A FAIR-ly Good Way to Spend Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day, first celebrated on September 5, 1883–and it will be on the 5th this year, too!–was originally created as a day to honor the American worker’s “social and economic achievements,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor website. And while that’s still true, it might just as accurately be called “Summer’s Last Hurrah Day.”

Blue Hill Fair postcard, 1965

In case you’re looking for a way to celebrate–something festive, family-oriented, and Maine-centered–may we suggest a good old Down East country fair? Blue Hill’s got one going on, now through Monday. Begun in the late 19th century, the Blue Hill Fair is, according to the Fair website, a “true down to earth country fair,” traditionally held around Labor Day.

Last year, students from Blue Hill digitized historic images from the Fair in years past, and researched its history, for an online exhibit as part of the town’s Maine Community Heritage Project website. So before you head Down East, you can read up!


Central Maine’s Manufacturing Marvel

Guilford Lumber Company Mill, ca. 1900

This week, teams from three communities–Surry, Strong, and Swan’s Island–will come to MHS for Maine Community Heritage Project (MCHP) orientation. This day-long training will prepare them to spend the coming year researching their town history, developing their capacity to collaborate and share resources, and create new websites on Maine Memory Network.

The town of Guilford participated in the last round of MCHP, unveiling a multi-layered website in May, 2010. Early Manufacturing, one of the team’s five main exhibits, explores Guilford’s proud history of creating valuable products–and the jobs that go with them.

The first lines of the exhibit tells us that “from the earliest days when the first trees were felled, crude cabins erected and gardens started, Guilford residents have been noted for their industrious nature. This characteristic continues today, nearly 200 years later, as little Guilford is home to more jobs than any other town in Piscataquis County.”

Written by town manager, Early Manufacturing not only chronicles the history of Guilford’s various industries, but places them in the larger context of Maine’s, and the nation’s, manufacturing past. And, in fact, reminds us that not all manufacturing in Maine is past.

This exhibit is just one of 100 or so created by MCHP teams over the past several years. What great resources for the new teams to use as they manufacture their own websites in the coming year.


May Basket Full of Treasures in This Month’s e-Connection

May basket made by Sarah Owen of Cape Porpoise, ca. 1980. Owen made these for neighborhood children.

The old-time tradition of leaving treasure-filled baskets on doorknobs or doorsteps on the first of May is the subject of both “Stories from Maine Memory Network” and “From the Collections” in this month’s e-Connection. Among other things, learn how World War I-era Biddeford children earned themselves a party after initially being chased away during their May basket reverie.

Speaking of treasures, the newsletter also announces the first round of Community Mobilization Grants–the new Maine Memory Network (MMN) program made possible by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Open up e-Connection and discover the nine organizations and communities who made the cut! Then hop on over to our “Living History” blog, which shares MMN project work, and read in detail about their plans.

A lush spot by the Longfellow Garden fountain.

May baskets should include something from the garden, and we’ve got that in spades in this month’s newsletter. On May 19, the annual Olmstead lecture focuses on “The Longfellow Gardens: The Evolution of Two Landmarks.” (Yes, there is another Longfellow Garden, here.)

Plus, the Longfellow House and Garden are now open to the public for the season. (At long last… it seemed like that winter would never end!) Check out the tour details and times and come on in.

We’ve even got a way to get you intimately involved with the Garden–right down into the dirt, in fact. May’s e-Connection features a call for volunteers to weed and prune this spring. Check out the details and the dates, and sign up to become one with the soil.

Rounding out the surprises “in store” for you: A seasonally-apt Portland Sea Dogs book coupon good in the museum shop or online.

So now that we’ve left this virtual basket full goodies on your electronic doorstep… won’t you open it? You’ll be glad you did!

This Week at MHS: Lubec’s Community Website

In the latest This Week at MHS, journey to the far reaches of Downeast Maine with a feature on Lubec, the Canadian border town shaped by the sea, via the community website several partnering organizations built on Maine Memory Network in 2008-09 as part of our Maine Community Heritage Project. Lubec celebrates its bicentennial this year.

Sardine packers, Lubec, ca. 1976

An in-depth narrative history of the community and no fewer than 12 exhibits on specific topics–with titles like “Canning Sardines in Lubec: Technology, the Syndicate and Labor,” and “SS Cumberland: Steamer Brought Passengers and Prosperity to Lubec But Met Tragic End”–give readers a detailed look at this eastern Maine outpost.

Partners on the project include the Lubec Historical Society, Lubec Memorial Library, Lubec Landmarks, and Lubec Consolidated School.

MHS Annual Trip--a cruise from Spain to Portugal

Also in the current issue of our weekly e-newsletter: the week’s programs–including the 2nd Jewish History Conference at Colby College on Saturday–and information about the MHS Annual Trip, “Amazing Ocean to River Odyssey.” Interested? Book before April 30 to save some bucks!