This is a guest post written by our *fabulous* Archives + Special Collections intern, Dean Smalley. Dean is a graduating senior history major from the University of New England, and has been working for us doing research, writing, and curatorial work. The exhibit will appear on the BIDDEFORD HISTORY & HERITAGE PROJECT (www.biddeford.mainememory.net) under the EXHIBITS tab.
The Biddeford-Saco Fires Exhibit is just about ready to go live on Maine Memory Network! I am very excited for it to be made available for everyone to view. Working with Renee in creating this exhibit has been an incredible experience and learning opportunity. I have never constructed an exhibit wholly based on my own drive and ideas. One thing that I learned is that there is a difference between writing for a museum and writing for the internet. In my experience writing for the Saco Museum, I could tell that I was telling a tale from the past. It was very easy for me to see the narrative in what I was creating. However, with this exhibit, I found that I was having to find the narrative that lied underneath all of the information that I was coming across. It wasn’t like working with a diary account where the story is right in front of you as it is being told to through the perspective of the author.
Instead, I was working with newspaper primary sources. Almost all of these had no accredited author to them because of the time in which they were written. It was like I was being told multiple stories from various authors. So I had to find out what connected tale interlocked all of these accounts of violent fiery disasters. While I found that the tale was that of community connections and solidarity, it was something that I had to discover on my own and then figure out how I would represent that in my writing. I feel like this improved both my analytical and critical thinking skills that I have been developing in my past 4 years at the University of New England.
It is exciting for me to think that there is going to be an exhibit online that is of my own creation. This is something that I direct people to as a point of pride in my own work and accomplishments. However, I cannot forget to give credit to my amazing supervisor, Renee DesRoberts. Without her help none of this would have been remotely possible. She have been more supportive than I could have ever imagined. In the end, All I want to say is go and view the exhibit as soon as it becomes available to do so. The images themselves are enough to make your heart stop.