A Single Conversation

One of the most rewarding parts of our job at the Harward Center is developing new partnerships and watching them grow into long-term collaborations that benefit both Bates students and the community. About three years ago, Curtis “Curt” Jack, the new President of the Androscoggin Historical Society (AHS), stopped by the Harward Center in hopes of finding someone he could talk to about building stronger collaborations with Bates. A lifelong educator, Curt told me he was eager to integrate more young people into the work of the AHS and to raise awareness about the fascinating and eclectic collection of archival documents, photographs, and artifacts in their collection. I’m always glad to make connections with new community partners, but as a historian myself, I was particularly excited to meet Curt and hear his enthusiasm for building an ongoing partnership with Bates. 

Since then I’ve enjoyed meeting regularly with Curt and other staff at the Androscoggin Historical Society and am proud of all the projects that first meeting initiated. In 2019, for example, students in my First Year Seminar, “Lewiston: A Local Lens on Global Issues,” developed research guides that featured sources available in the AHS archives for learning about topics such as the architecture of the Lewiston mills and the experiences of Irish and Franco-American immigrants. Last year, students in Professor Seulgie Lim’s “Gender, Power, and Politics” course worked with AHS staff and board members to analyze records on teacher compensation. They used their research to inform the development of educational materials about the role that women played in developing teachers’ unions. 

This year, the Historical Society is working closely with students in Professor Anelise Shrout’s Digital and Computational Studies class, “Public History in the Digital Age.” As one of two Bates faculty members chosen as Periclean Faculty Leaders last year, Professor Shrout has been working with AHS staff since last spring to develop an innovative new course that involves significant community engagement. After several conversations with Curt and former Bates professor/current AHS Board member Doug Hodgkin, Professor Shrout decided to move forward with projects to help create a digital inventory of the wide range of artifacts in their collections. Her students are also working to make improvements and updates to the AHS website. While Professor Shrout, AHS staff, and the students in “Public History in the Digital Age” have all expressed their satisfaction with how far the work has progressed, there will be much left to do after the semester is over. In many ways, that is a best case scenario for all involved, as Professor Shrout, the AHS, and future student groups will have a solid foundation to build on as they continue to collaborate. I’m excited to see what new projects grow out of this partnership in the years ahead.