A 1937 block print by nationally renowned Maine artist Carroll Thayer Berry depicts workers at Bath Iron Works. “Broadside: The Power of Print in the Maritime World,” a new exhibit at Maine Maritime Museum, features the print, along with series of sketches that led up to it. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

A new Maine Maritime Museum exhibit looks at how the media, even back in the 1700s, shaped Mainers’ view of the world and vice versa.

“Broadside: The Power of Print in the Maritime World,” which premiered last week, shows the connection between early media, such as newspapers and bound art compilations, and Maine’s enduring identity, said chief curator Christopher Timm.

Maine Maritime Museum’s chief curator Chris Timm explains the workings of a zographone, a mirrored device used to make certain prints seem to appear in 3D. They were relatively common among the upper-middle class, Timm said, particularly with relatives of ship workers or captains who brought the art pieces back as souvenirs. Chance Viles / The Forecaster

“This is about our identity getting shaped,” Timm said. “Whether seeing how geopolitical issues shaped us through old British newspapers, like a print of English ships checking on our coasts in the 1760s, to some of the earliest images showing what we now see Maine as, bountiful and picturesque.”

The exhibit features an original copy and prints from “Picturesque America,” a book from the 1870s that was one of the first examples of mass printed imagery that could be found in the average person’s home. The book includes drawings of Maine by Harry Fenn show its “rustic natural beauty” and “a level of quaintness” that then became synonymous with Maine for years, Timm said.

“This was an example of how he carved our modern view of Maine,” Timm said. “That was being mass-produced and in people’s homes.”

Timm said he hopes visitors to the exhibit will leave understanding where Maine’s image came from and the fact that the state was a global player long large Maine-based companies that do business internationally existed.

“In a way, we learn some things never change (like how Maine is described), between the ideas the paper shows or what we find important here, it is really interesting to people,” Timm said.

The exhibit also features an early take on virtual reality. A zograscope, a device that comprises a series of mirrors, uses “vue d’ optiques,” a French style of etching print, to project images that appear to be three-dimensional.  The vue d’ optiques were often souvenirs.

“So if a captain came home he could show his family what a port he visited may have looked like,” Timm said.

This Saturday and Saturday, June 17, the museum is teaming with Bath Printing Company to offer more insights into print and how it works.

“We will share old printing plates, techniques, and some examples of work through the years which will be sure to bring back memories of years gone by,” company co-owner Ash Kahrl said. “This is an incredible opportunity to open our doors on the many years Bath Printing has served the community.”

Kahrl hopes the company’s participation in the exhibit will show “how important print continues to be to the many businesses in the area.”

“From letterpress to the digital age, we will be demonstrating how the shop meets the needs of our customers both old and new,” Kahrl said.

To learn more about the exhibit, visit mainemaritimemuseum.org. Printing events are free but require pre-registration online.

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