Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oh, it's ON.

It was a year in the making.
It  involved the scanning of 200 images. (And counting.)
It brought together the combined efforts of 1 history professor, 2 librarians, and 37 UMF students.
And it just went online.

We Used To Be "Normal": A History of the Farmington Normal School is an exhibit that
was launched this week on Maine Memory Network, a digital museum presented by the Maine Historical Society, in partnership with over 250 Maine organizations.

The exhibit was a collaborative effort between Mantor Library's reference librarian, Laurie MacWhinnie, reference assistant Kelly Boivin, history professor Allison Hepler, 36 students enrolled in 2011-12 courses "History of UMF" and "History of Maine", and student research assistant Zach Stevens.

I'm not going to talk too much about the nuts and bolts of the project in this space, because Laurie and Allison will be giving a presentation during common time in October to talk about how it all came together, and I want you to come hear it from them, as well as see some of the original materials from the archive. I will just say, for now, that the project involved hundreds of hours of preparation, research, and digitalization. "We Used to Be Normal" is actually several exhibits, all highlighting the history of the university during the years 1864 - 1940, when it was known as Farmington State Normal School.

Faces and Places
 This exhibit explores the buildings and grounds of the University.  Every day we pass the names: Merrill Hall. Stone. Purington. Mallet. Dearborn Gym. Mary Palmer Garden. Who were the people behind the names?

Cottage Baby John
Cottage Babies and Home Economics
 Can you imagine picking up a baby at an orphanage and bringing it to live in a cottage with rotating groups of college students? While using live babies as "Practice Babies" might be considered a child development nightmare today, the program thrived here for decades.

Mottoes and Memories focuses on many of the customs, traditions, and celebrations from the early history of the school.

Off to College, Off to War, F.S.N.S. 1917-1918, is an exhibit that was created entirely from a single scrapbook kept by a girl named Liz during her two years at F.S.N.S. Liz's spirited personality leaps from the pages of her memory book through photographs with humorous captions as she chronicles life on a college campus during wartime.
"The next morning after graduation we left on the first train for home. I got off the train & took this one last picture in the dear old place. June 1918."   

Two more exhibits focus on the histories of athletics and theater at the Normal School.

And last, but certainly not least:

The Angel Alley girls go skinny-dipping, c. 1929
More Darn Fun: the Roaring Twenties at F.S.N.S.
The archives contain a collection of seven memory books from the 1920s. This exhibit is a love letter to the scrapbooks and the marvelous, madcap girls who lived here and recorded their adventures (and misadventures!)  for us to share. If there is one person in this entire cast of F.S.N.S. characters that I could meet, it would unquestionably be Dolly Dunphy, christened by friends "The Merry Maker of Angel Alley". (The third floor of Purington Hall.) You are going to love her, too. I promise.

You'll find Dolly, and all the other exhibits here:

"We Used To Be Normal" on Maine Memory Network.\

We do intend to continue the work, and expand our collection of exhibits to include a wider span of University history.
Brochures and other marketing materials are available in Mantor Library and around campus. Spread the word!

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