Creating a technology bridge to the past

[Found this article the other day; it’s an older piece I freelanced for The TimesRecord, in Brunswick, Feb. 2005—jb]

Taking history from past to the present



Lisbon students use technology to learn about Lisbon‘s past

By Jim Baumer, Special to Neighbors LISBON – With options galore available to capture the interest of today’s teens, history – particularly that of the local variety – often falls off the youthful radar screen. With popular culture placing more value on the 15 minutes of fame of the superficial and the sordid, it’s easy to see why the study of the past no longer captivates.

Don’t tell that to Richard Moore and his seventh- and eighth-grade gifted and talented students at Sugg Middle School, however.

This energetic teacher in Lisbon Falls decided that he would incorporate the town’s rich historical and cultural heritage into his instruction. From his own research into the history of the town, Moore recognized that local resources could be used as a way to meet the curriculum requirements of the state, while also plugging his students into the rich heritage of the town’s mills, war heroes and baseball teams.

As part of Maine’s Learning Results, Moore’s eighth-grade students were studying the Industrial Revolution and his seventh-graders were covering the history of Maine.

“Knowing Lisbon’s history concerning the mills, I thought I might be able to find resources right here in town and tie them into my regular instruction,” said Moore.

When Moore discussed his idea with a couple of colleagues, they told him about the local historical society. One Thursday after classes were done for the day, he stopped by the Lisbon Historical Society’s new Marion T. Morse Center location on School Street in Lisbon Falls. Here, he met the Society’s enthusiastic curator and secretary, Dot Smith.

“Dot showed me pictures of the great fire of 1901, as well as other things that she thought would excite my kids,” said Moore.

Moore next got in touch with the Maine Memory Network. With one of the largest and most comprehensive collections about Maine, the network, a grant-funded project of the Maine Historical Society, serves as a statewide database and provides a technology-based, centralized location for the state’s historical and cultural documents. The network also provides outreach and facilitation to groups across the state. It was this aspect of the network which provided the catalyst in bringing Moore’s ideas to fruitionv and involving members of Lisbon Historical Society.

According to Steve Bromage, who serves as the network’s director of education, “we recognize how difficult it is for local groups to share information about history and culture. Because our organization has centralized resources, we are able to provide teachers and others with resources that they might not have access to on their own,” he said.

Staff from the Maine Memory Network contacted Smith at the Lisbon Historical Society to find out if she would be interested in having some of Lisbon’s artifacts and other items archived on the network’s Web site. Next, the network’s staff provided training to Moore and his students, as well as Smith and the other volunteers at the Historical Society on proper archiving and handling techniques.

The last two Fridays in January were chosen as dates to pull together Moore’s original vision.

“The first Friday, the kids came in and researched information on different subjects they had chosen,” said Smith. “They were really excited to see the pictures of the fire of 1901. Some of the boys were very interested in the old baseball uniforms and other pictures, and all of them were interested in the mills and war heroes.”

On Jan. 28, Moore’s 13 seventh- and eighth-grade gifted and talented students, along with members of the Lisbon Historical Society, joined staff from the Maine Historical Society’s Maine Memory Network, when they prepared documents for the network’s Web site. Using laptops, digital cameras and scanners supplied by the network has provided some of Lisbon’s rich historical heritage a home on the World Wide Web.

These young and not-so-young members of the Lisbon community joined together, adding information, photos and other artifacts to the network’s Web site. As a result, anyone with an Internet connection can now view history from Lisbon’s mills, war heroes and baseball teams.

For Sugg eighth-grader Douglas McMaster, who says World War II is his favorite era of history, he learned something about veteran and Historical Society member Thomas Huston of Durham.

“I learned that Mr. Huston was on the PT boats during the war,” said McMaster. “He was trained by John F. Kennedy.”

Megan Sampson, Dana Marquis and Maegan Dupre were all studying about Lisbon’s mills as part of their project. Sampson learned about one of many floods that ravaged mill towns located along the banks of the Androscoggin River.

“I learned about the flood of 1936,” said Sampson. “I found out it shut down the mill and destroyed the bridge between Lisbon and Durham,” she said.

When asked if he was satisfied by the results of the project, Moore offered the following observation. “I’m hoping that this will spark an even greater interest in my students. I know it involved them directly in the study of the town’s history,” he said. “I hope it will also promote the work being done by the Lisbon Historical Society to the community at large and get them to come down and see what’s here,” he said.

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