From 2013-2015, Maine Historical Society (MHS) and Maine Humanities Council (MHC) collaborated on Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War, a program to engage Maine communities in their Civil War history. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Local & Legendary brought together collaborative project teams comprised of libraries, historical organizations, and educational institutions to explore local Civil War history in multidisciplinary ways and investigate questions of that era's motivations, loyalty, identity, and politics at the community level. Digital exhibits created by the teams were added to Maine Memory Network's Civil War site.
The state of Maine holds a special place in the history of the American Civil War. Though far from the front lines, the state and its citizens played key roles in the coming of the war, the war itself, and its aftermath. More than 70,000 Mainers served in Union blue (including more than 24 Union generals), and nearly 10,000 lost their lives. But the story of Maine and the Civil War is also about the struggles, concerns, and triumphs of the 558,000 Mainers who remained at home. The project invited communities to consider how national issues and events shaped their town's experience, and how, in turn, the citizens of their town shaped the national story of the Civil War?
Ten communities from around the state were selected to participate over two program years of the project. In 2013-2014, Belfast, Gorham, Portland/Westbrook, Presque Isle, and Windham participated. In 2014-2015 Bethel, Livermore/Livermore Falls/Jay, Pittsfield, Rumford, and Scarborough participated. Selection of the communities was based on geographic and population diversity, and the strength of their applications.
Each community selected for the program participated in, organized, and hosted a number of activities to engage participants in local, state, and national themes related to the Civil War. These included the following:
- Attending a one-day symposium and program kick-off and a a two-and-a-half-day program orientation at Bowdoin College.
- Attending monthly team meetings and work sessions in the local community from August to May.
- Digitizing 30-50 Civil War-related historic items from local collections, cataloging them, and uploading them to Maine Memory Network.
- Creating on Maine Memory Network a Civil War-related exhibit (text and images) or series of exhibits that draws on historical documents, photographs, and artifacts. This exhibit is in the Maine and the Civil War: The Homefront and the Battlefield section of Maine Memory.
- Organizing and hosting a series of "One Book, One Community" reading and discussion programs and extension activities related to the Civil War. Download an extensive bibliography of Civil War books, films, and other resources.
- Hosting a public celebration at the end of the project to unveil the team's work. This event also included a performance event reflecting the Civil War history of the community.
The community team received extensive support, guidance, and technical training throughout the project from MHC and MHS staff. In addition to the $2,000 grant, community teams received:
- Two intensive group trainings for team leaders for which all room and board, and travel expenses, are covered.
- Attendance by MHC and MHS staff at most monthly team meetings and activities.
- Extensive technical training from MHS staff in how to digitize historic items for inclusion on Maine Memory Network, and how to research, write, illustrate, and construct a robust online MMN exhibit about the community's Civil War history.
- Extensive instruction from MHC staff in how to plan, organize, and carry out the community's "One Book" activities, including assistance with choosing a text and identifying non-traditional populations to include in the project.
- An experienced MHC discussion facilitator to lead a series of "One Book" discussions in the community.
- Assistance in designing and hosting a celebration event at the end of the project.
- A customized Theatre of Ideas production based on some aspect of the Civil War history of the community.
- Substantial readings, manuals, and other resources to help guide the team through the project year and learn more about the Civil War era. A deadline-driven timeline of project activities was also provided to the team.
Work in each local community was planned and coordinated by a local planning team. Each planning team included at least one representative from a local library, historical organization, and educational institution. Each team designated a team coordinator to serve as its local point person and to help coordinate project activities. The planning team met monthly, often with MHC and/or MHS staff in attendance, to coordinate project activities, monitor progress, and facilitate communication with MHC and MHS. Maine Historical and Maine Humanities staff helped teams organize their work, identify specific project tasks, set priorities, define specific roles and responsibilities for team members and other local participants, and assisted in all phases of the project.
The planning team formed the nucleus of a larger group of local participants—historical society members, teachers, students, librarians, retirees, and other volunteers—who contributed to the project in a variety of ways according to their time, interest, and ability.
Benefits of Participation
Participating in Maine in the Civil War helped communities to:
- Develop or fine-tune approaches, relationships, programs, and skills that will help leaders and staff of local cultural and community organizations become vibrant 21st century institutions.
- Develop and strengthen relationships within the community by finding common cause, sharing resources, planning and implementing projects effectively, and gaining practical experience working together.
- Provide a model for how other communities can explore and understand their historical experience.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.