On embracing Pokémon GO at Maine Historical Society

PokÇmon-Go-logo

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.

MHS PG Map

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.

PG at MHS FFAW

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).

MHS_Store Paras

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 Foot as 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!

MHS_Pidgey and Book

Pidgey’s favorite book is “Walking Through History”

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 dfazio@mainehistory.org

Books in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House | Part I: Anne Longfellow Pierce’s Library

Notes from the Archives by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger

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Anne Longfellow Pierce’s library in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

In the rear second floor bedroom of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a small bookshelf filled with books that belonged to Anne Longfellow Pierce, the sister of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Anne grew up in the family home on Congress Street in Portland, and lived there for 87 of her 90 years. Anne eventually became the sole owner of the house, bequeathing it to the Maine Historical Society when she died in 1901.

During the fall of 2014 I catalogued these books, and along the way gleaned a little information about Anne and her family and community. Anne was a devoted member of the First Parish Church (Unitarian) just down the street from her home, and many of these books were given to the church by Anne, only to be returned many years later to the Maine Historical Society. Many contain a bookplate from the “Minister’s Library” at First Parish.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1880. Anne Longfellow Pierce, the poet's sister, gave the building to the Maine Historical Society in 1901.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1880. Anne Longfellow Pierce, the poet’s sister, gave the building to the Maine Historical Society in 1901.

Beyond the association with the church are associations with Anne’s family. Many of the books were given to her by her younger brother Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892), a minister and hymn writer. Hymns and Meditations is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce with love & good wishes from her brother S., Jan. 1st, 1864.” Anne’s sister Mary Longfellow Greenleaf presented to her Seven Voices of Sympathy: From the Writings of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the work of their famous brother. Lucia Wadsworth, Anne’s aunt, gave her a Bible dated 1833, when Anne was in her early 20s. A five-volume series of The Works by Jeremy Taylor belonged to Anne’s husband George Washington Pierce, a classmate and close friend of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who studied law in Stephen (Henry and Anne’s father) Longfellow’s office. Sadly George Washington Pierce died a year after inscribing into these volumes: “Geo. W. Pierce, Oct. 1834.”He was 29, having been married to Anne only three years.

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Anne Longfellow Pierce’s library in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

There are presentation copies from friends, such as Life in the Sick-Room by Harriet Martineau, which is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce from her friend, P. C. Jones [?], June 6th, 1844.” The may possibly be Paulina Cony Jones (1809-1845), who must have had sympathy for Anne who was caring for her father Stephen, who died in 1849, and her mother Zilpah, who died in 1851.

Anne Longfellow Pierce, Portland, 1830

Anne Longfellow Pierce, Portland, 1830

One book contained newspaper clippings about geraniums and potatoes, and a manuscript envelope with list of countries on it, from which one could glean more insight into the thoughts of Anne Longfellow Pierce.

Apart from Anne’s imprints on these books, many were owned by Nathaniel F. Deering. A few were used in the pews of the First Parish Church, such as A Collection of Psalms and Hymns for Christian Worship which is inscribed at the top of the title page: “John J. Brown [?], Pew 96.”

Given the connection to the First Parish Church, most of these books are religious in nature, but occasionally there are a few glimpses of life beyond the spiritual realm. The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither by Isabella L. Bird is a surprising find. Isabella Lucy Bird was a nineteenth-century English explorer, writer, photographer and naturalist; she was the first woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. The golden Chersonese is about Bird’s travels to Malay and China. There are also a few books of poetry, a book about Lord Lyttleton, and a book about Edward the Sixth.

To learn more about these books you can search our Minerva catalog (Dewey Call Number Search) for W-L 600 through W-L 641.


COMING SOON: Books in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House | Part II: Stephen Longfellow’s Library

Become a Portland History Docent!

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The Portland’s History Docents Program (PHD) is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year! Please join us for this special year, and receive knowledge, experience, and friendships that last a lifetime.

The PHD program is a collaborative effort by:

Each spring, these organizations join forces to provide a nine-week training program for new prospective volunteer guides at each organization’s respective museum site. Several weeks of lively and informative talks and presentations take place at MHS, combined with site visits to each partnering organization.

Upon graduation, PHD participants become eligible to volunteer at the site(s) of their choice, and training at those sites is scheduled on an individual basis. Graduates are asked to commit to a year of volunteer time. At MHS, docents provide tours of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, conduct the Old Port Walking Tour, assist with school groups, and work in other aspects of MHS operations.

When: Every Thursday mornings from 9:00am  – 12:00pm; March 5 – April 30, 2015.

Cost: $30, or $20 with a valid student I.D.
Download the application now.

For more information on the PHD program contact MHS’s Kathleen Neumann, Manager of School and Interpretive Programs at 207-774-1822 ext. 214, or email  kneumann@mainehistory.org. For information on the application process specifically, email volunteer@portlandlandmarks.org.

Save the Date: Magical History Tour, May 1-2, 2015

52057_Press HotelOn Saturday, May 2, 2015 join us for a tour of some fascinating historic sites in Portland that you have never seen—and maybe didn’t even know existed! We’ve gained access to some very special places that will delight and amaze both adults and kids. The mystery sites will be revealed at a cocktail party we’re hosting on Friday, May 1—and the even the location of the party is part of the fun. Our event will be one of the first held in the new Press Hotel. Located in the former Portland Press Herald building, the new hotel embraces its history and celebrates the newspaper theme throughout. You’ll get a sneak peek just weeks before the hotel’s grand opening!

 

For more information, stay tuned on our Facebook page or join our e-mail list.

 

Image: Press Herald Building at 119 Exchange/ 175-179 Federal Street, Portland, 1924. Portland Tax Record, Item #52057.

The Making of Our YELP Video

In August, we teamed up with Yelp to promote MHS and the Wadsworth-Longfellow House. A video was produced and we had a lot of fun making it with filmmaker Patrick Russell.

Take a behind the scenes look at the making of our video! (Note: from our Yelp page, click the link “Watch Video” beneath the images.)

Notes from the Archives: Sad Stories

by Nancy Noble, MHS archivist/cataloger

Some collections tell a sad story. Coll. 2622 is one of those: Blueprints and papers about the Morton House in the Union Station area of Portland. The house, located at 200-204 Valley Street, was built in the 1890s.

By 1948 it was a boarding house, owned by Clarence E. Morton, who named “The Morton House.” Later it was owned by Gordon Andrews and named Hotel Andrews. The house was damaged by fire in 1985 (later found to be arson), and left vacant for 9 years, where it suffered from more vandalism. Finally, in 1994 the Portland City Council ordered the 38-apartment house to be demolished.

Morton House blueprint of fire escape

Ironically, much of the collection consists of blueprints and drawings (and correspondence) regarding a fire escape, which was added in 1948. Other items in the collection include photographs, newspaper clippings, boarding house rules, etc. – all of which tell the story of a building, which while not a grand old dame of Portland, still has a history worth preserving.