May 6, 2012

Bob Keyes: A changing of the guard of historical proportions

(Continued from page 1)

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Steve Bromage, the new executive director of the Maine Historical Society, has been with the society for 10 years, since 2006 as assistant director.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

Bromage will oversee an organization of 20 staff members and a budget of $1.7 million.

Among his immediate priorities is the launch of a new exhibition about the electrification of Maine, "How Electricity Came to Maine," opening June 22.

We take our electricity for granted, but it wasn't too long ago that the idea of power lines criss-crossing the state was bewildering.

The exhibition will be full of awe and wonder. It will display big turbines and explain the physical challenges faced by linemen who brought power to all reaches of Maine. It will remind old-timers that a range and refrigerator once were novel items.

Back in the day, you had to go to a special store just to buy a light bulb.

Long-term, Bromage is thinking about the historical society's next major fund-raising campaign. The society desperately needs a new building with offices and proper exhibition space.

"We are in the long-range planning process," he said. "We have to decide what kind of building we want, but at some point in the next few years, we will build a new museum building."

Bromage has many supporters in town and across the state.

This spring, Hilary Bassett, executive director of Greater Portland Landmarks, is collaborating with Bromage and his staff on a lecture series about the local landscape and historic preservation.

"One of things I have liked and enjoyed about Steve is that he is so interested in bringing a broad representation of the community together," Bassett said. "He looks at history very broadly. To include landmarks and current issues and historic preservation topics that are being worked on as we speak is really very positive."

Perhaps the greatest endorsement came from Earle G. Shettleworth Jr., the go-to guy for all things related to Maine history and director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in Augusta.

Shettleworth has been a member of the Maine Historical Society for almost 50 years. His hopes for the society as a vibrant, active and engaged organization came into focus under D'Abate's leadership.

He is confident that Bromage will see that vision through to fruition.

"I have every confidence that Richard's legacy is in good hands and will continue to grow and thrive," Shettleworth said. "I've always had such positive interactions with Steve, no matter what it has been, whether a broad philosophical issue to a house-keeping detail.

"He is a very bright, personable and thoughtful person, and he will do a good job." 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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