Brunswick spoken-history project to document town's mill history

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BRUNSWICK — Curtis Memorial Library and the Pejepscot Historical Society are hoping to shed light on the history of the town’s mill industries with a new storytelling project.

From May 6-8, the two organizations will partner with StoryCorps, a nonprofit known for intimate interviews aired weekly on National Public Radio, to record interviews of people whose families had worked in local mills across different generations. 

Potential participants for the project are being solicited.

The project will dovetail with other efforts by Curtis Memorial Library and Pejepscot Historical Society to uncover the town’s unique history, including a new Genealogy Room at the library and a speaker series about the town’s Franco-Canadian heritage.

Curtis Memorial Library was scheduled to hold an official opening of the Genealogy Room on Thursday, Feb. 20. The room, which has been available to the public since Feb. 10, is on the library’s second floor and unites several kinds of resources to help patrons research their ancestry. 

Doucett said the idea for the project, which is being funded by a $10,000 grant from the Alfred M. Senter Fund, came after a conversation with a library patron whose family had worked in the town’s mills for several generations.

“She was talking about how that generation is starting to age out and we’re losing that collective memory,” she said. “We’d hate to see it lost.”

The hope is to interview about 30 people. Each 40-minute conversation will be between people who know each other, and will focus around their families’ personal histories.

For every interview, a StoryCorps facilitator will be present to help guide the conversation.

“StoryCorps comes out of this idea of traditional storytelling and tradition of being able to share stories with others,” said Michelle Bova, who helps organize custom projects for StoryCorps. “There’s sort of no comparison to when you can be with someone you care about and share a story. That’s the essential core value.”

Recordings will be stored at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. There is also a small chance the recordings will be aired on NPR.

Participants will receive their own copies of the recordings, and all recordings will also be made available to Curtis Memorial Library, which plans to publish them on its website. In addition, the recordings will join StoryCorps’ archive of more than 50,000 recordings from its past 10 years of work.

While the library ramps up for its StoryCorps project, patrons can check out its new Genealogy Room.

Doucett said the room was created after she and others noticed a growing local interest in genealogy, especially from the town’s retired residents.

The library director has been holding genealogy workshops in conjunction with the Pejepscot Genealogy Society for the past four years.

“There’s a lot of people today who are interested in genealogy since the records are started to get digitized,” she said.

The new room was created at a low cost, Doucett said, because it mostly utilizes the library’s existing assets, including a handful of computers for online research, a library of town and state records and a microfilm collection of old newspapers.

On the computers, she said, there are 12 genealogy programs patrons can try out before they consider buying one for themselves.

There’s even a custom-made book scanner made from a lobster trap that can scan 200 pages in 20 minutes, Doucett said. The unique contraption was made last year by reference librarian Paul Dostie.

And if the new library room is not enough, Pejepscot Historical Society will begin its Franco-American speaker series on Feb. 26 with a talk by James Myall about “Franco-American Racquetteurs and Maine’s Snowshoeing Tradition.” The series will continue through May.

All talks will be held at Curtis Memorial Library.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.

Sidebar Elements

Elisabeth Doucett, Curtis Memorial Library director, shows off the library’s new Genealogy Room, which provides several resources to help patrons research their ancestry. Doucett is also helping lead a new storytelling project in partnership with StoryCorps, a nonprofit best known for its interviews aired weekly on National Public Radio.

A custom-made book scanner in Curtis Memorial Library’s new Genealogy Room can scan 200 pages in 20 minutes. The unique contraption was fashioned from a lobster trap by Paul Dostie, a reference librarian.