Maine Historical Society is embracing the Pokémon GO excitement around our fair city of Portland, Maine, and see it as a way to engage new audiences. We’re especially lucky to have many pokéstops nearby and a gym in the historic Monument Square across the street.
During the August 5 First Friday Art Walk, we’re hosting a special Pokémon GO meetup with lures, activities, a charging station, free wifi, themed snacks, and a chance for players to interact with our gallery exhibitions and to explore the Longfellow Garden. We’re asking guests to think about Maine’s history, our collection, and exhibitions while playing in their virtual reality, Which team might Henry Wadsworth Longfellow have been on and why? or If Pokemon were around during the Great Portland Fire of 1866, which ones could have helped? We’re looking for players to relate the concepts of the game, like using water pokémon to battle against a fire pokémon, to themes in our history.
Pokémon have been spotted around our campus in our store, Longfellow garden, and galleries–they’re pretty adorable. Our marketing staff share in-game screen captures on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtags #makinghistory #shopandplay #historyisfun and of course #mainehistory and #pokemongo (we’re @mainehistory).
In order to best serve the needs of our community, we reached out to Pokémon GO Facebook groups and asked members: what would you like to see MHS do for you on our campus? One compelling response was that there are tons of Pokéstops at monuments, landmarks, and other historical points of interest but most people don’t get to learn any of the history as they’re playing, and that’s something we can provide. We can share that information in those groups and on our own social media pages Did you know the Pokéstop at the Time and Temperature building was built in 1924 as the Chapman Building, once the tallest in the city? It can be seen as part of the Portland’s skyline from as far as Peaks Island!, as illustrated handouts and person-to-person engagement at our events, and through targeting store marketing. The timing of a new book we’re carrying in our store about the history of Portland couldn’t have been better: we’re promoting Walking Through History: Portland, Maine on Footas the perfect companion guide for Pokémon trainers in Portland to learn all about the city’s history with this brand new publication by Paul Ledman ($20, available in our store and online). Of course, we’re also pointing players in the direction of our Brown Library for more in-depth research!
While we know that this trend isn’t evergreen, we’re excited to lean into the unknown and try this out! We’re grateful to other cultural organizations for paving the way over the last two weeks and convincing us to join in the fun, and to Walter Chen at Inc.com for helping us realize the biggest message: By providing a space of excitement today, we know we’ll be seeing the faces of our new audiences in days, weeks, and years to come.
-Dani Fazio, MHS Creative Manager • You can reach Dani at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Institutional Advancement staff (these are the folks responsible for securing grants, managing memberships, donor relations, communication and PR, social media, design, audience development, our newsletter, and events) reflected on 2014, and noted how many new opportunities Maine Historical Society seized this year.
From a big twist on our annual fundraising gala, to bringing a U.S. President’s granddaughter to MHS, the Advancement staff worked creatively to bring donors and new audiences together to further the mission of the organization. In November we welcomed Malorie Pastor to the team in a new position of Communications Manager.
Our annual fundraising event took a different spin this year with nearly 200 guests attending the 1920s-themed soiree, An Evening in the 1920s. This year’s event was held at the historic Portland Masonic Temple, and was a great success raising more than $45,000 to support our education programs. Guests donned ’20s attire and enjoyed cocktails, a silent and live auction, a photo booth, a historical exhibition, dinner, and dancing to the music of The Fogcutters, a 21-piece band! View event photos here.
Members of our 1822 Founders Council gathered at MHS on February 12 for a reception and presentation of personal highlights from the collections, chosen by select staff and friends. This annual event, “Our Favorite Things,” showcased the recently acquired Maine Charitable Mechanic Association banner, “Our Life is One of Lights & Shadows,” from 1841, among other fantastic pieces. The 1822 Founders Council also enjoyed a summer party, hosted by MHS Board of Trustees member Kathy Smith and her husband Sam. The number of 1822 Founders Council members has been growing each year with the increase of donors who contribute $1,000 or more to our Annual Fund.
The fall brought two unique events to MHS. A Special Evening with Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was a magical evening with Anne Roosevelt, Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt’s granddaughter, and Executive Director of Goodwill of Northern New England. Anne shared personal anecdotes about growing up in this iconic American family. She reflected upon how these experiences, and the values family instilled in her, shaped her own personal and professional life.
In September, MHS honored Vincent Veroneau as our 2014 Maine History Maker. President of J.B. Brown in Portland, Vincent has shown exemplary vision and leadership in the community, and was instrumental in the partnership between our organization and the Portland Public Library’s joint purchase of an off-site storage facility on Riverside Drive in Portland. Check out the Brown Library’s 2014: It’s All History Now blog post for more on our new Shared Collections Management Center!
192nd Annual Meeting
Maine Historical Society members got their first look at our new Shared Collections Management Center at our 192nd Annual Meeting in June. The Center was nearly complete, but not yet filled with collections, and the “work in progress” was a fitting place to celebrate the Society’s transformation over the past year. MHS members elected John Doughty, Jon Jennings, Tyler Judkins, Thomas Noyes, Eileen Skinner, Andy Verzosa to their first terms as members of the Board of Trustees.
Our Executive Director Steve Bromage announced the recipients of our awards this year:
The James Phinney Baxter Award to Timothy F. Garrity
The Elizabeth Ring Service Award to Donna Knoblock and Linell Slaktowicz.
The Neal W. Allen, Jr. History Award to Larry Glatz.
The Trustee Recognition Award to Carolyn B. Murray.
After a brief reminiscence about his first Annual Meeting in 1963 at the age of 14, State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. delivered an entertaining talk about the Congress Street corridor, illustrated with a collection late 19th century photographs by Phillip Greely Brown.
In the afternoon, members enjoyed a picnic lunch, tours of the Shared Collections Management Center, and an opportunity to visit our new neighbors on Riverside Street: some took a tour of Allagash Brewery, and others joined a guided walk through the historic Riverton Trolley Park.
Membership: Better Than Ever
Earlier this year we proudly announced new and improved membership benefits. MHS members have access to some new incentives, including free or discounted admission to programs, guest passes to visit our exhibitions and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House with a Contributor level membership or higher, and discounts on space rental for Supporter level members. Read all about the full range of benefits in this blog post.
Being a member is about so much more than perks. Gifts of membership help preserve Maine history and sustain the teams of librarians, curators, and educators who dedicate themselves to bring Maine history to life, and to make it meaningful, relevant, and accessible.
Support from our community has never been so important and we are delighted to extend greater membership benefits to express our thanks to the people who make it all possible. On this last day of 2014 we are proud to have 2,343 members! Make joining as a MHS Member your New Year’s resolution—sign up now!
Visitors to MHS and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Garden eagerly “checked-in” online and tagged us in their photos, posts, and reviews. Speaking of reviews, we received some awesome feedback from folks in 2014 on sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor (where the House is ranked #11 of 52 attractions in Portland).
“Very cool museum. The price was right and it was a perfect stop over for some culture while in Portland. We arrived about 45 minutes before closing and had plenty of time to stare at old artifacts (like a jar for tooth powder…awesome) and read all the boards of historical information. They did a great job emphasizing the importance of local history and highlighting how it’s relevant today. Very glad that we popped in and more people should check it out.”
– Schlosky, Milford, CT via Yelp
“Nice casual tour of Longfellow’s boyhood home. Interesting and up-close unlike other historical home tours. Very personal feel. Came with my kids 12, 10 & 4 and it held the interest of the older ones no problem (the younger one simply enjoyed the free fan she was given).”
– Kareika, San Diego, CA via TripAdvisor