Newsletter

BkCvr_TheEssOdyssey

How I Learned to Read the Odyssey

A colleague of mine once claimed that an epic poem is best understood as an extended meditation on a theme. I liked the idea and immediately tried to identify the themes of my favorites. Homer’s Iliad was easy: it’s an extended meditation on war. Virgil’s Aeneid can be read as an extended meditation on empire…. Read more

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Inspiring Maine Students with “The Abolitionists”

  By Brian Baldwin and Nicole Rancourt We knew that a match lay in our future. That was apparent from the first time we met. In the summer of 2014, the Maine Humanities Council was brainstorm­ing the ways in which it could more effectively bring its work to Maine’s students. The Civil Rights Team Project, a school-based… Read more

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Louise and Celeste at the Scarborough Library

To Uplift and to Empower: Q&A with the Scarborough Public Library

By Diane Magras Turn off busy Route 1 in Scarborough, and on a fast-moving side street you’ll find the Scarborough Public Library. The library building emerges past a small cattail-filled pond surrounded by trees, presenting a beautiful and welcoming exterior. This fall, I met Celeste Shinay, Program and Development Manager, and Louise Capizzo, Youth Services… Read more

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Barbara Goodbody sharing her beloved replica of the fox Antoine de Saint Exupery illustrated for The Little Prince, courtesy of the Saint Exupery family.

The Stories We Share. Episode 1: A Friendship and the Little Prince

By Diane Magras My work brings me in contact with fascinating people. I hear stories from them about their families, work experiences, and books or authors that have made a difference in their lives. Such stories have been valuable to me personally, broadening my own under- standing of the world, delighting me with new knowledge…. Read more

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McArthur Staff Photo 2014

Fostering a Culture of Community at the McArthur Public Library

By Diane Magras Like the books on their shelves, public libraries are full of character: suave and charming, warm and exciting, brilliant and quirky. Sometimes the specific type of character is due to a single librarian, but more often the library itself and the staff and patrons together make libraries what they are. To the… Read more

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Constance Carlson

Connie Carlson: A Memory from Nancy MacKnight

There are many firsts on Constance H. Carlson’s résumé. But her illustrious achievements and awards do not suggest the woman of wit and wisdom who was marvelous company. Connie was my cherished mentor when I first joined the Department of English at the University of Maine in 1972 and she was Dean of what was… Read more

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Faulkner at Rowan Oak, 1962

Mississippi Comes to Maine: 18 Years of Winter Weekend

By Charles Calhoun Only two degrees of separation lie between me and William Faulkner — well, three, if you count the horse. In 1965, as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, I took a course on literary biography from a young professor named Joseph Blotner. He was a brave man to teach such a… Read more

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Constance Carlson

Constance H. Carlson: A Portrait By Trish Riley

By Trish Riley The Maine Humanities Council is dedicated to sustaining the power of the humanities to enrich, enliven, and leaven our lives. The Constance Carlson Prize was named for a woman who exemplified and promoted that mission. Constance Hedin Carlson grew up on the grounds of Bangor’s mental health hospital where her father was… Read more

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Kristen Case

The Other Public Humanities

By Kristen Case Among the conclusions frequently drawn about the heavily reported “crisis in the humanities” is that humanities departments are woefully out of touch—with today’s students, with the new economy, with the public at large. The argument is a familiar one. In response to a similar climate of hostility in the late 1980s and… Read more

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Donald Soctomah

Strong Candidates across the State

By Hayden Anderson The Maine Humanities Council created the Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize in 1998, and since then we have awarded the prize five times, most recently in 2010. The Prize is the highest honor the Council bestows, awarded to recognize an individual or organization for exemplary work in the public humanities benefiting… Read more

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Experience from Within: Literature & Medicine

By Kate Webber One evening a month, a group gathers for three hours to share a potluck dinner and a book discussion. These aren’t teachers, and they’re not meeting at their local library. They’re a group of medical professionals at the Togus Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center who have come to actively improve their professional abilities… Read more

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In Memoriam: Eileen Curran (1927-2013)

By Diane Magras Each July, Eileen Curran’s Waterville garden was in full bloom: pink lupine, white scabiosa, and golden gloriosa daisies. Other perennials wove between these plants, creating a 19th-century tapestry of color and texture, like the gardens that had created the concept of English Cottage gardening. It made perfect sense that such a garden would… Read more

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Bricks and Mortar for the Mind: Let’s Talk About It

By Kate Webber If you take Interstate 95 as far north as it goes, you’re just two hours south of St. Agatha. The town is seated on the shores of Long Lake and about as close to the New Brunswick border as it is to the nearest US town. In the middle of winter there aren’t… Read more

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Local and Legendary: Maine in the Civil War

By Janet Lyons The first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861. Everyone thought the war would be over in three months. But it didn’t end until April 6, 1865. For four long years, brothers fought brothers; sons, husbands, and brothers went off to fight. Over 750,000 soldiers never returned home…. Read more

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Bringing the World in: The World in Your Library

By Nicole Rancourt In this age of increased interconnectedness, I often hear people express that the world feels smaller and smaller each day. Here in Maine, with our petite communities and their members’ wide ranges of interests and areas of expertise, the links between us sometimes feel so entwined it’s as though we are all… Read more

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The Lonely Fight exhibit, Frannie Peabody Center

The Lonely Fight

By Kate Webber Walking through the lobby of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, Katie Rutherford was a contrast to the powerful images she had compiled for “The Lonely Fight: A History of AIDS in Maine.” Her compassion and enthusiasm were apparent as she described the decades of this disease in Maine and the stories of… Read more

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A Mirror for Our Lives: New Books, New Readers

It was a snowy Monday night, but still a group of readers braved the cold and filtered into a room on the third floor of the Bangor Public Library. They were there for New Books, New Readers, a Maine Humanities Council program for adults who are not in the habit of reading. I was welcomed in as a guest and handed copies of the book; this is one place where everyone is encouraged to join in. Read more

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On the Humanities and the Digital Age: a Personal Essay

By Gina Mitchell The Digital Age, with its new networks, technologies, and modes of communication, is alternatively posited as the future and the demise of the humanities. On one hand, its capabilities promise to aggrandize the humanities and its endeavors; online classrooms, E-publishing, virtual archives, and other developments can expand the reach and deepen the… Read more

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MHC’s Domestic Violence Initiative

By Lizz Sinclair What does A Streetcar Named Desire, a play written 47 years ago about a family in New Orleans, have to say to Mainers today? Quite a lot, it turns out. There has been a lot of debate about the value of the humanities in the press recently, with many questioning their relevance…. Read more

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Craving—and Finding—Community

By Nicole Rancourt Right after my high school graduation, I spent a year abroad as a member of Up With People. One of the high points of that year was staying with host families in each community we visited. In those homes, we learned about each town, city, and country in far deeper and more… Read more

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A Valley in the Landscape

By Michael Brady I have been teaching in colleges and universities since 1977, first in Connecticut and for the past 28 years in Maine. While I have taught a number of undergraduate courses in sociology, gerontology, and a travel-based summer course on baseball and American Society, most of my work has been at the graduate… Read more

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A Love Letter to the Maine Humanities Council

By Sheila Jans Inspiring. Amazing. Incredible…. An endless ribbon of words would do nicely to describe my past eight years on the board of the Maine Humanities Council. But, if I really had to choose only one word to express what it was like to serve on one of the most outstanding boards in Maine… Read more

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On Literature & Medicine

By Abby Cutler For me, it’s always been about stories. But it hasn’t always been about patients. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a doctor. In high school and in college, I pursued my passions for writing, literature, and East Asian Studies. After graduation, I chose to chase a career in journalism and began… Read more

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Letters About Literature 2012

Letters About Literature is a national project sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress in partnership with the Maine Humanities Council. Support for this program is provided by the David Royte Fund and the Library of Congress. In Letters About Literature, students write to an author—living or dead—about how that… Read more

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In Memoriam: Carolyn Sloan

Books and ideas — those are at the heart of the Maine Humanities Council, where Carolyn Sloan worked since 2002. The creator of the Deep in a Book and Children and Nature trainings for parents and early childhood educators respectively, the brains behind the New Books, New Readers text selections, and a beloved facilitator for… Read more

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Visual Literacy for All Ages

By Libby Bischof “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” ― John Berger, Ways of Seeing   John Berger’s seminal text, Ways… Read more

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Let’s Talk Rural

Abandoned schools, unused buildings, sometimes just a basement: these are often the birthplaces of rural libraries. What a community might see as a useless structure can be a golden start for a book-centered community organization as long as a person with a vision is involved. Faye O’Leary Hafford did this in Allagash, creating a library… Read more

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Katahdin to Comic Books: Lynn Plourde Helps to Adapt a Classic Maine Tale

By Charles Thaxton For years, most fourth-graders in Maine could tell you the story of Donn Fendler, the twelve-year old who was stranded on Katahdin for more than a week with only his scouting skills and wits to keep him safe. For many, Fendler seemed like a real life version of Brian from Gary Paulsen’s… Read more

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Seeing Only Possibility: A Letter from the New Executive Director

By Hayden Anderson Until digging into my new work as Executive Director at the Maine Humanities Council, I’d never had the opportunity to meet anyone for whom a library is named. But at the end of my first week on the job, MHC Assistant Director Anne Schlitt and I traveled to the St. John Valley… Read more

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On the Care and Feeding of Teachers: Reflections on a Decade of TAH

By Charles Calhoun First, the food. It doesn’t have to be anything special. But it has to be nicely presented. It has to say you care. Second, the books. Great stacks of them. They smell so “new book” when you pull them from their cartons. They say: you’re back in college! Get to it! And… Read more

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A Scholar Abroad

By Liam Riordan Most college and university faculty probably share a goal of trying to figure out a way to spend a term living, teaching, and researching abroad. Thanks to support from a Fulbright Fellowship, the University of Maine, and a semester’s leave for my wife (who teaches English at Bangor High School), my family… Read more

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What It Means to Be a Mainer: Conversations Within Communities

Are Americans uncivil and unable to work together across areas of difference? Do all the complicated, nuanced issues of our society get reduced to sound bites or rhetoric? Not always, we think, and it’s not always necessary. The MHC is presenting What It Means to Be a Mainer: Conversations Within Communities, a new program that will… Read more

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On Site at the Dig: History Camp 2012

By Dennis D. Edmondson Archaeology projects are usually underfunded and working against a serious deadline, so the creative minds behind History Camp wondered if this might not be a great opportunity for our historically minded campers. Not every site will welcome school-aged students, but fortunately for us, Maine’s archaeology community showed enthusiasm for a collaboration…. Read more

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A Tale of Three Biographies: Teaching American History

An important component of the MHC’s Teaching American History program—an in-depth series of seminars, institutes, and research sessions for Maine teachers to learn more about history through the stories of individuals—is the writing of an original biography. Each year since this program’s start in 2002, MHC staff and project scholars have been wowed by what… Read more

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Write It Out!

By David Richards For years, Julia Walkling tried to coax me into taking on the Somerset County Jail as part of my Maine Humanities Council book discussion circuit. Citing the decrepit Dickensian condition of the local house of correction, I fended off for as long as possible the persistent and persuasive director of the New… Read more

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Peaceable Stories II: The Journey Continues

By Anne Schlitt   “The online component was a very positive aspect of this training for me because it can be difficult for me to speak up in person.” – Peaceable Stories training participant Time was, education meant a teacher at the front of the class, students arrayed dutifully in their seats, taking notes (or passing… Read more

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May Sarton

2012 Grant Spotlight: May Sarton Centennial Celebration

Commemorating the 100th birthday of the acclaimed poet, novelist, and memoirist who lived and worked in Maine for the last 22 years of her life, the May Sarton Centennial Symposium took place from May 3–6, 2012, in York. It focused attention on May Sarton as a major literary voice, building awareness of Maine as a… Read more

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A Gift of Innovation and Imagination: Reflecting on the Legacy of Victoria Bonebakker

By Thomas Lizotte “…she is a virtual tornado of imagination, productivity, and entrepreneurship, whose rallying cry from down the hall has always been, ‘Well, why wouldn’t that work?’” – Erik Jorgensen, former MHC Executive Director   Initial impressions of any organization are usually formed based on the first contact made with staff. Is it any wonder, then,… Read more

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The After Glow of After Shock

Victoria Bonebakker The crisis of health care! The disgraceful inadequacy of care for our veterans! Cut from these shrieking headlines and talk show sound bites to the scene of 170 health professionals, health professions students, scholars, and humanities council staff from 24 states, Canada and Argentina, mingling in an ornate Washington hotel lobby. Or imagine… Read more

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Teachers Learn as Scholars

By Diane Magras In 2009, at Livermore Falls High School, Susan St. Pierre was asked by her superintendent to participate in the Maine Humanities Council’s Teaching American History Through Biography program. And with a fellow social studies teacher and the librarian from her school, she entered an entirely new experience. “The TAH program has not… Read more

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Peace, Power & Choices—for young children and their teachers

By Denise Pendleton Walking into Jewett School in Bucksport where I facilitated a Born to Read Peaceable Stories training in October 2010, I felt both excitement and nervous anticipation. Here I was, co-creator of Peaceable Stories, having the first chance in three years of leading the session myself. But as always happens when I facilitate,… Read more

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Going Deep, Deep, Deep

By Carolyn Sloan Can you remember a favorite book that was read to you? What would be missing from your life if you had never been read to? Many parents in Maine have no memories of a childhood filled with picture books, fairy tales, or stories read aloud. Even with the best intentions for helping… Read more

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Pairing Power with Ideas

By Diane Magras It was icy, cloudy, and cold—a typical winter day. I stepped out of my car, stiff after the drive, with New Books, New Readers program director Julia Walkling. I was joining her on her annual site visit to Farmington, where New Books, New Readers has met regularly since 1993. As we walked… Read more

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Luke Merrithew as Henry Chandler in the docket during his trial for draft evasion.
PHOTO: TOM FOSTER

Experiencing History at the Game Loft

By Karin France The Maine Humanities Council awards grants ranging from $500 to $7,500 to nonprofit organizations throughout the state. Committed to the idea that even small grants can make a difference, the MHC offers a simple application process with rapid turnaround times and, excepting larger grants, rolling deadlines. In reviewing projects, the MHC prioritizes… Read more

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Building Community In a Small Town

St. Agatha is nestled beside a large lake, surrounded by undulating hills and farms. It is an intimate setting rich in history and culture. St. Agatha was once the seat of a convent, and locals credit the religious heritage still present in the community (through the active Daughters of Wisdom) for a work ethic unique to the Saint John Valley, in northern Maine, on the border of New Brunswick and Québec. This work ethic and awareness of community helped its residents pull together to raise significant funds for the local historical society, museum, and library. Read more

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The Story of Us

By Annaliese Jakimides Give me your tired, your poor,/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door! —inscribed on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus   Fact: The majority of… Read more

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Let Me Tell You How Your Writing Has Moved Me

By Annaliese Jakimides For eighteen years, students from all over the country have been writing letters to writers, dead and alive. They have no expectation of an answer, although Cindy Duguay, a teacher in Maine’s RSU 52 (Green, Turner, and Leeds), says that often a student will ask whether a writer—living, of course—will read the… Read more

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Changing Worlds Through Words

By Diane Magras Good books hit hard. And especially when we’re young, books can hit really hard. Kids can draw out, tease out, or wrench out meaning from just about any book. I’ve seen this often as a Letters About Literature judge for Maine. I’ve been on a panel of judges for our state’s portion… Read more

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Honoring Action through Words, the David Royte Fund

By Annaliese Jakimides When Merle Nelson and her brother Paul Royte decided that the time had come to add another component to the legacy of their father, David Royte, there was absolutely no question what that would be. Not only did the siblings know that creating a trust supporting a Maine Humanities Council program was… Read more

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Discovering Ernie’s Ark

Carol Kontos In the dining room, six small oak tables are pushed together to form a big rectangle. Pitchers of ice water and drinking cups are set out to help deal with the heat. Twelve women sit around the table. Their conversation is animated. They talk about the people and the town as if they… Read more

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Family Night at the Museum

By Denise Pendleton On a Friday evening in early November, nearly 150 Head Start children and their parents attended a Maine Humanities Council-sponsored Picturing America event at the Portland Museum of Art. When they arrived, they went on a treasure hunt that took them through museum galleries, dabbled in art activities in the museum’s education… Read more

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Real Life

Annaliese Jakimides I have been consciously in love with children’s books since I bought The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature in 1957. I had saved every nickel, every dime, every quarter that came my way for two years, and The Treasury was the first book I ever owned. Although I couldn’t articulate a book’s transformative… Read more

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Lens on Cuba

By Annaliese Jakimides Scholars, students, teachers, and even a cashier on her day off gather in Portland to talk about Cuba—then and now—and look to the future. Prior to 1959, and Fidel Castro’s rise to power, Americans couldn’t get enough of Cuba—its pristine beaches, its seductive skylines, its cuisine, the enticing rhythms of salsa, rumba,… Read more

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People, Place, and Purpose: Let’s Talk About It provides just the right mix in Belfast

By Annaliese Jakimides Recently Belfast Free Library and writer, translator, scholar, and textile artist Sagaree Sengupta came together to provide a lively, packed series of discussions around the Maine Humanities Council’s Let’s Talk About It series “Across Cultures and Continents: Literature of the South Asian Experience.” Thirty-seven people showed up the first day—that’s packed—and even… Read more

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As Maine Grows

By David Greenham Maine is at an exciting moment in history, don’t you think? Our state is changing so rapidly and in so many ways, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the progress. There is population growth in southern Maine and on the coast. Clusters of businesses are springing up in our downtowns… Read more

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Looking for Zora: The Many Lives of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neal Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937, has been required reading in high school English classes for at least 25 years, thanks in part to the efforts of Alice Walker to revive interest in Hurston’s work. But Hurston—a protean, shape-shifting figure; by turns anthropologist, novelist, dramatist, folklorist, and cultural critic—remains… Read more

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Power and Architecture in Rome: Augustus to Mussolini

Maine Humanities Council offered a scholar-led tour of Italy from March 20-28, 2009. Peter Aicher, Professor of Classics at the University of Southern Maine, led a trip that studied how past leaders used Rome’s urban design to project their political ambitions and cultural values of the period. Professor Aicher designed this ten-day tour to be… Read more

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“Is it a Rose Day?”

By Brita Zitin In 1996, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program placed an ad in the Kennebec Journal calling for people age 55 and over to read aloud in child care centers. The ad caught Rose Golden’s eye. Rose had retired from the newspaper business and moved from New Jersey to Maine the year before. She… Read more

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Face to Face with Lincoln

By Charles Calhoun Abraham Lincoln never visited Maine—he got as close as Exeter, New Hampshire, where his son Robert went to school—but Maine played a crucial role in the early years of both the Republican Party and the Lincoln presidency. Hannibal Hamlin, an anti-slavery former Democrat from Paris Hill, became Lincoln’s first vice president in… Read more

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India and Pakistan: The History Behind the Headlines

By Brita Zitin When Charles Calhoun started planning a teacher symposium on India and Pakistan, “The History Behind the Headlines” seemed an appropriate tag line. Although the symposium was almost a year away, it was safe to assume that this volatile region would be in the news when it took place. In fact, violent attacks… Read more

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Fear, Civil Liberties, and the Rule of Law

The question of civil liberties is a heated one in the U.S. today, so the Council offered the opportunity for thoughtful public discussion of the issue. Part 1 of this two-part program, “Exploring the Context, Defining the Issues,” took place on October 17 and 18, 2008, in Portland and Bangor respectively. Joel Rosenthal, President of… Read more

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New Perspectives: Understanding and Addressing Conflict

By Martina Duncan Maine is a relatively safe place to live. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2000, it ranked 46th among the states in total crime and 49th in violent crime. But break-ins and hold-ups aren’t the only manifestations of violence, and the conflicts that affect our tranquil towns can be all… Read more

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Between Right and Wrong

By Brita Zitin In 2000, the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Department of Corrections wondered what it would take to get probationers to participate in reading and discussion groups. The Associate Commissioner for Adult Community Corrections, Nancy Bouchard, thought she could convince some probation officers (POs) to send their probationers to the groups if… Read more

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Supporting a Girls’ Point of View

By Brita Zitin There’s no mistaking this scene for a high school English class. The Camden Hills Regional High School students gathered on this summer Sunday wear shorts and tank tops; one shields her face from the sun with a straw hat. In lieu of a chalkboard, a lake sparkles behind them. The sticky remnants… Read more

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Peacable Stories

By Brita Zitin For close to ten minutes, two-year-old Oscar* has been intently washing a baby doll in a plastic tub. Now it is Rachel’s turn, but Oscar is not ready to give up his washcloth. He splashes the lukewarm water and shouts, his face—not much larger than the doll’s—knotted with frustration. Before he can… Read more

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Stories in the Classroom

By Diane Magras Being in a classroom again, or, for some, for the first time, was a strange experience for many of the students. Scovia, from Sudan, said she felt like a little girl, though her passion for learning is anything but childish. Nyajany, from Somalia, had never been to school in her native country,… Read more

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Caring for the Caregiver: Perspectives on Literature and Medicine

By Annie Medeiros One of the first things you noticed when you walked into the former armory—the central gathering place at the Maine Humanities Council’s November 9-10 conference for health care professionals—was a large mobile of 1,001 hand-folded, multi-colored peace cranes. On each table, instead of Prozac pens and Diflucan mints, there were Gerber daisies… Read more

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The David Royte Fund

David L. Royte was the founder of The Labor Record of Maine, the AFL-CIO Building Trades Council newspaper. Upon his retirement in 1988, he remained the publisher, general manager, and owner of that publication. But his reading ranged far beyond his own paper. His daughter, Merle Nelson, recalls her father “always with a book in… Read more

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Born to Read | Lisa Nadeau

Born to Read provides valuable early literacy experiences for children birth through age five through programs for the professionals who provide their care. Born to Read’s goal has always been to ensure that Maine children five and under are read to daily by a caring adult. To that end, Born to Read holds training sessions,… Read more

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New Books, New Readers | Houlton

New Books, New Readers partners with adult basic education and literacy volunteers to share a powerful humanities experience with adults just learning to read, beginning to read and speak English, or working to improve reading skills. Using children’s literature at a variety of reading levels, a scholar/facilitator leads discussions and ensures that every participant is… Read more

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MHC teacher programs

MHC teacher programs offer intense professional development in humanities topics for Maine teachers K through 12. From day-long seminars to week-long institutes and programs that meet frequently throughout the year, MHC teacher programs give educators the chance to think and work as scholars. This translates to tremendous learning for both them and their students. David… Read more

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Let’s Talk About It | Cornish

Since 1985, Let’s Talk About It has served a dual purpose in Maine: strengthening the state’s small libraries and their communities by bringing people together in open conversation around books. Scholars facilitate this free program and help create new series. Series are comprised of five topically grouped books that are loaned to program participants. Themes… Read more

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MHC Grants | Focus: Orono

The Maine Humanities Council began life in 1976 as a granting organization, redistributing funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities to nonprofits statewide. Since then, the MHC has expanded its work, creating and implementing the many programs described in this report. Since 1976, the MHC has invested more than $4,000,000 in grants to Maine… Read more

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30 Years: Taxing in Maine in 2006

“Hey, Governah, my taxes are wicked high!” This memorable line came early in Taxing Maine and showed audience members in 31 towns that this Theater of Ideas performance would have a light touch. Commissioned from the Theater at Monmouth’s David Greenham and Dennis Price for the MHC’s 30th anniversary, this story of Maine taxation explored… Read more

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Let’s Talk About It: Luring Maine Readers Out Of Our Living Rooms and Beyond Our Borders

By Brita Zitin Ten years ago, Oprah’s Book Club emerged as a major force in book publishing, pushing sales of its selected titles into the millions. The club raised thorny questions about celebrity culture, engaged many new readers, and enraged some seasoned ones, but its one irrefutable effect was to make book club culture more… Read more

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Quantifying the Power and Pleasure of Ideas

By Brita Zitin Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care® is a reading and discussion program for medical professionals that, as one participant writes, “renews the heart and soul of health care.” Program participants work in all aspects of patient care, and include nurses, physicians, support and allied staff, administrators, clergy, social… Read more

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Poetry Flourishes in a Maine Library

By Betsy Sholl Maine’s Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl facilitated the new poetry series in the Council’s free reading and discussion program, Let’s Talk About It, in Bridgton last summer. In honor of National Poetry Month, she has contributed this account of her experiences. On five Saturday mornings in July and August, I drove along Route… Read more

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Winter Weekend 2007: Chaucer

By Charles Calhoun Chaucer begins The Canterbury Tales with his famous evocation of “Aprill with his shoures sote” and some general remarks on the English proclivity to “goon on pilgrimages,” but the author quickly gets down to business. I’m going to tell you what they were wearing, he announces—“and eek in what array that they… Read more

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Taxing Maine: David Greenham

By Brita Zitin When you open the program for Taxing Maine and see pie charts and a glossary, you may suspect that this is no ordinary play. Less than five minutes into the performance, your suspicions will be confirmed as the actors inform you that “after the show, we’re going to ask what you think… Read more

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A Culture of Survival: Allen Sockabasin

By Brita Zitin In 1999, the Maine Humanities Council’s Born to Read program convened a committee of librarians and educators to select books for its new initiative, Many Eyes, Many Voices: Talking About Difference Through Children’s Literature. The committee’s mandate was to cull twelve picture books from the multitudes in print, striking a perfect balance… Read more

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Letters About Literature | Lacie Craven

Lacie Craven’s family owns and operates Wild Wind Farm on the coast of Maine, in Bucks Harbor. It’s a long way from there to the Florida hamlet where The Yearling is set, but Lacie has no trouble imagining a farm dotted with citrus trees rather than pines. Both are “wild country,” where families live off… Read more

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30 Years: Telling the Stories of Our State

By Brita Zitin Maine Humanities Council reading programs roam across the globe: Let’s Talk About It groups discuss Indian and Cuban literature; New Books, New Readers shares stories from Uganda, Mexico, and Haiti; and Born to Read distributes Chinese and African folktales to children. At the same time, programming at the Harriet P. Henry Center for… Read more

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A Letter from the Executive Director | Dorothy Schwartz

Dear Friends, The Maine Humanities Council brings people and ideas together to encourage a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, fostering wisdom in an age of information, providing context in a time of change. When asked to write my “swan song,” I immediately agreed. My mind quickly filled with images—of swan-boats in the Boston Public… Read more

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30 Years | The Maine Humanities Council One Year at a Time: A Few Highlights

1976 An experimental pilot program is succeeded by a new 501(c)3 organization—the Maine Council for the Humanities and Public Policy (MHC)—Maine’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In its first 16 months of operation, MHC makes 42 grant awards totaling $216,950. Guidelines emphasize that a public policy issue involving scholars in the… Read more

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30 Years “The Local and the Particular”: Historical Inquiry for a changing Maine

By Brita Zitin The Maine Humanities Council supports dozens of programs each year—teacher institutes, grant funded projects, Let’s Talk About It book discussion series—with historical themes. In the past 30 years, three programs stand out as examples of this enduring priority: to connect history and community, past and present, through projects that reach out to… Read more

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Winter Weekend—Past and Beyond

By Charles Calhoun   Felipe III of Spain looked out the window one day and saw a young man laughing wildly. He’s either insane, the king remarked to a courtier, or he’s reading Don Quixote. The second half of the novel had recently been printed, and already Cervantes’s work had become not just another tale, but… Read more

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Poetry Comes to Life in Maine Libraries

On June 13 and 14, 2005, the Maine Humanities Council brought together twenty librarians from around the state at the Bangor Public Library. They gathered to learn ways of expanding poetry programs and services at their libraries, and to share their programming ideas, through Poetry in the Branches, a training created by Poets House and… Read more

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Barn Again! The Smithsonian and the MHC

By Trudy Hickey, Project Director, Barn Again This year the Maine Humanities Council did something it has never done before. From April to October, it brought one of the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibits, Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon, to Maine for a tour that visited three sites: the Saco Museum, the Musée culturel du… Read more

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The Heart of Language: Ashley Bryan

By Brita Zitin Ashley Bryan does not “recite” poems. Recitation implies monotony and rigidity; Ashley’s delivery is riveting and athletic, occasionally cathartic. Nor does he “read” them: he holds a book in one hand, shaking it occasionally and jabbing at the page with his other hand for emphasis, but he never looks at the printed… Read more

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Finding the Hero in History

By Diane Magras What is a hero, after all? Conventional wisdom tells us that history’s heroes are ordinary men and women thrust into circumstances that lead them to perform extraordinary feats. One person’s hero, however, may be another’s deadly enemy, as so often was the case during the Civil War. Historians now ask who these… Read more

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Civic Reflection

The Maine Humanities Council has offered Civic Reflection programs for both the general public and professional groups in Maine for the past three years. “Civic reflection” is the practice of reading and discussing short texts that raise fundamental questions about our life in community and the activities that nourish that life: giving, serving, associating and… Read more

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Exploration and Inspiration in Aroostook County

By Sheila Jans It must be at least four years since I attended the Midsummer celebration in New Sweden, a small community nestled in the rolling hills of northern Maine. In my mind’s eye, I still see children dancing with delicate flowers woven into their hair, dressed in traditional costumes. I still taste the delicious… Read more

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Born to Read Skowhegan

Born to Read serves the Maine Humanities Council’s youngest audiences—children up to age five—through the people who take care of them. With trainings for early childhood professionals and volunteer readers, Born to Read helps caregivers use books to provide children with the stimulating experiences needed to take advantage of the important birth-through-three period in every… Read more

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New Books, New Readers | Portland Adult Education

New Books, New Readers uses the standard technique of Maine Humanities Council literature-based programs: an MHC scholar facilitates the discussion of a text. Participants in this program are beginning readers, or just learning to read English. Their texts are illustrated children’s books with powerful stories that offer paths for serious discussion and thought. Community, a… Read more

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Maine Correctional Facilities Programs

The Maine Humanities Council’s programs in correctional facilities throughout the state serve people who often need the most help in learning about the power and pleasure of ideas. Reading and discussion programs enable troubled men, women, and young people to use literature as a source of new meaning and understanding in their lives. Humanities programs… Read more

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Literature & Medicine | Ellsworth

Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care is unique among programs serving health care professionals. In hospitals or other health care facility settings, it brings together people with very diverse roles within the world of medicine, in a setting where everyone is on equal footing, to discuss a reading that has resonance… Read more

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Teachers for a New Century

Teachers for a New Century offers content-based professional development programs for Maine teachers K-12 in a variety of humanities subjects. Topics in 2005 have included Watergate, Walt Whitman’s Civil War, Native Americans in Maine, and East Asian Studies. In addition to one-day programs throughout the school year, in 2005 the Council administered a residential Teaching… Read more

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Let’s Talk About It | Bristol Area Library

Let’s Talk About It is one of the Maine Humanities Council’s oldest programs, offered free to Maine libraries in partnership with the Maine State Library. This popular reading and discussion program makes a real difference, giving residents of communities both large and small the pleasure of gathering with neighbors to talk about good books and… Read more

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A Deep and Heartfelt Loss

By Dorothy Schwartz The Maine Humanities Council has just lost one of our greatest advocates and friends. Harriet Putnam Henry’s death on September 11, 2004, was met with sadness by many Mainers who understood the significance of her contributions to the civic life of our state. For me, Harriet’s death was a deep personal loss…. Read more

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Many Eyes, Many Voices visits Indian Township

By Brita Zitin Outside Indian Township School, the August morning hangs heavy and hot over Big Lake. Within the hallways, the air swells with a heady mix of disinfectant and anticipation. Teachers wielding staple guns, nametags, and clipboards decorate classrooms that will be filled with Passamaquoddy students just three days from now. Only in the… Read more

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In Memoriam: Harriet P. Henry

On September 11, 2004, Harriet P. Henry — Maine’s first female judge, civic leader, former MHC Chair, and a dear friend of literacy and reading — passed away. Harriet loved the Council and always thought of ways to help spread our work throughout the state. One of her last wishes was that any gifts made… Read more

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Summary of Programs, 2004

By Diane Magras New Books, New Readers In 2004, New Books, New Readers served 27 sites, offering 45 four-session series to over 600people. People who are first learning to read often find the process frustrating. Many experience dismissive attitudes from friends and families, which sometimes persuades them to give up. Through reading and discussion groups… Read more

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Caring About You, Not Just Your Cat Scan

Imagine doctors, nurses, hospital trustees, administrators, lab techs, and physicians’ assistants meeting to talk about a book or short story they had all just read and reflecting on what it meant to them as professionals engaged in health care. This scene has taken place in 25 of Maine’s 38 hospitals in recent years, involving more… Read more

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The Harriet P. Henry Center for the Book

A “Center for the Book” ought to be an extraordinary place, named for an extraordinary person. With that in mind, on April 28, 2003, the Maine Humanities Council named its home at 674 Brighton Avenue in Portland for the Honorable Harriet P. Henry, the first woman to serve as a judge in Maine and an… Read more

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The Long Life of a Monster Reflections on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

“You’re going to read what?” That was a question fielded by more than one participant in this year’s Humanities Winter Weekend, dedicated to the 19-year-old Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. After a series of Very Important Books, what were we doing asking people to read so slight a volume – an… Read more

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The Humanities in Action | October 11, 2001

On October 11, 2001, one month after the tragedies of September 11, close to 1,000 citizens of Maine gathered in 64 sites (most of them libraries) around the state to reflect upon what had happened and to discuss with each other the impact of these events on our lives. It was the first in a… Read more

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‘Jalaato’ is Ice Cream: A Somali Alphabet for Maine

The 3,000 Somalis refugees who have settled in Maine – and their children who have grown up here – face the double challenge of learning to read and write English while preserving a sense of their own rich culture and language. With that in mind, the Maine Humanities Council was a major funder of a… Read more

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The Humanities Interview: Dr. Charles Alexander | Literature & Medicine

By Charles Calhoun Dr. Charles Alexander is an internist who divides his time between clinical practice and serving as medical director of the 54-bed Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth. He helped organize the first year of participation by his hospital last winter in the Maine Humanities Council’s project Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the… Read more

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