Happy New Year! Can we just take a minute and say Thanks?! 2014 was an incredible year for MHS, much due to all the wonderful people who visited us for public programs, listened to our podcasts, became members, researched in our library, contributed to our collections, and engaged with us in person (throughout the state) and online.
We love creating programs and exhibitions for our diverse audiences (in Maine and around the world) and hope that if you haven’t had a chance to join the MHS community, 2015 will be your year to do it. Drop us a line if there’s something of particular interest that you’d like to see us doing in the new year–we welcome your feedback!
We’ve created 7 ways to look back on all that you’ve helped us accomplish in 2014–check out these posts compiled by our staff:
We kicked off 2014 with a number of programs relating to themes of the Civil War and food–both were presented in our exhibitions, but our year was peppered with lectures, presentations, First Friday Art Walks, tastings, sailing trips, baseball games, book launches, haunted houses, summer camp, and so much more…too much, in fact, to fit into this blog recap. Still, we’d like to reflect upon some of our public program highlights from 2014.
Food-related programs drew big crowds this year, thanks in part to Portland’s burgeoning status as a “foodie city” and our rich historical collections related to Maine food and restaurants. In conjunction with an exhibition on menus from our collections in February and March, Gary Libby gave a presentation on this history of Portland’s Chinese restaurants, and food historian and author Sandy Oliver came to talk about Maine restaurant fare. In July, Kate McCarty gave a talk based on her book, Portland Food: The Culinary Capital of Maine. Visit our podcast page to find links to these talks.
From Lost on a Mountain in Maine: Donn Fendler Comes to MHS
On August 16, Donn Fendler visited MHS and spoke to a packed house about his experience in 1939, being 12 years old and lost on Mount Katahdin for nine days. His story was turned into the classic book Lost on a Mountain in Maine, and many guests brought their copies for Donn to sign.
He was joined by filmmaker Ryan Cook who shared film clips from his documentary as well as a “first look” for the feature film he plans to make that will share Donn’s story with the world. This 75th anniversary event was co-sponsored by the Pine Tree Council’s Boy Scouts of America.
July 4th Public Reading & Display of the Declaration of Independence
More than 125 people listened to and reflected upon the words of our country’s founders during our annual reading of the Declaration of Independence by former State Rep. Herb Adams on the front lawn of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House. Many visitors had the chance to view our rare Dunlap broadside of the Declaration, which we displayed in our gallery that week. Photos from the event are on our Facebook page, and you can watch video clips from local TV stations WCSH and WMTW.
Celebrate the Season with MHS
This holiday season, we invited visitors to explore the friendship between the man who is said to have “invented America” and the man who is said to have “invented Christmas”–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Dickens. Guests toured the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and learned about both men, Dickens’s visit to Portland, Christmas traditions of the Longfellow family, and the enduring effects of A Christmas Carol.
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, our festively decorated campus was abuzz with holiday programs including the MHS Members holiday party, special tours of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House (where Scrooge selfies were taken), music in the house by pianist David Maxwell, blacksmith demonstrations by Sam Smith, a holiday shopper’s bazaar, and special programming during the December Art Walk and Portland Tree Lighting. To top it all off, we had a very special performance, An Evening with Longfellow and Dickens, by Portland Stage actors Daniel Noel and Andrew Harris who played the parts of the two men and brought their friendship to life in this sold-out event.
Other Notable Programs:
This summer we hosted our third annual Vintage Baseball Game which featured the Dirigo Base Ball Club, the Essex Base Ball Organization, and the Presumpscot Base Ball Club. The teams played at the SMCC Athletic Fields in South Portland, and kids participated in a baseball clinic run by visiting players. This free event was co-sponsored by Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society, Scarborough Historical Society, and South Portland Historical Society.
In 2013 we started a new Student Spotlight lecture series which was made increasingly popular this year. Talks showcase new research from undergraduates and graduates at Maine colleges and universities. This year, we heard about 19th century cookbooks and domestic manuals, and the 1970s environmental clean-up of the Androscoggin River. Stay tuned for Student Spotlight talks in 2015!
Civil War programming related to the ongoing sesquicentennial was hugely popular in 2014. In March, we held an informative and powerful panel presentation, Veterans Issues: From the Civil War to Today, moderated by former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. Other panelists included Amy Marcotte, Sanford Vet Center Team Leader; Ryan Lilly, Director, VA Maine Healthcare System; and Donald Beattie, Togus historian (pictured together here). In May, Chandra Manning, Associate Professor of History at Georgetown University, presented her talk African Americans & the U.S. Government During and After the Civil War to a receptive and engaged crowd. Our annual Olmsted Lecture was also dedicated to the Civil War with the presentation, Sanitary Concerns: Portlander Harriet Eaton, State Relief Work, and the Fight over Federal Benevolence during the Civil War, by Jane Schultz, Professor of English and the Medical Humanities, and Director of Literature, at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis. (You can hear the latter two talks as podcasts).
In November, as part of the opening reception for the traveling exhibition Lincoln: The Constitution and The Civil War, historian Jared Peatman attracted a packed-house with his talk Free and Responsible Government: The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Two additional programs relating to this exhibition topic were Maine in the Civil War with speaker and MHS Trustee Lee Webb, and Portland’s Irish in the Civil War with speaker Matthew Jude Barker.
In early December, we hosted a book launch of the highly-anticipated publication Historical Atlas of Maine(currently sold-out but check back later this winter), co-hosted with the University of Maine. Dick Judd joined us for his presentation Reflections on Editing the Historical Atlas of Maine: A Scholarly Epic with speaker Dick Judd. After 15 years of extensive research, the Historical Atlas of Maine presents in cartographic form–maps, paintings, graphs, and text–the historical geography of Maine from the end of the last ice age to the year 2000. Organized in four chronological sections, the Atlas tells the principal stories of the many people who have lived in Maine over the past 13,000 years.
Can’t Make it to MHS? Listen to our Podcasts!
We are pleased to announce that many MHS lectures and book talks dating back to early 2012 are now available as podcasts on our website and on iTunes! For those of you who can’t attend our programs in person can still access the diverse content. Just click on the arrow on the horizontal bar beneath the program description (when navigating from our website).
The Wadsworth-Longfellow House stayed busy this year, as it’s always a highlight of visitors to Portland and our campus. We offered House tours May 1 through December 28 and our friendly and knowledgable guides and docents gave tours to visitors of all ages from around the world.
For the 2014 season, interpretation at the Longfellow House was revamped to tie in with our exhibition, Home: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland, which explores the development of the city through the lens of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s childhood home, connecting the evolution of the house to the development of the city around it.
New topics of discussion included more attention to the House’s interpretation of how fire affected the building and family, both as a dangerous element and as a source of heat; and water, including how it was accessed, and the role it played in changing understandings of health.
Holiday Season at the House
Back by popular demand was the Longfellow’s Haunted House tours this Halloween, and for the second year in a row all tours sold out! We look forward to bringing this event back in 2015.
In November and December, the House remained open for holiday tours right through Christmas. This year’s theme celebrated the friendship between Henry Longfellow and Charles Dickens, a friendship gone uncovered in recent history. During our holiday season at MHS, the House’s tour included stories of the two literary greats, their musings with one another as well as their influences in each other’s lives and writing, including Dicken’s holiday classic, A Christmas Carol.
On the tour, guests could also see a mini-exhibit, Affectionately Yours, Charles Dickens, that featured an original letter written by Dickens to Longfellow in 1842.
Throughout the month of December the House also hosted additional holiday events including music on the 1843 Chickering Piano in the parlor, played by renowned pianist Dr. David Maxwell. On the House lawn we welcomed back Master Blacksmith, Sam Smith who held blacksmith demonstrations for visitors. During the December First Friday Art Walk guests were serenaded into the holiday spirit with carolers from Deering High School.
Also this year, we hosted another successful Portland Docent History program that resulted in five new docents for the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and walking trails. Are you interested in becoming a docent? Contact us about our 2015 program or click here for more information.
The Longfellow Garden
This year marked the Longfellow Garden Club’s 90th anniversary. Over this period the garden has evolved in response to changes on the MHS campus and in the city. In the 1930s, tenements along the property line were removed and replaced by a brick wall and parking areas. Also, nearby buildings have reached new heights and reduced the amount of light that falls in the garden. The research library was expanded in 1951 and in 2007, and each time the garden was reconfigured and subsequently replanted.
All of us at MHS are grateful to the members of the Longfellow Garden Club for their dedication to this lovely and important garden. Without the hard work of this dedicated group, it is difficult to imagine what sort of a landscape would be found behind the house.
Imelda Shaeffer and Syliva Sowles
LGC Members in 1951
Images: (Left) LCG members Imelda Shaeffer and Sylvia Sowles, Summer 2014. (Right) LGC Members in the garden, 1951.