PORTLAND – An effort to bring Maine history to more people, with a wealth of supporting resources and depth, was launched this week by the Maine Historical Society.

The initiative, aided by two federal grants, consists of Maine History Online (www.mainememory.net/mho) and the Maine Community Heritage Project (www.mainememory.net/mchp).

A real-world slice of the online project, “Zoom In: New Approaches to Maine History,” will be at the Maine Historical Society’s gallery at 489 Congress St. from now until May 29 of next year.

Steve Bromage, assistant director of the society, said the project grew out of the Maine Memory Network, which “started out as an online archive and pretty quickly became an online museum.”

Maine History Online provides an overview of the state from about 12,000 years ago, when glaciers began to retreat and the area became habitable, to today.

The site can be explored by time periods or themes. Either choice provides essays and a chance for online visitors to veer off on related topics or view photographs and illustrations.

“It’s really rich and comprehensive,” said Bromage. He noted that the online history, along with the Maine Memory Network, provides a way for historical societies and other organizations to tie their material to the online exhibit by uploading documents or photos related to the topics.

He said those groups include libraries, institutions such as Maine Medical Center and organizations such as the Presque Isle Fire Department and the Lumbermen’s Museum.

The Maine Community Heritage Project was funded with a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Bromage said. So far, 16 communities have set up history websites under the Maine Historical Society’s umbrella.

The society provides technical guidance, he said, but the local groups decide which stories to tell and how to relate those stories.

Celeste Shinay, manager of programming and development for the Scarborough Public Library, said the idea was a natural for her community, which celebrated its 350th anniversary last year.

“It seemed like the next logical step in continuing the celebration,” Shinay said, and drew on research that was done as part of the planning for the anniversary.

She noted that Scarborough is geographically large and doesn’t have a true town center, so the site can serve as “almost a community center.”

In addition to a history of Scarborough, the site includes a variety of exhibits on facets of the town, such as the Scarborough Marsh, with information on its history and impact on the town.

The school department had a hand in creating the site, Shinay said, and is developing lesson plans for teachers, built around the exhibits that are part of the website.

“The benefits are so many it’s hard to pick just one” to focus on, she said.

Shinay said she also appreciates the fact that Scarborough’s site inside the community heritage project won’t be static.

“We’ll continue to build and submit and upload additional exhibits going forward,” she said. “The ability to build is endless.”

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 7891-6465 or at: [email protected]