“Where Hostilities Are Now In Progress”: Documents from the MHS WW1 Collection

By Pamela Ruth Outwin, MLIS, Brown Library Intern

 

By the first week of August of 1914, nearly all of continental Europe was embroiled in war. Russia and France had entered the conflict at the same time, with Russia crossing the border into Germany on August 1. Germany crossed into Luxembourg the next day in preparation for invading France, while Belgium desperately attempted to maintain its neutrality. Their resolution did not last long; within two days, Germany had declared war on Belgium as well, in order to secure their route into France. By August 7 the British military had been mobilized, and the first of the British Expeditionary Forces had landed on French soil.

European Map “Where Hostilities Are Now In Progress” ca. 1914

European Map “Where Hostilities Are Now In Progress” ca. 1914

Throughout June and July, King George V of England was in constant contact with his fellow sovereigns and leaders across Europe, searching for a way to keep his country out of the conflict. The last of the major European countries to join the fight, Britain had tried to act as a mediator between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their closest neighbors in Continental Europe. However, once the threat of violence and the reality of formal war crept towards the borders of Britain, the country was swift to join the action. Word of mouth was not sufficient for instructing the population as to why they had joined a greater conflict, especially with a large amount of pro-German propaganda being printed and distributed on a regular basis. As such, both the British Government and private individuals took advantage of the vast printing and publishing resources available to them to produce material that was used not only by British citizens throughout the course of the war, but sent to the United States in an effort to sway public opinion.

“Great Britain’s Reasons For Going To War.” Sir Gilbert, box 1.

“Great Britain’s Reasons For Going To War.” Sir Gilbert, box 1.

Britain’s entry into the war was not confined to the citizens of the British Isles; the entire Empire came with them. Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other protectorates were encouraged to send men, munitions, and any materials they could spare as soon as possible. Australia and Canada, in particular, would have a great deal of influence on the progress of the war, particularly in Turkey and France. Astoundingly, many of the nations of Europe were enthusiastic about entering into combat, certain of their own country’s victory. Most though the war would be over in a matter of months, likely by Christmas or the New Year. That it would continue much longer, and claim many more lives than originally thought, would come as a terrible shock to all involved.

“Young Lions” Postcard, ca. 1914

“Young Lions” Postcard, ca. 1914

The Maine Historical Society’s Brown Research Library is currently in the process of preparing this collection of First World War documents for research, in time for the commemoration of the United States’ entry into the conflict. The collection materials cover the entire span of World War I, from works published at the very beginning that call it “The War of 1914” to documents produced at the end of the conflict that discuss the rebuilding of a devastated Europe.

 

This is the second article in a series about this collection. The first article can be found here: Assassinations and Entanglements: Documents from the MHS First World War Collection.

 

NOTE: This collection is not yet available for research. For further information contact Jamie Kingman Rice, Director of Library Services at jrice@mainehistory.org.

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.

MHS News Flash: A Storage Problem—and an innovative solution!

As you know, Maine Historical Society (MHS) manages an unparalleled collection of books, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts related to Maine history. While we have led the field in providing digital access to these resources, we also remain committed to our physical collections and what they represent. Our collections are the foundation for virtually all of the services and educational programs that we offer, and we commit major resources to their care, preservation, and storage.

Although MHS continues to actively fulfill our mission to collect historical materials related to the State of Maine,  we have now run out of room to store them properly.  Our short-term solution has been to house collections in spaces that should be available for public programming or use by researchers.  The beautiful second floor of the Brown Library was carefully restored in 2009, but we have been forced to fill it with overflowing archival collections on temporary metal shelving.  Likewise, museum collections are stored on the ground floor of the museum building—taking space that we would like to use for exhibitions and student programs.

Our situation is not unusual, and the more we talked to our friends at the Portland Public Library (PPL), it became clear that they shared the same space needs.  We developed the idea for collaborative solution.  On November 15, following an exhaustive due-diligence process, MHS and the PPL jointly purchased a 35,000 square foot property at 1000 Riverside Drive in Portland that will ultimately serve as a shared collections management center (SCMC). After some renovations, we expect to begin moving our collections there this Spring.

PPL and MHS are sharing all purchase and renovation-related costs equally.  No taxpayer funds are being used to acquire or refurbish the building, and our fundraising plan does not anticipate any public monies. There are a number of individuals and private foundations who are very excited about this collaboration and its impact on the ways MHS and PPL can serve our visitors. Some of those folks have already stepped forward to support this project while others are considering how they’d like to be involved.

The project will transform Maine Historical Society’s ability to preserve and manage the library and museum collections that are at the center of our work. It is also an innovative collaboration that will serve as a model for other nonprofits.  But we may be most excited about what it will allow us to do with our space on Congress Street.  Because we will be able to free up significant space in our existing buildings, we will be able to activate new public program space in our library and create significant new gallery space in our museum building. We look forward to designing, developing, and using our Congress Street campus for maximum public engagement in the study and enjoyment of Maine History.  We will keep you posted on our progress!

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!

Local History Local Schools Celebration

Our Local History Local Schools celebration Tuesday night gave students from Wentworth Intermediate School in Scarborough, Lyseth Elementary in Portland, and Small Elementary in South Portland the opportunity to show off their great work based on our gallery exhibit, “ZOOM IN: New Approaches to Maine History.”

While they all go through a similar learning process, their final projects are entirely custom-designed to the class and the student. As they should be!

Please enjoy these wonderful photos, join us in thanking their inspiring teachers, and come see ALL the fabulous results of their work, which will be up in the hallway off the lecture hall through April.

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