotes and insights. “Stories are how humankind makes sense of itself,” said Brown. “We are society’s memory,” he later noted regarding the role of museums and historical societies. And on the prevalence of digital information today, Brown made a provoking declaration: “The digital world is a real world. It’s not different; it’s real.”

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Ellsworth Brown & Steve Bromage

Prior to Brown’s speech, MHS Executive Director Steve Bromage bestowed awards upon three prominent individuals in the MHS network:

  • Elizabeth Ring Service Award: Aynne Doil, Events Chair
  • Neal W. Allen, Jr. History Award: Candace Kanes, Curator, Maine Memory Network
  • Trustee Recognition Award: Theodore B. Oldham
MHS 193rd Annual Meeting-10

Steve Bromage & Aynne Doil

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Steve Bromage & Candace Kanes

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Theodore B. Oldham & Steve Bromage

Additionally, four new Trustees were welcomed to the Board:

  • Penelope Carson
  • Nancy Cline
  • Jan Eakins
  • Tobey Scott

To round out the day, participants were led on a special tour of our collections storage featuring an up-close look at some of our seldom-seen treasures; and a chance to learn how our new offsite Collections Management Center — developed in partnership with Portland Public Library — is helping to shape MHS’s future.

Maine National History Day Winners Congratulated in Augusta


In early April, student winners of the Maine National History Day competition were celebrated in a ceremony in the cultural building in Augusta, the home of the Maine State Museum, Archives, and Library. MHS Director Steve Bromage, State Historian Earle Shettleworth, Commissioner of Education Tom DesJardins, and University of Maine administrators, among others, were on hand to congratulate students who will go onto the national competition in Maryland in June. MHS is part of a consortium that organizes the competition, which is held at UMaine in Orono in March.


Noah Binette (left), a Maine student who placed first in the 2014 National History Day competition

Books in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House | Part 2: Sitting Room Library

Notes from the Archives by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger

IMG_7877The sitting room once held Stephen Longfellow’s law office. Stephen (1776-1849), the father of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, used a sideboard-bookcase, which had a center drawer that folded down to form a writing space. It was the books in this bookcase that I cataloged this winter. I assumed they would be dry and dull law books, but to my delight and surprise I found more books associated with the family, which give more insight into the Longfellows.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and family, Italy, 1869. Collections of Maine Historical Society.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and family, Italy, 1869. Collections of Maine Historical Society.

Granted, many of these books did belong to Stephen, and had to do with law, and his work as a legislator. But other Longfellow family members make their appearance, by signing some of the books. These include…

Stephen Longfellow, Portland, ca. 1845. Collections of Maine Historical Society.

Stephen Longfellow, Portland, ca. 1845. Collections of Maine Historical Society.

Henry’s siblings:

-Stephen Longfellow (1805-1850). A teenaged Stephen doodled men’s profiles, ships, and a dog in ink on the endpages of The Elements of Greek Grammar.

-Elizabeth Wadsworth Longfellow (1808-1829). Elizabeth died at the age of 20, so it’s wonderful to have evidence of her life, with some of her textbooks in the house.

-Anne Longfellow Pierce (1810-1901). Although most of Anne’s books are in her bedroom, a few of them are also in this book case. They include poetry, fiction, and devotional writings.

Alexander Longfellow, Portland, 1880

Alexander Longfellow, Portland, 1880

-Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (1814-1901). Elements of Chemistry by Edward Turner (1830) has an inscription by Alexander, dated 1831, when he was acting as secretary for his uncle Alexander during a tour of duty in the Pacific, off the coast of Chile. He later became a surveyor, and worked for the U.S. Coast Survey.

-Mary Longfellow Greenleaf (1816-1902). Mary signed several of the books, including textbooks, probably used by her at the Portland Female Academy.

-Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892). Samuel gave his sister Mary Yarrow Revisited: And Other Poems (1835) by William Wordsworth.

Henry’s wives:

-Mary Potter Longfellow (1812-1835). One of the most poignant books in the house is Mary Potter’s Bible. It was given to her in 1819 by her cousin George Chase, three days before his death, “as a memento of his affectionate love.” Mary was 7 years old. In between the Old Testament and the New Testament is the Potter family genealogy. Mary’s husband, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, added the dates of their marriage in 1831 and her death in 1835. Mary died in Rotterdam from a miscarriage, when she and Henry were touring Europe.

W-L 365 Mary Potter's Bible

W-L 365 Mary Potter’s Bible

-Fanny Appleton Longfellow (1817-1861). Gems of Sacred Poetry (1841) is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce 1845, from her sister Fanny, with much love.” Fanny Appleton Longfellow was the second wife of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, therefore, Fanny’s “sister-in-law.”

Other relatives:

-Anne Sophia Longfellow Balkam (born in 1818). Anne Sophia, gave her cousins Mary and Anne Longfellow books as gifts. She was the only child of Captain Samuel Longfellow (1789-1818), Stephen Longfellow’s (1776-1849) younger brother. She inherited part of the estate of her grandfather Stephen Longfellow (1750-1824). Although she lived outside of Portland during most of her girlhood, she corresponded with and visited her Portland cousins. She was a bridesmaid at Mary Longfellow’s wedding to James Greenleaf in 1839.

-Mary King Longfellow (1852-1945). Mary, the daughter of Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry’s brother, owned The Child’s Matins and Vespers (1853).

-Henry’s great grandfather, Stephen Longfellow (1728-1790). Stephen owned a book called Essays Upon Field-Husbandry in New-England, which is inscribed on the front: “This book belonged to Stephen Longfellow the School Master, see his autograph on outer cover.” Stephen Longfellow was Falmouth’s first schoolmaster and filled many important civic offices.

-George Wadsworth. George is the lone “Wadsworth” in this group. He was possibly Henry’s uncle, the brother of Henry’s mother Zilpah. George may have owned a French dictionary in the book case, which was later owned by his brother-in-law Stephen, and niece Mary.


Another Wadsworth, however, can be found in this collection, by association. Abel Bowen’s The Naval Monument (1816) is inscribed: “Reuben Goff, Charlestown, Mass.” Reuben Goff was in the navy yard in Charlestown more than forty years. He made models, including one of the bridge from Charlestown to Boston. He was considered one of the finest workmen in wood, and when he died was at the head in one of the departments in the yard. What’s the connection to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families?

IMG_7868Some of the books have a connection to Henry himself, some from his student days at Portland Academy and Bowdoin College, as well as his professor days at Bowdoin. And not only Henry, but his brothers Stephen and Alexander, who also attended, and his father Stephen, an overseer and trustee of Bowdoin College. Henry used a Latin dictionary at the age of 13 when a student at Portland Academy. Apparently this dictionary was also used by Samuel, his brother.

Most charming is a book written in Spanish and inscribed by Henry to his brother Alexander: “Alex. W. Longfellow, de la hermano, Enrique, Brunswick, Me. 1830.” Alexander attended Bowdoin College in 1829, and for a while stayed with his brother Henry and his first wife Mary Storer Potter. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a professor of modern languages at Bowdoin – during his years teaching at the college, he translated textbooks in French, Italian and Spanish; his first published book was in 1833, a translation of the poetry of medieval Spanish poet Jorge Manrique. This book, by Garcilasco de la Vega, a Spanish poet, may have been inscribed by Henry (“Enrique”) to his brother Alexander.

W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega cover

W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega cover

W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega title page

W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega title page

Several of the books, including textbooks, were signed by “T. G. Kimball.” Thomas G. Kimball of Monmouth was a student at Bowdoin around 1835, and possibly a student of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

IMG_7876There is also a pamphlet entitled Acts Relative to Bowdoin College and the Standing Rules and Orders of the Overseers of the College, printed in 1826, which is inscribed: “S. Longfellow, 1831.” This may have been Stephen, father of Henry, as he was an overseer of the college from 1811-1817, and a trustee from 1817-1836.

One of the oddest finds is a book printed in 1830, which has the inscription: “Presented to his Majesty Louis Philippe, King of the French, by the Editor.” It is also inscribed, in different and later handwriting: “From the family of A. W. Longfellow.” This may have been Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, brother of Henry. Louis Philippe (1773-1850) was the French King from 1830 to 1848 as the leader of the Orleanist party. He was sworn in as King Louis-Philippe I on August 9, 1830. The book, The Debates, Resolutions, and Other Proceedings, in Convention, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution…was collected by Jonathan Elliot. One can only surmise at the connections.



The most exciting find of the project was to come across a “Scherenschnitte,” or scissor-cutting, by Martha Honeywell, lying loosely in Gems of Sacred Literature (1841). The book is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce from her brother Henry, Jan. 1, 1845.” Martha Ann Honeywell, (about 1787-after 1848), was an itinerant silhouette artist who was born without hands and had only three toes on one foot. She cut paper for her silhouettes and profiles by holding the scissors in her teeth, using her toes for steadiness and guidance. The cutting is signed by Martha Honeywell and may have been collected by Anne from a performance by Honeywell who appeared at one time in Portland and in Boston. The scissor-cutting is now housed in the museum.


To learn more about these books you can search our Minerva catalog (Dewey Call Number Search) for W-L. This will bring up all the books in the Wadsworth Longfellow House, including the books in Anne Longfellow Pierce’s bedroom (see blog Part 1), and the sitting room. It also includes books that originally were in the house but are now located in the Brown Research Library.