Maine Community Heritage Project
promoting community through the exploration of local history

Visit the Community Websites page to see the many dynamic local history websites created by towns and cities around the state since 2006.

The Maine Community Heritage Project (MCHP) was an intensive one-year program that mobilized Maine communities around the exploration, gathering, and sharing of their local history. Teams made up of representatives from local schools, libraries, and historical organizations worked closely with MHS staff to build substantial websites within Maine Memory Network dedicated to the history of their communities.

Program History

The Maine Community Heritage Project (MCHP) was developed in response to successful, though informal, projects pairing schools and historical societies starting in about 2004. (For more information on those early projects, visit our Community Gallery.) Demand from other communities who wanted to collaborate with Maine Memory Network (MMN) necessitated more formal procedures, better support, and new technical tools. In response, Maine Historical Society and Maine State Library applied for and received in 2007 a three-year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grant to develop and pilot MCHP.

Response to the program was immediate and substantial. Approximately 50 communities applied for 16 slots during MCHP's 2008-09 and 2009-10 project years. The teams chosen to build websites within MMN dedicated to the history of their communities included: Bangor, Bath, Biddeford, Blue Hill, Cumberland/North Yarmouth, Farmington, Guilford, Hallowell, Hampden, Islesboro, Lincoln, Lubec, New Portland, Presque Isle, Scarborough, and Thomaston. Their completed websites include a narrative history of the community, five or more exhibits on special topics, student sections, hundreds of digitized images, and more. Diverse communities with far-ranging interests, backgrounds, resources, and goals were able to use the MCHP, and their resulting websites, to address specific local needs and issues.

Due to the overwhelming success of the MCHP, Maine Historical Society and Maine State Library were able to secure a second National Leadership Grant in 2010 to create the Community Mobilization Program, which offered a broader menu of grant options to communities who wish to participate in Maine Memory Network in both large and small ways. The Maine Community Heritiage Project remained an option under this new program through the 2012-13 academic year.

Program Activities

Local teams led a community-wide engagement with their town's history, identified and shared resources, developed substantial technical, project planning, and collaboration skills, deepened local partnerships, and created a substantial website that provides a centralized place for their community to access its history. Key project activities included:

  • Participating in MCHP Orientation in July and a mid-year training (January) at MHS;
  • Attending monthly team meetings and regular work sessions;
  • Conducting an inventory of local historical resources;
  • Digitizing 100-150 historical items from local collections and uploading them to Maine Memory Network;
  • Writing an illustrated narrative essay that introduces key themes and topics in the history of the community (approximately 3,000 words);
  • Creating five online exhibits that draw on historical documents, photographs, and artifacts to explore specific topics in local history;
  • Pulling this material together into their new website; and
  • Organizing several community-wide events

Benefits of Participation

The program created numerous opportunities for students, teachers, local historical society members, librarians, and others in the community to come together, to collaborate, and to share their particular interests, knowledge, and skills.

  • Librarians: (1) deepened their relationship and interaction with schools and historical organizations; (2) increased their capacity to serve as a key source for information about local history; and (3) continued to develop their technology skills.
  • Staff/Volunteers of historical organizations: (1) developed close partnerships with schools and libraries; (2) increased awareness of and support for their organization within their community and beyond; and (3) received help digitizing, interpreting, and sharing their collections online.
  • Teachers: (1) developed skills, experiences, and relationships that enabled them to more effectively engage their community; (2) participated in a project that is aligned to Maine's Learning Results (MLRs) and easily tailored to meet school curriculum objectives; (3) provided a meaningful service-learning opportunity for their students; and (4) earned contact hours for recertification.
  • Students: (1) became actively engaged in their community, learned about its history, and play a prominent role in sharing that history; (2) developed and apply research, critical thinking, writing, technology, communication, and literacy skills; and (3) achieved key academic goals and MLRs.

See the current Community Websites on Maine Memory.

Local 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 school. 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 MHS staff in attendance, to coordinate project activities, monitor progress, and discuss opportunities and issues that arise, and to facilitate communication with MHS. Maine Historical staff helped teams organize their work, identified specific project tasks, set priorities, defined specific roles and responsibilities for team members and other local participants, and assisted in all phases of the project.

The planning team often formed the nucleus of a larger team of local participants—historical society members, teachers, students, librarians, retirees, service club members, civically-engaged individuals, and other volunteers—who contributed to the project in a variety of ways according to their time, interest, and ability. Some of these opportunities included mentoring students, helping with research, sharing information and knowledge, transcribing documents, scanning photographs, writing, editing, or participating in interviews.