New Exhibition Open!

June 27, 2014

HOME: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland opened last night to a crowd of MHS members and friends, all eager to see the much-anticipated new show that explores the evolution of the Longfellow House and our beloved city.

This exhibition uses the House as a prism to explore how Portland has grown and changed over more than 230 years. When Peleg Wadsworth built the House on Back Street in 1785, it was on the rural outskirts of Portland. By the early 1800s, the House was at the center of a bustling, modern New England city. Since then, Portland has boomed, burned, boomed again, busted, and reemerged as a vibrant, forward-looking city. Through it all, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House has been a constant, and witness to the life of an emerging community.

Here are some images from the opening, taken by MHS Creative Manager Dani Fazio:

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Learn how you can participate in the display “Your Home, Past & Present” here.


Your Home, Past & Present

Participate in our exhibition and share your images with us!


Family Farm, Duck Pond Rd. in Westbrook, ca. 1895; 2012.
Gowen Family Farm, Duck Pond Rd. in Westbrook, ca. 1895; 2012.

We are interested in seeing what your home looked like in the past and how it appears today. Submit your images and we’ll install them in our exhibition Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland and share them online. We welcome images from all towns and all states. Your childhood home, the residences of friends and family members, or intriguing houses in your area are all acceptable.

Where do I get the Past image?

You or a relative may have an old photo in personal collections. Maine residents may find images of homes Maine Memory Network, our statewide digital museum. Residents of Portland and the Casco Bay islands can find images from the 1924 tax assessment on Maine Memory Network.

Get the Past Image from Maine Memory Network:

Step 1. Search for your desired past image.

Step 2. Make note of the Item Number (e.g., Item 5417)

Step 3. Send an e-mail to and request a digital file by typing in the Item Number

Step 4. We will e-mail you a digital file that you can download and print at home. Use the paper copy to create your Past & Present image.

Get the Past Image from the 1924 Tax Assessment (Portland & Casco Bay islands)

Step 1. Search for a property on (Search tips)

Step 2. When you find your property, click “View & Download Record (PDF)”

Step 3. Download the PDF and print. The second page will include a large image of the property. Cut it out and use it in when creating your Past & Present image.


How do I make a Past & Present image?

Use a digital camera or smartphone to create your Past & Present image. There’s no “right way” to make an image–get creative! Here are some different ways to make your composition:

1. Hold up the printed Past picture in front of the home as it appears now. The images do not need to line up exactly, and you can see a side-by-side comparison within the frame. It’s okay if your hand is in the shot. (Submit one image)

2. Line up the printed Past image in perspective with the environment. Make a picture that is seamless between the two images. It’s okay if your hand is in the shot. (Submit one image)

3. Take a Present image of the home as it appears now, in similar perspective to the historical image. Do not include the printed historical image in your composition. (Submit two images: Past picture and Present picture)


How do I submit my Past & Present image?

Send an e-mail to with your digital image(s) attached. We accept files saved as JPG/JPEG, PNG, and PDF.

If you only took a Present picture and your Past picture is on Maine Memory Network, include the Item Number so we can print both images for your submission.

Please include your name, the location of the image, and a story you’d like to share about the image in the e-mail (optional). Please limit your caption to 50 words. Let us know what information you would and would not like shared.


What happens with my images?

Maine Historical Society staff will receive your submission by e-mail. Your image will be printed with or without a caption and added to the Your Home, Past & Present display in our museum exhibition. Please note that some low-resolution images may not be large enough to be made as prints. Images will rotate as new images are submitted.

Your image will also be shared on the Maine Historical Society Facebook album Your Home, Past & Present and in a slideshow on our website. MHS reserves the right to select which images will be displayed in the exhibition and when. Submissions may be removed at any time without notice.

Other Details:

1. Submissions begin on June 17, 2014 and will continue for one year.

2. You may submit as many images as you like.

3. Home images that show interiors and exteriors are welcome.

4. People can be in the pictures.

5. “Past” doesn’t mean 100 years old! You can determine what a historical image is.

6. Please make sure you have permission to use Past images if they are from personal collections or websites other than Maine Memory Network. If people are in your Present images, please make sure they are comfortable having their likeness on display.

7. If you do not want your images shared online, you must note that in your e-mail submission.


E-mail and an MHS staff member will reply shortly.

Thank you for participating in Home: The Longfellow House & the Emergence of Portland!

Celebrate the Season!

We know things get busy this time of year. But here’s hoping you’ll save a little room in your calendar for some of the many special events and activities Maine Historical Society has in store starting November 23.

Visit the Longfellow House and hear first hand how the Longfellow Family celebrated the Christmas holiday. Listen to the newly-restored 1843 Chickering piano played in the parlor during Saturday afternoon tours, and enjoy Indoor Amusements, a micro-exhibit in the house featuring a selection of toys and games from the 1850s to the 1990s.

Purchase holiday merchandise at the shop set up in the Longfellow House, buy gifts on line, or purchase photographic reproductions on ($5 off all 8″ x 10″ prints).

For all the details, visit our programs page. And Happy Holidays from all of us at MHS!

Museum Day Live!

Make plans now to visit Maine Historical Society on September 29 — Museum Day Live! During this annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine, participating museums across the country open their doors, free of charge, to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket. Enjoy free admission to both the MHS museum and Longfellow House. Click here for more information and to print off the admission ticket.

WPA Treasures

Longfellow House poster created by the WPA Maine Art Project, ca. 1935

April 8, 1935, was a great day for historical societies and museums everywhere. That was the day Congress passed FDR’s Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, which included the Works Progress Administration (“Progress” was later changed to “Projects”), or WPA.

Regardless of how you feel about the New Deal, the WPA left generations to come a wealth of material that captured the people, places, events, and attitudes of the era. It also funded special projects and public works that otherwise may never have gotten off the ground.

Still from model airplane flying competition film at Portland Municipal Airport, ca. 1940

An expanded Portland airport, for example. Then known as the Portland Municipal Airport, it was but an airstrip until WPA funds built the first real terminal in 1940. Perhaps that’s why these model plane builders–scads of them–held their competition there that same year. (For a real treat, don’t miss the short film clip from which this still image is taken.)

Fifth Street Junior High School, Bangor, ca. 1940

Entire schools were built, like Fifth Street Junior High School in Bangor (now the James F. Doughty School), one of two new junior highs in the city in 1940 that the WPA paid for in full to the tune of $740,000. (Students from the Doughty School participated in last year’s Maine Community Heritage Project and scanned and cataloged this very postcard for Bangor’s MCHP website.) One wonders what the condition of the buildings the students were in beforehand were like. Without the WPA, who knows when those schools would have been built?

National Youth Administration, Quoddy Village Pageant, 1937

Whether the greatest legacy of the WPA is its physical imprint of buildings and bridges, or its memorable and unique arts- and humanities-based efforts, is up for debate. But few can argue that the resulting photographs, oral histories, newspaper clippings, broadsides, films, manuscripts, artifacts, and other ephemera are a phenomenal national treasure for us all.