2014: It’s All History Now (Part 3 of 7)
In 2014, the Brown Library at MHS welcomed nearly 3,000 researchers and volunteers –genealogy was the prime interest. The year was a busy one with many projects initiatives including the Bangor Theological Seminary Collection project, a move of selected collections to the Shared Collections Management Center, and the conversion of the Library’s Second Floor Reading Room into an exhibition and program space–a space made public for the first time in 30 years!
The Library also welcomed a number of distinguished guests in 2014, including a group of Bryant Fellows from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in May, and four New England Regional Fellows as part of the Library’s participation in the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium. During the 2014-2015 cycle, the Brown Library was awarded six fellows total–more than any previous year!
Bangor Theological Seminary Collection
The Bangor Theological Seminary (BTS) held its final commencement in June of 2013 after 199 years of providing degrees to those seeking theological education. In November of 2013, the Seminary sought out a place for its historical collections, specifically a place in Maine, and ended up at our door. We were honored and grateful for the collections and are diligently working to archive and process the vast collection of items.
This year, in response to the overwhelming task of processing the BTS collection, we welcomed Patrick Ford as Project Archivist and Laurie McQuarrie as Archival Assistant. With their added help and expertise, we are discovering Maine historical gems, like a letter written by Joshua Chamberlain outlining his life after graduating from the Seminary; we have also uncovered manuscripts related to the Seminary’s work in biblical archaeology. Due to the size, importance and details of this collection, we don’t expect to finish processing it until 2016! Read more about the collection.
New Exhibit Space: Second Floor Reading Room
For the first time, the Brown Library’s Reading Room on the second floor housed a public exhibition: Lincoln: The Constitution and The Civil War, a nationally traveling show co-sponsored by the Maine Irish Heritage Center, and organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. Made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Lincoln is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.
Collections Access & Acquisitions
The Society’s museum collections database tallied almost 10,000 searches this year through more than 3,000 user session!
Of those searches, the top three were search terms were “Deering,” “Civil War,” and “Doughty;” the top three items viewed in the database were:
The Library took in 250 gifts to the collections representing over 100 linear feet of library material and 100 new museum objects. In technical services, 109 scrapbooks from backlog were catalogued, including Anne Longfellow Pierce’s library in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House (look for a 2015 blog recap!). Staff, interns, and volunteers processed over 100 feet of manuscript collections, making the collections available to the researching public.
In November, we published Maine in the Civil War: A Bibliographic Guide, 2nd Edition. The book is a comprehensive bibliography of published works reflecting Maine’s participation in the War of the Rebellion, as well as the impact of the war on Maine. The second edition was compiled by MHS’s Director of Library Services, Jamie Rice, and marked the revitalization of the Society’s publications program.
A number of blogs were also written based on Library collections this year, many authored by volunteers and interns including The Diaries of Doris Blackman Merriam by Emily Gendrolis, and a series on World War I, by intern Pamela Ruth Outwin, including Where Hostilities Are Now In Progress and Assassinations and Entanglements.
Archivist and Cataloger, Nancy Noble, added to her series, Notes from the Archives with the following entries Newly Acquired Bound Manuscripts, A Tale of Two Policemen, and an entry from guest blogger,Tessa Surette on Hiram Kelly Morrell’s Family Genealogy. Nancy also authored a piece about the Parmachenee Club entitled Autumn in the Maine Woods. The From the Collections Series also continued with an added entry on trade publications.
Shared Collections Management Center
MHS has made significant progress this year toward the development of the Shared Collections Management Center at 1000 Riverside Street in Portland. In partnership with the Portland Public Library (PPL), we set out to: 1) radically improve the care and management of the collections that are the core of our work; and 2) use the space we gain on our Congress Street campus to expand exhibition and public program spaces.
We closed on the building purchase in November 2013 and began renovation immediately. While the structure of the old warehouse was sound, our intention was to turn it into a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled museum and archival storage space. Working with Scott Simons Architects and Stroudwater Construction, the project proceeded smoothly.
The facility has already begun to fulfill its potential. Portland Public Library moved books and periodicals into their half of the building in June. In July, we began filling our space, starting with clearing a rented storage unit that had housed the Central Maine Power collections as well as the large Bangor Theological Seminary collection. Moving MHS Library and Museum collections is a careful process and will continue throughout 2015.
In November, O.A.R. band member, Mikel Paris visited the Library while in town for a performance at the State Theater. Mikel produces the online video series TuneTrek with history, humor and music, and chronicles his visits to historical landmarks around the country. The Portland Press Herald was along for the ride and wrote a great article capturing the experience. We had a great time with Mikel and enjoyed seeing the Library used in a new and creative way.