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South Portland Historical Society goes high-tech

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South Portland Historical Society goes high-tech

SOUTH PORTLAND — The Historical Society is hoping to use today's technology to preserve South Portland's past.

The 500-member society is looking to the Internet as a way for patrons near and far to relive their favorite memories. It also wants to tap that nostalgia in its fundraising, which has become more important since the society acquired the Cushing's Point House for its future home. 

Over the last month or so, the Historical Society secured its own Internet domain name, set up an online store and created a profile on Facebook, an online social networking site created for college students that has become popular with people of all ages. 

Historical Society member Andrew Wallace, who works as the technology director for the School Department, designed the society's online store, which cost about $200 to implement and has already turned a modest profit.

Previously, when people wanted to purchase items or make donations they had to either attend an event or go to City Hall. Now, anyone with an Internet connection can access the store, which sells books, DVDs, videos, clothing and artwork.

"We realized there's this huge, untapped market out there," Wallace said. "Now, people can just pop online with a credit card."

Wallace said he is surprised by how quickly the Historical Society's Facebook page has grown. Since its launch two months ago, the group now boasts more than 162 members, who participate in discussions ranging from their memories of Willard Beach and Ferry Village to their favorite bars and restaurants. 

The Facebook page is giving residents an outlet to share memories that on the surface may seem trivial, but to the trained eye can give great insight into South Portland's history.

"One of our historical society's goals is to preserve South Portland's history," Director Kathy DiPhilippo said. "I can't tell you how many times I have heard stories of incredible historic items which were thrown away in years past because the person didn't realize that anyone was interested."  

Recently, the topic generating the most discussion was ice cream shops, past and present. Members commented on both the longevity of Red's Dairy Freeze and Dairy Queen to the more short-lived and quirky ice cream shops, like the Pic-It and Pick-It that used to be located in Dominoes pizza shop on Broadway. 

DiPhilippo said the society also received a great photo of the T-Ledge Stables, which used to be on Highland Avenue. She's hoping the international reach of the Internet will uncover more historical gems. 

"Facebook is available internationally and is a great networking tool," DiPhilippo said. "We are excited to have found a way to reach out to people far away and let them know about our mission."

While the online store and Facebook page look to expand the society's reach, the new domain name for its old Web site is intended to make finding the society online easier for users. Before, the society's Web site was hosted by the city, an arrangement that required a lot of searching and mouse clicks to get access. 

"It got a little tedious telling people how to find the site," Wallace said.  

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net