Saturday, April 11, 2015

Times Takes a Toll on the Victory Bell

[This article was published in the Spring issue of Thornton Academy's Postscripts Alumni Magazine]

For generations, one thing that all Thornton Academy athletes have looked forward to is the opportunity to ring the independent town academy's beloved Victory Bell. Once sitting atop the Main Building and ringing as the regular school bell, this 1889 beauty, manufactured in West Troy, New York and donated by C.C.G. Thornton, now rings from its perch atop the Fine Arts Building only after select team wins.

Following tradition, this fall the Boys Soccer team gathered in the Atrium to celebrate a victory. When they grabbed the rope together and pulled, the wooden-pegged wheel that had swung the bell for more than a century broke. The bell went silent.

Dedicated Facilities staff worked quickly and rigged a temporary iron-bar mechanism that allowed the bell to ring. Then Thornton Academy faced the challenge of how to restore the bell to its original function and address other maintenance needs.

Then, on December 29th, the Duranceau Family presented Headmaster Rene Menard with a check for $10,000 in memory of John Duranceau whose two children—Brad ‘09 and Taylor ‘12—graduated from Thornton. Their generous gift has been designated to repair and restore the Victory Bell. Also, Thornton Academy Board of Trustees member Earle Cianchette, Senior Vice President of Operations at Cianbro and a TA parent, has pledged additional support for this summer when the reproduction wooden wheel is installed.

Why restore the bell? “This is tradition,” said Maintenance Worker Mike Walker as he pointed to the wooden pegs securing joints of the wheel mechanism. “We want to do this right.”

Anyone who visits Thornton Academy's large campus in Saco, Maine can see the Victory Bell easily and if you happen to attend a major game that TA wins, you may be lucky enough to hear it ring.

Written by cultural anthropologist and author Patricia Erikson, Heritage in Maine highlights "things to do in Maine" with living connections to Maine history. In addition to writing Peaks Island Press -- articles about authors publishing from Peaks Island stronghold (a.k.a. The Rock) -- she edits Thornton Academy's alumni magazine Postscripts.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Healing Old Wounds and Bringing in Voices: An Interview with Kate McBrien

Patricia Erikson interviewed the new Chief Curator at the Maine Historical Society -- Kate McBrien -- about her transition from the Maine State Museum in Augusta to her position in Portland. Having worked closely with Kate on the Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives exhibit project, Patricia was excited to see that Kate would share her expertise to the Maine Historical Society.
Kate McBrien
Patricia: What made you decide to transition from the Maine State Museum to the Maine Historical Society?
Kate: I was very fortunate to spend seven wonderful years at the Maine State Museum. Its a great organization with a fabulous collection. But I have long been a fan of the Maine Historical Society and had dreamed of working there for years. High level curatorial positions rarely become available in Maine, so when the Chief Curator position was created, I jumped at the chance. MHS is such a dynamic organization and a leader in the state's museum field. I wanted to be a part of that.
Patricia: What project at the Maine State Museum are you the most proud of and why?
Kate: The Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives exhibit was by far the highlight of my career at the Maine State Museum. It was such an important program for the entire state. I am constantly awed by the fact that I was given the opportunity to truly make an impact on the state of Maine and to heal old wounds. Working with amazing scholars, archaeologists, and educators (such as you!) made the exhibit the success that it was. Best of all, I got know so many of the amazing descendants of the Malaga Island community with whom I continue to stay in touch. They are my extended family.
Display of artifacts in Malaga Island exhibit
Descendants of Malaga Island families at exhibit
Patricia: Is there something in particular at MHS that you are looking forward to tackling?
Kate: The incredibly talented people at MHS have so many wonderful ideas and the enthusiasm to try new things, so I know I will never be bored! I'm looking forward to building on the example of the highly successful Maine Memory Network to help MHS reach out to more communities and hopefully partner with them on future exhibits and museum programs.
Patricia: How might the general public notice a change at MHS once you have a chance to get going; is there programmatic change afoot?
Kate: I've just started my first month at MHS so I'm currently busy trying to get up to speed and learn everything that I possibly can about the organization. Hopefully, once I am more settled, the public will see a very active museum program with dynamic, changing exhibits. I also want to bring the public voice into museum exhibits, more so than museums have traditionally allowed in the past. I want to hear from anyone and everyone about what they would like to see in the MHS museum, what they want to learn about, and what of their own history they might be able to share. Maine Historical Society exists for the people of Maine, so I want them to be a part of the organization.
If you would like to hear more about Kate McBrien's approach to "bringing voices into museums," then listen to her interview with Irwin Gratz on MBPN's Morning Edition: You may visit the Maine Historical Society's museum gallery, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, Archives, or garden at 489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine.
Written by cultural anthropologist Patricia Erikson, Heritage in Maine highlights "things to do in Maine" with living connections to Maine history.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Robert E. Peary's Maine Island Home Becomes National Historic Landmark

View of Eagle Island's beach from inside Peary home
Eagle Island, the Maine island home of famed Arctic explorer, Robert E. Peary, has joined the ranks of more than 2000 National Historic Landmarks nationwide. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced the news this week.

Built in 1904, the Peary family’s cottage on Eagle Island in Casco Bay was donated to the State of Maine in 1967 to become a historic property open to the public. The Bureau of Parks and Lands now operates it as a museum. Visitors can tour the house, including the living room pictured here, as well as hike the seventeen-acre island.

Three-sided stone fireplace at Eagle Island
My research on Robert Peary's wife, Josephine (see photo portrait of her) led me to visit the island a couple of times and I highly recommend it as a day excursion.*

When I interviewed Josephine's grandson, Edward Stafford in 2009, he told me, "Every summer [my grandmother Josephine] saw that Eagle Island was open and welcoming to all and watched as her grandchildren grew tanned and healthy in the salt air, the sea and the sun and learned the ways of the winds and the tides and the chill blue bay." 

Josephine Peary (courtesy Maine Women Writers Collection)
 I loved the three-sided fireplace, each side finished with a different kind of stone found on the island. I also loved the stories of a pajama-clad Peary shouting across the harbor in the moonlight to the small island where he housed his beloved husky dogs.

After Robert Peary's wife, Josephine, died in 1955, the Peary family gave the island property to the State of Maine.

One other historic property in Maine, the Frances Perkins Homestead of Newcastle, became a landmark.

*For information about visiting Eagle Island during the summer, see the Friends of Eagle Island site.

Written by cultural anthropologist Patricia Erikson, Heritage in Maine highlights "things to do in Maine" with living connections to Maine history.