A little inspiration for the newest townies…

Biddeford is in the middle of something big…we all know it, it’s been years in the making, and it’s pretty cool. There’s so much hubub, building, renovation, and yes demolition! going on nowadays…the city is changing before our eyes. But you know, it’s not the first time this has happened. Biddeford has always been a dynamic place, from fishing village to bustling lumber, milling and trading hub to textile manufacturing mecca. No matter what or whom has been at the heart of Biddeford, the face of the town is ever growing and changing. It’s one of the most interesting parts of my job, to piece together places in their many iterations, and then finding some way to share that with the community.

I’ve been cataloging a large number of old images of streets, homes and buildings lately, and thinking about all the renovating and upgrading and new construction going on downtown and elsewhere. It came to me that maybe you all would like to see some of the beautiful old dwellings which have graced our streets in the past. Maybe these images will inspire some of you newcomers in your renovations and rebuilding work, I hope they do! And if you have any questions or want to see more, you can feel free to contact us at the library or take some time to poke around the Local History Catalog (which is updated on a regular basis with new materials). Enjoy!!!

PS. Please excuse any mistakes made in my descriptions–my enthusiasm far outweighs my architectural expertise. Feel free to share what you know about this stuff!

Image 2439. Home on Center Street, Biddeford.

Image 2439. Home on Center Street, Biddeford.

Postcard Carr 619. Homes along Elm Street near South Street (200 block).

Postcard Carr 619. Homes along Elm Street near South Street (200 block). (Recognize these homes?? The mansard roofed building is now white, and the little New Englander has a big porch attached to the face of it now. Look at those trees!)


Postcard Carr 343. This is after the Harmon’s Corner fire, but see those homes? That’s the Methot Insurance building on the corner of Main and Elm, and the cute little cape next door is where the rental store is now.

Image 3008.  A home in Biddeford, circa 1877. The location is unknown, but this is a great example of a nice, simple home. Check out the pretty lamp on the corner!

Image 3008. A home in Biddeford, circa 1877. The location is unknown, but this is a great example of a nice, simple home. Check out the pretty lamp on the corner!

Apartment building, Elm Street and Emery Court (St. Joseph's Street), circa 1910.

Postcard bid.gen.039. I love this building! It was next door to St. Joseph’s Church, now it’s the parking lot. Beautiful windows and details, and check out those great buildings around it!

Image 0772. Apartment buildings on Main Street @ Elm Street (across from St. John's Building).

Image 772. Apartment buildings on Main Street , near St. John’s Building. Check out those great bay windows!

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Filed under Neat finds and fun stories, Ponderings

NEA Fall Symposium

Friends, I was lucky enough to present at New England Archivists’ fall symposium “Archives in Action” this past weekend. The symposium took place on the gorgeous campus of Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and the presentation was all about creating online exhibits using free and open-source tools and software. I had the distinct pleasure to co-present on this topic along with colleagues from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and all of our slides will be available via the NEA website. But I also wanted to share my stuff right here, along with some bonus links and maybe a thought or two.

My section of the presentation was specifically about using Omeka.net, which is a free exhibit creation site created developed by the folks at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. I really just wanted to talk to archivists about what they can do with Omeka.net, and share my experiences and *numerous* mistakes, erm, “learning moments” (that’s the kinder, gentler term for screw-ups, right?) Basically it’s a user-friendly, well documented tool; and for the bargain price of nothing…well you might as well give it a shot!

Online Exhibits on a Shoestring – Omeka.net

Galveston, Texas amateur newspaper 1873

Bonus Material!
The people at Omeka.net (and Omeka.org for that matter) have done a tremendous job of putting together resources about their products and comprehensive help pages, as well as project planning resources. I’m linking to some that I think are tops for archives thinking of using this resource.


I also wanted to include some of the work-arounds I was pondering out loud during my presentation: if someone is able to use these successfully I’d love to hear about it! Idea 1–You are on the free (limited space) plan and run out of space. You want to revise your site though, keep it fresh, add some new material. Try leaving the ITEM RECORD you created for the stuff you wish to remove with a note to contact library for image access, then delete the attached image/document/AV file. You’ll carve out a pocket of space to add new stuff while leaving the intellectual access for the item you removed. Idea 2–Easy contact form/analytics tool: use Google Docs to create a form or guest book or the like to embed in a Simple Page. The forms have built-in analytics so you can use that to make an effort towards metrics. Idea 3–Make sure to add the social media tool to your site. This makes it very simple to share your content with your users–make it part of your calendar/routine–image of the month or some such.

Final Thoughts…
One of the attendees made a great point to me after the presentation, asking why she should bother using Omeka.net when her state already provides an excellent collection sharing site. A great question! Many states now have active and well-supported programs for digitizing and sharing your history. In this case, the biggest point was that the collection I shared using Omeka.net was one that was national + international in scope, and fell outside of the parameters of our state history site’s local focus. So really the only way for me to share this material as a collection was by using a vehicle such as Omeka.net. If your institution has one or more of these kinds of collections, and you wish to share them widely, then a tool such as Omeka.net may be the right choice for you.

Good luck…and have FUN!

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Sharing Some of the Juicy Local News…from 1895

Whenever I get into the old newspapers, I am usually distracted by the other bits and bobs I come across–occupational hazard. Depending on the state of our microfilm readers, I’ll either print out the little gems or make a note of them for later. In the past 8 years I’ve amassed a pretty good pile of tidbits. I’m trying to think of ways to share this information in a meaningful way, and haven’t really come up with anything great yet. If anyone has seen anything cool or has a great idea for disseminating this stuff I’d love to hear about it. Other than that I’ll surely be creating yet another massive index, or adding to the already massive history indexes we have going…which is better than hoarding all this great information, in my book.For example here is a set of three things I have jotted on the back of a printout:

Emmet Baseball Club : (photo) 5-17-1895 : Biddeford Weekly Journal : page 1

Kate Douglas Wiggin-Riggs : (photos) 5-24-1895 : Biddeford Weekly Journal : page 1 – marriage, career

Murder of James M. Hurd, 7 Oak Street, by son Alfred : 12-13-1895 : page 1 [Biddeford Weekly Journal]

I mean, cool stuff right? And there is so much of this. We’ll keep plugging away, but seriously if anyone has any great ideas I am all ears. Cheers!

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Filed under Neat finds and fun stories, Ponderings

New Online Exhibit on Fire History Soon to be Launched!

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. 

UNE intern Dean Smalley researching fire history for a new online exhibit.

UNE intern Dean Smalley researching fire history for a new online exhibit.


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.


UPDATE! Access the wonderful exhibit right here: http://biddeford.mainememory.net/page/3978/display.html

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Amateur Newspapers – Resources


I was so pleased to get the chance to speak about the Walter Perkins Amateur Newspaper exhibit at Maine Historical Society today, and ramble a bit to a group of captive listeners! :-)

In any event, I do hope everyone got a little something from the talk; whether it was an appreciation for creative youth culture, or a first glimpse into the workings of a digitization project. Here are links to the various web-based resources I mentioned…enjoy!

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Filed under Events, Updates

Ahhh summers at the Pool…(Biddeford Pool, that is)

Timber Point CenterThe library is so pleased to host a new display which has been organized and curated by the folks at the Timber Point Center. The exhibit, “The Ewing Family: Life at Timber Point”, gives a fascinating peek into the life of one of the numerous families who called Biddeford and Biddeford Pool home during summers of old. The Ewing family, who built the seasonal residence on Timber Point over 1929-1931, are pretty typical of the summer families of the era. Well-to-do urbanites who retreated to the peace, calm and beauty of the Maine coast during the summer season, enjoying family and friendships and a break from the hectic pace of working life.

The display is a vivid snapshot of life for these families, but even more interestingly shines a light on a way of life that many of us do not know about. That is, it shows that these large summer “cottages” and the residents within are somewhat less grand than we may imagine. The Ewings, in particular, seemed to have enjoyed a simple, industrious, and quiet life at Timber Point that you may be surprised by. Even their famous friends seemed to have (happily) come and gone quietly, and perhaps that in itself helps the rest of us understand the draw of this area to the well-heeled…even today.

Please come see this lovely display, it will be up through the beginning of April. You can read about it and catch a sneak-peek at Timber Point Center’s blog:


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Making public domain…public!


Public Domain

It’s Copyright Week. What’s that? you ask. Well, I don’t entirely know, but from what I can tell it’s an awareness project sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) and supported by myriad information organizations, including the American Library Assocation (www.ala.org) and of course my beloved Internet Archive (www.archive.org). What excited me about this is the point about working to get more public domain materials into the hands of…gasp! The Public!

I must admit it’s one of my favorite topics.  Maybe it’s working in a public library for all these years, but I do feel strongly that information professionals working with historical materials (or any other open materials for that matter) have a duty to make their materials accessible to patrons. Especially in the case of historical materials…I mean, if you don’t let anyone use the stuff, then what the heck are you keeping it for? Seriously. But, I digress. With the digital tools we now have, and their increasing affordability–we (managers/keepers of historical collections) are running out of excuses for *not* making stuff available more easily. And I’m sorry, but being a proud Luddite is unacceptable in this day and age. (I am absolutely including myself in this admonishment!!!)

So in honor of Copyright Week I’ve added a new item to the Electronic Texts area of the Catablog…the lovely and awesomely illustrated “Dedication Program of the Biddeford High School Annex” from March 1926. This one is so cool! It has great images of the (then) newly built gymnasium, library, and auditorium (among other areas) of the Alfred Street school. Curiosity piqued? Check out an image of the school when it was new on Maine Memory Network.


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