A few weeks ago, Corey from the Portland Daily Photo blog asked me what I thought of the idea of asking Portland bloggers to write about their favorite local nonprofit. While lots of great local businesses receive increased attention during the holiday season (thanks to the great work of Portland Buy Local), we tend not to hear as much about local nonprofits and the important work they do in our community. I thought it was a great idea! He sent the word out and Blogging for Good was born!
I decided to spotlight the Maine Historical Society (MHS) for my post. I have been a member for the past few years and I also spent a year volunteering in their research library. They are a growing, dynamic organization that does the important job of keeping our past alive and maintaining our sense of place and community.
More than other historical societies I have visited, MHS does a fantastic job in reaching out to communities and smaller historical societies and museums throughout Maine. Through the Maine Community Heritage Project, MHS staff work with local historical societies and schools to improve access to museum collections and to connect with their local history. They work with students and local teams to create their own websites on the history of their town (for example, visit this great site on New Sweden, Maine, in Aroostook County.)
These local websites, as well as thousands of other photos and documents, are available online through the Maine Memory Network. If you have never browsed this site, I strongly encourage you to spend some time there. You can find images like the one above of a woman getting a tattoo (1925) to great photos like this:
MHS also has a brand new research library behind the museum on Congress Street. They are a great resource if you are researching your family’s genealogy or local history for a school paper – or if you are just curious! Their museum features revolving exhibits highlighting items from their collection. Their current exhibit is Dressing Up, Standing Out, Fitting In: Adornment & Identity in Maine, 1750-1950. If you are interested in the history of fashion and culture (who isn’t!), this exhibit showcases everyday objects of past material culture that tell stories of how people wanted to present themselves and how they wanted society to view them.
MHS also hosts great events and programs, from lectures and open houses for First Friday Art Walk, to concerts and book clubs. I just signed up for their winter/spring book club, Extraordinary Histories of Ordinary Things. We will trace different historical narratives through stories about everyday objects and ideas – from light bulbs and cod to toothpicks and cocktails – pretty exciting!
Maine Historical Society offers a great diversity of resources (Yikes, I didn’t even begin to explore the Longfellow House – go visit!) that are free or low-cost. Check out their current exhibit, visit the library and tour the Longfellow House. I also encourage you to become a member. One of the benefits of membership is access to their scholarly journal, Maine History, which features essays and book reviews all dedicated to Maine history. MHS helps us connect with our history and sense of place here in Portland and throughout the state – I encourage you to support them!