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Maine History Online

Maine History Online
MHS (Maine Historical Society)
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A Conversation Across Time & Space

Understanding Maine history means understanding both the widely remembered events and the quietly forgotten occasions.

The historical conversation is ongoing as questions lead to a search for more historical evidence that in turn prompts more questions.

Introduction

Historians know that however useful a chronological or a thematic approach to history might be, these are simply explanatory frameworks – ways to construe, connect, and reconstruct the evidence of the past.

A good deal of work by historians goes on behind the scenes to make these frameworks yield coherent and compelling stories, and a great deal happens once we, as consumers and users of history, take hold of these stories for our own purposes.

Understanding how such processes work – and that they are at work as complexly in state and local history as in all other forms of history – is the first step toward a critical understanding of the past and our relation to it.

This essay focuses on five important issues that shape our historical understanding. Paying attention to evidence, perspective, narrative, memory and the passage of time enriches our understanding of the past. Each issue provides an entry point to engage the past critically, that is, to question our evidence and the story we weave from it.

In reality, history is not a static entity. History is a conversation across time and across space—a multi-voiced discussion from diverse evidence, a debate between evidence and the historians who use it, and a dialogue among historians who return repeatedly to old ideas with new questions and insights.

The historical conversation begins with writing. Traditionally, scholars divided history from pre-history at the point of the rise of civilizations some 5000 years ago when written texts first appeared.

Recognizable by large urban centers, most early civilizations developed writing as a way to control and manage efficiently large populations and the numerous tasks needed to keep a city stable, secure, and profitable.

The earliest written records include tax documents, censuses and legal codes, as well as poetry and epic tales. When we have documents, whether made 5000, 500 or 50 years ago, we have a window into the past.

Much of the historical record documents the big events such as the wars, elections and social conflicts that generate much public discussion and many public records. When people think of History, many think first of these grand moments in time. But history – and the historical record – is also found in the daily records of everyday life: the diaries of school children, the recipe books of the housewife, the note on a post card.

Understanding Maine history means understanding both the widely remembered events and the quietly forgotten occasions. And that understanding comes from evidence -- the foundation of our historical conversation.

Evidence

History begins with evidence – the documents and artifacts that have survived through time and from which historians build arguments about the past.

The building blocks of history are primary sources: documents that were created by individuals alive in the time period of study. Primary sources are first-hand accounts of events or ideas of the past and include manuscript (handwritten) materials such as letters, diaries and journals; political documents like treaties, legislation, and election results; official records from towns or the state; censuses and vital statistics; printed works including newspapers, magazines, and books; oral reminiscences; visual representations in maps, photographs, advertising and drawings, objects, and many, many more.

Primary sources capture a view in text, tales, or images of a particular moment in time. These sources comprise the historical record — the evidence –– with which historians build their interpretations of the past. Like a detective following clues or a quilt maker piecing together fabric squares, the historian attempts to create a whole by assembling diverse parts.

But historians can work only with the evidence that survives to present day. The urge to recycle has long been present: letters and books on cotton-based rag paper of the 18th century were frequently repulped, creating new sheets of paper, but obliterating the previous text.

People wrote on top of documents, tore off parts of pages to use for other purposes, and otherwise reused often-scarce paper. In the latter half of the 19th century, young women created scrapbooks – a popular hobby then as today – by pasting favorite poems, postcards and decorative items called scraps into previously used journals, store ledgers, or bound collections of letters, obliterating the earlier texts (but creating a different sort of primary document in their stead).

Some historical evidence self-destructs: wood-based paper of the 19th century is highly acidic and overtime becomes very fragile, often degrading into a pile of dust. Insects and rodents; floods, fires, and other disasters have destroyed records both public and private.

Families clean house and discard old newspapers and correspondence from long-dead ancestors. Boxes full of unlabeled photographs fill the shelves of antique shops across Maine.

The historical record is always incomplete and because of this historians must take the evidence at hand and ask questions of it. This is the conversation between historians and the historical record: Who created this document? For what purpose? Who was the intended audience? What is the author's point of view? Is the information verifiable? What is this document evidence of? Why has this document survived?

And because the historical record is incomplete it is just as important to consider what has not survived. Why has it not survived and how might the answer be found elsewhere?

The conversation between evidence and historian yields answers, but inevitably raises additional questions. As a case in point, let's examine this image from 1903. If we were to construct a history of a Maine town we might start with a photograph of its leaders and prominent citizens, such as this image of Remarkable Old Men of Alfred.

What brought them together and, critically, why were these particular men photographed? By whom? For what purpose? Following a lead from its title (provided in the 21st century), we might ask, what makes these men "remarkable"?

We would see men noted for their achievements in the public arenas of politics, medicine, the law, and town government. While several of these men reached not only local prominence, but also state and even national recognition, the photograph illustrates an important historical question: what of the other people of Alfred -- those who led less public lives?

Men who wrote laws, ran businesses, and prescribed medical treatments left numerous documents behind enabling us to remark upon them in later generations. Surviving records, and photographs, let us know about the experiences of these particular men.

But to understand Maine in 1903 more completely we need to ask who is missing in this conversation and how do we bring their voices into history?

Adding other voices enriches and deepens our understanding of the past but to do so, historians must look harder for the evidence of those lives.

Historians pay attention to questions of gender, class, race and ethnicity – personal markers that are often the basis for divisions in society and history. Examining our photograph of remarkable "men" we might ask what opportunities these men – white, elite –– had that women, and men of color, did not, opportunities such as access to higher education and to professions from which the illiterate, the lower classes, the non-white, and women were excluded.

The search for evidence from lives lived privately has led historians to challenging, but illuminating, historical sources. Unlike the documents of public life such as treaties, court judgments, and political speeches – records that tend to be disseminated widely and saved in multiple copies – the evidence of private lives is more idiosyncratic.

We might, for example, examine women's domestic lives by examining their recipe books, which were filled not only with instructions for food preparation, but also included home remedies and household hints.

An 18th-century medicinal recipe, for example, is a rich source of information on locally available plants and gives us insight into home health care. Passed down mother to daughter, these handwritten records capture for posterity the daily tasks and challenges in women's lives.

Material culture such as samplers and mourning jewelry provide another window into the work of women. Young girls practiced their alphabet and their sewing skills in crafting samplers at young ages, honing important skills needed in their lives as wives and mothers. Samplers also reveal key characteristics of women's lives such as piety and the centrality of family.

Eight-year old Zilpah Wadsworth, the future mother of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, stitched a pious reminder to "Remember now thy Creator/in the days of thy youth." Eleanor Bailey Cooper in 1832 embroidered her family genealogy, providing a record of her ancestors and a message to her descendants to remember her when her "bones are rotten."

A nine-year old's recollection of General Lafayette's 1825 visit to Maine is found on Sarah Minott's Portland sampler, a carefully wrought poem that provides a unique voice among the more public celebrations of this hero's journey.

Memorial samplers, often painted or embroidered by school girls, and mourning jewelry, worn more typically by the upper classes, reflect the ever-present specter of death in earlier centuries and women's roles in preparing for, enduring, and recording this inevitable family disruption. These artifacts raise questions about the etiquette and expectation of mourning, both public and private.

To include more voices in the historical conversation historians need to look harder –– listen more carefully — to the past. For instance, the lives of farmers and the working class may be recorded in daily journals. Sparse and lean of comment, their very focus on the ordinary – weather, daily tasks accomplished – gives us an opportunity to chart the day to day, month to month pattern of lives that reflect, perhaps, the majority of Mainers through time.

To get at workers' lives, we might examine business pay records or store ledgers that capture what workers, women, and farmers bought, sold, or traded.

Particularly challenging is recovering the experiences of those who left few or no written records – those who lived in an oral culture, who were illiterate, or those had no access to pen and paper, or had no inclination – or time – to write.

Examining the farmers, workers, immigrants, and women who shared communities with "remarkable" men, deepens our understanding of the past. Searching for primary sources, evidence, that will reveal events big and small, lives public and private, is part of the challenge – and intrigue – of history.

Context

Primary sources provide the foundation for history but for any given document, historians want to understand how that evidence fits into a wider picture known as context.

Studying context includes understanding how a document compares to other similar types of documents, for example, soldiers' letters during war. A letter from a Civil War soldier to his family back home provides a primary source that tells us about one young man's experience.

Meshach Larry's 1863 letter to his sister Phebe describes sleeping in open air, hard marches, and witnessing the execution of a deserter. Larry comments on the difficulties of exchanging letters with his family back home.

To place this letter in context, a historian would examine Larry's letters along with letters from other Civil War soldiers, Union and Confederate. Are there common themes? Is the format or content similar?

Looking more widely, a historian today might examine hundreds of letters from soldiers serving in several different wars and write a book about this very common activity: what is similar between letters of the American Revolution and World War II? What is different between duty in the Civil War and soldiers serving in Iraq? How did wives, mothers, and other family members at home respond to soldiers' missives?

In addition, the historian would look at secondary sources about the unit in which Larry served, the battles or marches he described, and other Civil War-related materials to understand the significance of Larry's comments in the context of the larger events of which he was a part.

Historians seek to understand a document in the context of the period in which it was created and in a wider context of similar activities. In doing so, historians connect one individual to many, and connect the local to the regional, the national, and the global.

Context also includes understanding how a primary source fits in relation to the society and culture of its time period. A photograph of hatmakers in Portland's Old Port gives us a good starting point for questions of social context. This image documents women's paid work at the end of the 19th century. It also gives us a good entrée into understanding that period of time.

Note that several women are sewing by hand, but one woman, in the center back, uses a sewing machine. For which tasks was each technology used? How did the sewing machine, small and portable, enlarge women's work opportunities?

The photograph raises additional questions about what type of work the women were doing and whether they were the only employees at the hat factory. Were there men also employed? Did men and women have different jobs? How was that determined? Were pay scales different for different types of work?

The presence of hatmakers begs the question of when and why men wore hats. Hats were ubiquitous at the turn of the century – note the various styles of hats under construction. Does each style serve a particular function? Are there formal and informal hats? How much did hats cost? Did one's class, race or ethnicity determine the type of hat worn? And what of women's hats, absent in this photograph?

Answering these questions gives historians a framework, or context, for understanding a particular primary source.

A single photograph prompts numerous questions for exploration on local, regional and national levels. Labor historians might examine how Portland wages compared to similar work in Boston. Were jobs plentiful in Maine or scarce? What other occupations were available to women at this time? Which were lucrative? How did the arrival of waves of immigrants affect wages in Maine? Did Maine-made hats conform to New York fashions, or was there a Maine fashion aesthetic? Did Maine lead or follow national trends?

The historical conversation is ongoing as questions lead to a search for more historical evidence that in turn prompts more questions. Answering these questions helps us see this photograph as more than a solitary image. By placing the photograph's actors and action into a wider context, historians uncover the rich relationships that connect individuals to wider communities, actions to broader trends, and connect Maine towns to state, region and nation.

Context helps historians understand the relationships between actors and events. Moving beyond assembling long lists of dates, historians, like journalists, ask "w" questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. In addition to knowing the context of an event, historians seek to understand its cause.

Taking a longer view, we want to understand both continuity and change. What has remained the same over time, how are we connected to generations past? What has changed – and why?

Perspective

Historical evidence provides a window into the past, but that window is often dusty and cracked. With their view of the past obscured, historians carefully consider perspective in analyzing evidence.

Far beyond two sides to every story, participants in or observers of an event remember it, recount it, and record it through the lens of their own perspective: their age or class, their sex or race, their beliefs, ideologies or particular agenda.

A historical story is complicated by multiple, varying perspectives but our understanding of the past is all the richer for it.

The political arena is rich with diverse perspectives. An election cartoon from 1964 presents Margaret Chase Smith, candidate for U.S. president, as "formidable" and suggests, as she selects a pair of running shoes, approval.

But what are we to make of a song that opines that the "formidable" Smith would both negotiate with Castro and Khrushchev and host a bi-partisan tea? References to adding a Laundromat to the Pentagon and the ability of Smith to run government and be home by 4:00 raise critical questions about perspective.

How do the song's writers imagine a female president? Is femininity a benefit or detriment to public office? Does public support of Smith come with conditions? When citizens debate candidates and referenda, perspective often comes to the forefront.

While politics presents a vivid example, perspective plays a key role in the creation of all historical documents. Embedded perspectives are often more subtle and much more complex.

The debate over statehood exemplifies the complexities of history. Following the American Revolution, a growing movement favored separation from Massachusetts. But Mainers were hardly uniform in their reasons for creating a new state or for keeping the status quo.

Back country settlers who battled with land speculators and Massachusetts officials saw the drive for statehood as their own struggle for independence; coastal communities opposed statehood because they enjoyed, and profited by, favorable shipping laws.

A "Call for a meeting to discuss separation from Massachusetts in April 1816 is addressed to "influential gentlemen." Merchants and professionals favored statehood, perhaps with an eye toward the opportunities of power a new governing structure would bring. Despite the seeming importance of the drive for statehood, most Mainers were not interested in this issue with more pressing concerns of day to day living taking precedence.

One hundred years later, the fight for woman suffrage drew supporters and opponents whose differing perspectives on the proper role for women was captured in cartoons, speeches, and pamphlets.

Illustrating the complexity of history, dividing proponents and opponents of the vote strictly along gendered lines would be fruitless. The Men's Equal Suffrage League of Maine staunchly supported women's suffrage; the Maine Association Opposed to Suffrage for Women gained 2,000 new female members between 1913 and 1917. Gender alone cannot explain the breadth of opinions –– perspectives –– embedded in this debate.

Attention to perspective can reveal the tension between cultural ideals and reality. Take, for example, prohibition. Under the guidance of temperance leader Neal Dow, Maine became the first dry state, enacting prohibition in 1851.

This law might suggest that all Mainers eschewed alcoholic beverages but historical evidence suggests otherwise. Photographs of rum rooms document copious quantities of confiscated alcohol.

A satirical post card suggests the failure of temperance; an election card from 1911 reveals the fears of social collapse in face of alcohol use – a condemnation of ongoing, albeit illegal, behavior.

Even furniture confirms the business of selling booze, hidden in the secret compartment within a Victrola in one image.

The lesson for historians is to continue to question what would seem to be fact. Were all laws widely adhered to? When were they flaunted? By whom? In what circumstances? Why?

Any proscribed behavior – laws, rules, etiquette – places before the public an ideal. But what was the reality? Historical evidence provides the clues and points the way toward perspective.

Considering diverse perspectives raises yet more questions. When faced with multiple versions of an event, which accounts will the historian trust and which will be discounted? Which point of view gets us closer to our goal of understanding the past?

Historical actors have their own perspective, but so do contemporary historians, like their subjects shaped by gender, class, ideology and other factors. What perspective does the historian bring to a project and how might that shape his or her own view of the past?

Uncovering evidence, placing it in a context and understanding the perspective of those behind the evidence provides the historian with the material to craft a story – the vehicle by which historians communicate history to a wide audience.

Narrative

History is built on stories that we tell each other and we tell ourselves. The stories we share form the core of our collective understanding of the past, our history. In books and magazines, on websites and blogs, on television and in cinema, historical stories engage us and shape our understanding of the world around us.

Each community has tales to tell of the life and people that make that place home. Stories, both written and oral, form an important part of the historical record, but one that must be examined critically.

Stories shared generation to generation – our community memories – often reflect what we want to believe about the past, rather than what has actually happened in the past. This is narrative, a story critically examined that tells us both about past and present.

Historical stories often take on a life of their own. Stories are passed down generation to generation and like the child's game of "telephone" (itself a reference to an earlier technology where "party lines" made private conversations very public), information is often misheard or misremembered.

Some things are left out, other things are added in, an impulse that shapes a story to fit a particular purpose at a particular point in time. Stories, in other words, have their own dynamic life and the task of the historian is to assess critically any given tale.

A story about an elephant illustrates the point. In the early 19th century, the first elephants were brought to the United States. A curiosity, elephants were walked from town to town and residents were charged a fee for the opportunity to see this unfamiliar beast.

One York County story makes the claim that the first elephant ever killed in the U.S. died in Alfred in 1816 – a victim of a farmer's anger over the sin of wasting money on frivolous entertainment. The farmer, so the story goes, followed the animal, named Old Bet, as the procession left town and shot it, killing the poor creature. The elephant, it is said, was buried on the spot (today, Route 4).

A herd of websites feature this story and every few years, a newspaper article recounts the elephant's fate. A local restaurant memorializes Old Bet with elephant knick knacks in its décor. Residents point to a small monument marking the location of the elephant grave.

Comparing multiple versions of Old Bet's story reveals variations in the admission price, the type of gun, and the motivation of the assassin. This story has been told since 1816, an indication that there is a lesson to be learned, something successive narrators have felt was important enough to share in the telling.

So what does this narrative reveal? Is this a story about cruelty to animals? About Yankee frugality? A reflection of pious ancestors? About the need for gun control? Is this a story of civic pride or town shame?

Why, almost two centuries later, do we persist in remembering Old Bet? In telling this story today, how are we thinking about the past? Does this narrative reflect how similar we are today to our elephant-viewing ancestors, or does the story comment on how different we've become? In telling this story, what are we trying to say?

Our stories – in the form of oral history and written narratives – provide historians with dual sources of information: clues to the facts of the past, and, clues to what is important to tellers in the present.

Stories capture the passage of time and our reflections up on it. Photographs of the last telephone cordboard and the last hand-cranked phones, both images from 1982, document changes in communication technology in the 20th century.

Both photographs include in their titles recognition that these are the "last" indicating that from this point forward telephone technology and use will differ. Was this awareness greeted with joy or sadness?

Direct dial phones made communication easier, but the loss of cordboards (replaced by electronic technology) led to the loss of jobs. In 1903, Ida Skinner assured a visiting brother that she and a friend both had telephones and found them "very convenient."

From hand cranked, to handheld, to hands free – the changing technology of telephones tells a story of the passage of time and our keen awareness of those fleet years, a recognition that often takes shape as nostalgia. These stories, imbued with emotion, make particularly potent narratives that document, and comment upon, change over time.

Memory

Our most treasured stories form a collective memory, an agreed upon corpus of tales that define and describe us as a people, a community, a state or a nation. We need look no further than our early schooling to identify our shared national identity built from stories of the Mayflower and first Thanksgiving, of George Washington's bravery, of Benjamin Franklin's ingenuity, and of Lincoln's moral courage.

Becoming American is in part learning the national memories, as this photograph of young immigrant children depicts. Traditional celebrations express these same commonly held beliefs as participants remember whatever is defined as "our" history in parades, festivals and community gatherings.

Old Home Days across Maine emphasize the connection between the community of "old" and the community of the present by way of shared memories.

Yet memory is not static and each generation selects the incidents and stories that best define their community at that moment. In 1850, for example, the death of a mill girl made newspaper headlines and spurred the publication of two short novels on the victim's life and tragic death.

Hundreds attended the trial for her murder and eager visitors flocked to visit the site where her body was discovered. Editorials bemoaned the loss of a poor, friendless young woman, a consequence, in part, of the rapid growth and industrialization of Saco.

Such essays voiced the nostalgia-tinged recognition that the small, familiar farm-based community of the past was no more.

Sixty years later, in 1913, Saco historian John Haley included a brief recounting of this same event in his town history but offered a version filled with erroneous additions and factual omissions. From Haley's less sympathetic perspective, the unseemly story he believed to be true should be "consigned to dust and d---d oblivion," a tale no longer worth telling for the poor light it shed on mid-19th-century Saco.

By the end of the 20th century, the event that at one time captivated a community and beyond, had disappeared from Saco history. What was shocking, unfortunate, or unsavory to past generations – and worthy of memory – had become commonplace and familiar and not worthy of remark.

Memory helps individuals and communities negotiate between the past and the present in a continual process of building a history. What we choose to remember and what we choose to forget is part of the continual construction of our collected memories.

Memories are not so much reproduced verbatim generation to generation as they are constructed; selected and agreed upon by a community, small or large, for the lessons they impart and the values they illustrate.

In crafting their stories, historians grapple with the dynamic interplay between nostalgia and evidence and narrative and perspective as they translate memory into history.

Historians Over Time

Examining change over time is an important facet of historical research. It is important to recognize that historians' concerns, methods, approaches and styles of telling history also change over time. Because historical writing often reflects the times in which it was created – politically, socially and culturally – histories written a century apart about the same event are often strikingly different.

The history of Hallowell presents an example. Historians in the early 20th century had access to the diary of 18th-century mid-wife Martha Ballard but saw in its brief entries only minutiae of daily life and concluded there was little in there worth including in a town history.

Decades later, historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich read that same diary and, with considerable painstaking research, teased out of ordinary entries an extraordinary life. Ulrich's insights and new approach to an already examined document reflected historians' new interest in women's lives, stimulated by the late 20th-century women's movement.

In turn, Ulrich's study, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Mid-wife's Tale, inspired other historians to examine more closely, instead of dismissing, the diaries of those leading quieter lives.

In different periods of time, historians have privileged some evidence over others, giving more attention to some types of documents over others. The traditional separation of history from pre-history is built on written documents, giving greater emphasis to the elite, literate few who produced such evidence.

This emphasis favored the study of cultures with writing, leaving oral cultures, such as Maine's Native Americans, without an apparent "history."

Earlier in the 20th century, historians favored examining the past from what we today call the top down – that is, to study the lives of great leaders and the laws they made, the battles they fought, the industries they captained, or the technology they developed.

In these studies, historians would privilege, or focus on, the copious written records of that elite level of society. This approach provided important information on American society, or at least on society as lived by the elite and by the ideals imagined by those in charge, yet neglected the impact of that leadership, war or business on the rest of society.

Later generations of historians asked different questions, moving beyond an examination of one level of society to encompass different populations and cultural groups. Studying different levels of society necessitated an examination of different sorts of evidence.

Early histories of the Civil War focused on President Lincoln, military officers, and the great battles that were waged.

Civil and social unrest in the 1960s led a new generation of historians to re-examine the Civil War era, asking questions about foot soldiers, enslaved and free Blacks, and the large group of citizens anxiously awaiting the wars' end from home.

Military historians of the early 20th century likely would not have examined the letter of Rebecca Usher, a Civil War nurse who writes movingly of Lincoln's assassination, or of Emma Manson, who organized Biddeford women to prepare goods to send to wounded soldiers. The new social history inspired a new generation of historians to revisit the past, this time with more attention to race, gender, class and to the lives of the everyday man and woman.

The continued conversation of questions and evidence, evidence and questions makes history a dynamic undertaking. Historians return to familiar topics again and again, to question the evidence anew.

Dozens of historians have examined the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692 all seeking to understand why some individuals accused others of witchcraft. Historian John Demos saw economic relationships as key; Carol Karlsen highlighted the role of unprotected and independent women.

Other authors focused on long-standing family rivalries, psychological disturbances, or poisoned grain. Recently, Mary Beth Norton noticed that accusers shared an interesting thing in common – surviving Native American attacks, particularly in Maine.

Scholars trying to understand Salem would not have thought to look north to Maine for an explanation for events in coastal Massachusetts, but Norton asked different questions.

Historians' framework for understanding the past is often unintentionally limited by the very name by which events are identified, such as pre-history (implying incorrectly there was no history prior to the development of civilizations), the Dark Ages (erroneously suggesting a lack of cultural advancement in this period), or the Salem witchcraft trials (emphasizing one particular locale). In the case of the latter, witchcraft accusations went well beyond Salem, as this 1692 deposition indicates.

As with most historical events, there is no one story. In asking different questions and in carefully questioning the assumptions and frameworks historians themselves use, each generation adds another facet of understanding to the complexity of events that comprise the past.

Asking new questions, seeking evidence for those whose voices have not been previously heard can reap rich rewards. In some cases, whole new histories are discovered, as in the recent case of a Portland lawyer whose dogged efforts in archives throughout the country demonstrated the presence of a significant Chinese population in Maine where none had been previously suspected or imagined.

This is often referred to as "recovery", when an individual's voice or particular community's presence is brought from obscurity in to the historical conversation.

Recovering historical stories is particularly powerful history: when we see ourselves in history – that is when our gender, ethnic group, religious background, or other facet of identity is recognized as contributing to and participating in history – we see ourselves and our ancestors validated.

Conclusion

Recovered from the dustbin of history, we are once again connected to and a part of a community, state and nation.

The historical record is inherently incomplete. Paper and physical items are discarded or burn in fires, events are misremembered, photographs are not labeled or are mislabeled.

The very nature of the historical record leads historians to hunt far and wide for evidence, to examine new sources of information, to find parallel examples, to piece together the past like a puzzle – a puzzle where we don't know the final image and some of the pieces are missing.

Good history assembles evidence from a variety of perspectives to craft a narrative, tell a story and critically, to make a point. But above all, history moves beyond a long list of names and dates and makes an argument, offers a thesis, answers the question "so what." What does this mean? What does this teach us? What do we now know? What is still unknown? And where might we hunt for the answer?

Questions lead to answers, which lead to more questions and the hunt for more evidence. This is the historical conversation, an ongoing dynamic between what we know and what we don't, between evidence and historians, and between past and present.

As you explore the resources of the Maine Memory Network and Maine History Online, we invite you to join the conversation.