Pejepscot society to mark 130 years of collecting

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BRUNSWICK — It’s easy to accumulate a lot of stuff in 130 years.

Founded in January 1888 to serve Brunswick, Harpswell and Topsham, the Pejepscot Historical Society was one of the first institutions of its kind in Maine, and is the owner of more than 100,000 pieces of memorabilia, Executive Director Larissa Vigue Picard said Dec. 28.

Among its pieces on display at 159 Park Row is a mid-to-late-18th century Wabanaki birch bark canoe, found in Harpswell and donated to the society in 1889. Based on carbon dated last spring, the sturdy, lightweight vessel is believed to be the oldest birch bark canoe anywhere, Picard said.

That and other highly prized artifacts will be part of a slideshow presentation called “130 Years of Collecting” that Picard will present at the Topsham Public Library, 25 Foreside Road, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9 – a prelude to the exhibit the society will open in May, highlighting its 13 decades of operation.

“This is definitely the highlight of the 1880s, and certainly one of the top five items in the collection,” Picard said, turning to the well-preserved canoe.

The collection also includes a baseball bat, dating from around 1860, that has been reviewed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

“Pejepscot” is a Wabanaki word meaning “the long rocky rapids of the river,” in this case referring to the Androscoggin, Picard said. “So it got used as a place name in different areas,” she added, such as Pejepscot Village in Topsham.

More information can be found at pejepscothistorical.org.

The Pejepscot organization was one of the first local historical societies, predating other town-based institutions in the area, Picard said.

“Very few of the smaller towns around had their own societies, so we ended up with a lot of items over time that we have since sent back to their rightful town owners, but that came here because there was no other place for them to go,” she added.

Picard’s talk will include how and why local and historical societies began. State societies began around 1800 on the cusp of the birth of the United States, “because … states wanted to begin collecting their history of this new country, and that eventually trickled down to new local societies starting,” Picard said.

She will also delve into what the Pejepscot society collected in its early decades, and how collecting practices changed over time.

While a 130-year anniversary is not a typical milestone, Picard said, “it’s a theme to hang something on, so you take those opportunities when you can.”

“I think people hear ‘130’ and say ‘wow, that’s a long time,'” she added. “‘That’s a lot of years, that’s a lot of stuff.'”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Larissa Vigue Picard, executive director of the Pejepscot Historical Society, will give a presentation at the Topsham Public Library Tuesday, Jan. 9, on the institution’s 130 years of collecting. Among the Brunswick-based society’s prized items is its 18th century Wabanaki birch bark canoe, considered the oldest of its kind.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.