Electrifying Maine: The Central Maine Power Experience

CMPHardHatJoin us tomorrow evening at 6:30 PM for a very special panel presentation and the last in a series of programs related to our current museum exhibit, Wired! How Electricity Came to Maine.

“Electrifying Maine: The Central Maine Power Experience” will feature four current and veteran CMP workers telling stories about their experiences on the job. Line Trainer Nick Vermette moderates a panel that includes Teresa Lang, Customer Service Supervisor; Jim Wright, Transmission Supervisor (and CMP public service announcement TV personality: “No line is safe to touch–ever!”); and retired repairman, Andy DeBiasio.

They’ll discuss and tell stories about what it takes to keep the grid going, tools and technologies, responding to storms and major outages, service calls in years past, and how they keep us safe.

The Wired! exhibit will be open after the panel presentation for browsing, free of charge. The exhibit comes down on May 27.

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Edison, Electricity, and the End (Almost) of an Exhibit

Edison Mazda light bulb display, ca. 1925

Edison Mazda light bulb display, ca. 1925

This lamp display and tester is decorated with a design by the artist Maxfield Parrish, who was hired by General Electric for its advertising campaign. The display allowed customers to evaluate and compare various light bulb styles.

This is one of many fascinating items on display in our current museum exhibit, Wired! How Electricity Came to Maine, that highlights treasures from the Central Maine Power Collection. The physical exhibit closes in two months–on May 26–but, fortunately, the online exhibit version is always accessible on Maine Memory, featuring most of the content displayed in our museum.

EdisonBkIf you can travel to Portland, however, this week is an especially electrifying time to visit. On Thursday you can explore the exhibit and stay for a keynote talk related to the exhibit’s theme. Ernest Freeberg, University of Tennessee historian and author of the newly published Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America, will speak about Thomas Edison, the history of electricity, and how it shaped American culture.

Professor Freeberg was profiled in Sunday’s Portland Press Herald. Today, tune in to the following programs to hear him discuss his book:

  • MPBN’s radio program Maine Calling, at Noon, with MHS Executive Director Steve Bromage
  • WCSH’s television program 207 at 7PM

Harnessing Tidal Power

Small scale tide mills–submerged water wheels that run machinery–have been used in Maine since at least the 18th century. But harnessing ocean tides to generate electricity has been a subject of ongoing debate for nearly a century.

President Roosevelt, Eastport, 1936. Contributed by National Archives at Boston.

This image, taken on July 30, 1936, shows President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Eastport, reviewing the model for the Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project, which was intended to harness power via the use of dams in Passamaquoddy and Cobscook Bays. Roosevelt, whose summer home was on nearby Campobello Island, managed to fund the project for one year during the Great Depression. Housing and other facilities were built before the project was abandoned, due to Congress turning down funding requests.

To learn more, check out the Maine History Online exhibit, The Unfulfilled Dream of Tidal Power, which details the story of the controversial project. And for more fascinating history of electrical power in the state, visit our current museum exhibit, Wired! How Electricity Came to Maine.

Extraordinary Histories of Ordinary Things

Portland City Hall Rum Room, ca. 1930

In recent years, historians have cultivated a fresh and imaginative new genre: studies that trace broad historical narratives through the stories of individual, seemingly-small objects, ideas, or phenomenon.

The new Maine Historical Society book discussion group–starting in February, 2012–will examine four particularly interesting examples: studies of the evolution of artificial light; how the lowly codfish changed the world; the toothpick as a paradigm for American manufacturing; and the influence of rum on the development of the New World.

Readings include: Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light by Jane Brox; Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, by Mark Kurlansky; The Toothpick by Henry Petroski; and And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis. Additional short readings for each session will be sent to each registrant, or are available online.

The particulars:

WHEN: Tuesdays, 2/28, 3/27, 4/24, and 5/22 @ 7PM
WHERE: MHS Lecture Hall
FEE: $10 Members/$20 Non-members
BOOKS: Offered at $48 package discount (20% off retail) through MHS Store (or get them on your own); supplemental readings provided or available online
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Friday, January 27

Space is limited to 30 and registration is required. To register, download the Book Group Registration Flyer.