Public Programs

2014: It’s All History Now (Part 7 of 7)

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.

Foodie Fever

Kate McCarty
Kate McCarty

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

Donn Fendler, Lost on a Mountain in Maine

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.

Watch this compilation of video clips and photos from this event.

July 4th Public Reading & Display of the Declaration of Independence

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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

Scrooge SelfiesThis 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.

An Evening with Longfellow & DickensFrom 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:

baseballThis 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.

394In 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!

michaudCivil 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).

LincolnIn 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.

Historical Atlas of MaineIn 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!

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 4.06.40 PMWe 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).

Read More about MHS in 2014:


2014: It’s All History Now (Part 2 of 7)

Our education programs this year focused on increasing and diversifying our audiences and we have succeeded in a number of areas. This is due, in part, to the wonderful addition of Kathleen Nuemann, who joined our team in February as Manager of School and Interpretive Programs. She has reinvigorated our programs by creating new and engaging curricula and fresh narratives for the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

Kathleen piloted the family-friendly, kid-approved “Children’s Hour” for young children and their caregivers. This story time and craft-making program was tied to seasonal themes around Thanksgiving and Christmas. The program drew a number of people, of all ages, who have never visited MHS before to our campus. Be on the lookout for more Children’s Hour programs in 2015!



Kids on Campus

The education team experienced one of our busiest spring seasons yet with school visits: only two weekdays in May were without school groups – one of which was Memorial Day!

SONY DSCThis summer, we held our second week-long Junior Docent Camp, where seven campers came to learn about Maine history, Longfellow, and at the week’s end, they hosted a highly-attended and well-received open house at the Wadsworth-Longfellow House for their friends, family, and the MHS staff. Because of the camp’s success, we are planning for another session in 2015, with the possibility of adding a second session.

Local History Local Schools

lhlsLocal History Local Schools, a program started in 2005 for elementary students from southern Maine, returned after being on hiatus last year. The program is based on our current major exhibition, involves in-classroom visits from MHS educators as well as a trip to the museum, research and art-making, and a family celebration displaying student work in the gallery at the project’s culmination.

In honor of this program, MHS recently dedicated a new student gallery space for displaying and celebrating students’ history projects. This year, students from Hall Elementary in Portland presented their work – including Wadsworth-Longfellow House models, dioramas, and hand-drawn postcards – based on our current exhibition, Home: The Longfellow House and Emergence of Portland. The event was celebrated among students, their family, friends, educators, local community, and the MHS Education Department in December. Twenty-five classrooms from five Portland-area schools have signed up to participate during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Broadening Reach

img_9977In concert with the Digital Engagement department, we worked to further incorporate the Maine Memory Network (MMN), a digital museum of images, online exhibits, and other Maine history related items from over 270 contributing partners around the state, into all our education programs.

Through MMN and the MHS website, we are helping students and educators discover Maine history in a new way with online lesson plans, tool kits and in-depth research.

For the second year, we hosted Student Spotlight talks that showcased new research from undergraduates and graduate students at Maine colleges and universities. During one session with recent Bowdoin College graduate Wallace Scot McFarlane, we facilitated a discussion about the pollution and clean up of the Androscoggin River in a partner-talk with the Maine Audubon (listen to the podcast).

Maine National History Day

MHS is part of an association group that took responsibility for restructuring and hosting Maine National History Day, an annual event for teachers and students grades 6-12 that promotes critical thinking skills through project-based learning. The University of Maine hosted the competition for the first time with great success and strong participation. MHS and the Maine Humanities Council collaborated on recruiting judges and co-facilitated the judge orientation at the contest.

NHD Fist Place Winner, Noah Binette. Photo credit: University of Maine
Photo credit: University of Maine

For the first time in years, a Maine student won a first place prize at the national competition in Washington, D.C.: Noble High School student Noah Binette (pictured left) won top place for his presentation, Malaga Island: The Community that Maine Erased. Noah’s exhibit is now on display at  Smithsonian National Museum of American History and has been chosen for display in New York at the annual conference of the American Historical Association.

Read More about MHS in 2014:

2014 Junior Docent Camp a Success!

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On the morning of August 8, 2014, visitors to the Wadsworth-Longfellow House arrived to participate in an activity that most people have come to expect from historic house museums: an informative tour led by a well-trained, enthusiastic docent. What they probably were not expecting, however, was that the docent would be in the fourth grade.

Graduates of Maine Historical Society’s Second Annual Junior Docent Camp were stationed in the different rooms of the house that morning, greeted each guest with a smile, and eagerly shared what they had learned over the course of one week about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, his poetry, and his childhood in Portland.

The eight Junior Docents (all 9 and 10 year-olds) spent the four days prior to their open house preparing to become tour guides and learning about life in the 19th century. They learned the stories of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, took basement-to-attic tours, and learned how historians use artifacts and primary source documents by seeing and handling (with white gloves, of course) MHS collection material.

During their week at camp, the Junior Docents also had the chance to try their hands at 19th century crafts, chores, and games: they made butter, created self-portrait silhouettes, dipped candles, and perfected their athletic techniques in “games of graces.” It was a fun-filled week of trying new things and meeting new people that left every Junior Docent who participated excited to come back next year and build upon their experiences!


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