Notes from an Open Book

Veterans Book Group

Words and the Divide: A Veteran’s Experience Facilitating Veterans Book Group

In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln questions whether words have the power to give meaning to the world. He argues that the company assembled at a Gettysburg cemetery cannot consecrate the ground because “the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” He… Read more

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Collaborative Summer Library Program logo

Summer reading outlook looks bright with Collaborative Summer Library Program

Beginning in June, libraries across Maine will be encouraging their patrons to read. This is particularly important for school-age kids to prevent the literacy backwards slide from months of no reading. But it’s also a means for library patrons to model to their own children and grandchildren or other kids in the community the importance of… Read more

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– MHC Public Events, May, 2016 –

1. “The Zany, Majestic Bard”  May 5th, 2016 | 1:00pm | Pittsfield Community Theater, Pittsfield “The Zany, Majestic Bard” is a one-hour performance-lecture created and performed by David Greenham. This lively, fun, and educational performance will delight and surprise audiences of all ages. The program includes history, a brief guide on how to read and understand the… 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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Winter Weekend 2016

Reflections on Winter Weekend 2016

After attending my first Winter Weekend, I was admittedly a bit more tired than I normally am at the end of a standard work week. With my drive into the office the following Monday morning, and with the task of listening through the collected audio recordings of the weekend’s speakers, I began to reflect on… Read more

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Alexis DesRoches

The Magic (and Influences) of Winter Weekend

By Diane Magras If you’re a Winter Weekend regular, you know Alexis DesRoches. And you may have seen her name in a New Yorker article about the Dickens Project. Alexis has been a Winter Weekend regular since 2004 and has taken the event as an inspiration to become involved with and create a great many… Read more

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Maine National History Day

Maine National History Day 2016 Call For Judges

Do you love history? Do you support dynamic hands-on projects for students? Then we are looking for you! Sign up now to be a judge for the 2016 Maine National History Day competition, to be held at the University of Maine, Orono, on Saturday, April 9. Whether you’ve been a judge for several years running… Read more

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Magnus Chase

Heroes of children’s literature

Heroes are an essential part of our lives but are especially key to middle grade and young adult literature. They populate the books that kids read, a welcome friend in often wild adventures. (Among my favorites are the girl who defends her family and community from a fearsome creature out of Haitian folklore, and the… Read more

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Harland County. KY, 1946

Bananas, trains, and coal mines

  My knowledge of One Hundred Years of Solitude was limited before working at the MHC. Sure, I had heard of the novel and its author Gabriel García Márquez. I also knew that it was closely associated with a literary style called magical realism. But aside from that, I had to claim ignorance. The story… Read more

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Reference This

Reference THIS!

The MHC and the Maine State Library have joined forces to promote and support summer reading programs across the state. Shannon Schinagl, Emergent/Family Literacy and Children’s Services Consultant, and Nicole Rancourt, who heads library programing at MHC, are leading the charge. The catalyst for a new endeavor by the MHC and the Maine State Library was… Read more

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Winter Weekend

In Remembrance of Winter Weekends Past

  By Diane Magras Since 1999, Sharon Estell has attended Winter Weekend. She says she would have come to the first (in 1998) but she couldn’t get in—it was sold out at 100. But she’s what we call a regular, so I asked her at this last Winter Weekend to share her thoughts on the… Read more

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Maine's First Ship

New Infrastructure Grants | October 2015

$8,000 for “Beals Historical Society Lobster Boat Preservation Project”, Beals Historical Society, Beals The Beals Historical Society will construct a cold-storage building to house and display two historic lobster boats. Both boats provide a look into the evolution of lobster boat design, including the transition from oar-powered designs to the introduction of the internal combustion… Read more

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Woman reading

Announcing the Winter and Spring Let’s Talk About It Libraries

The following libraries will be hosting a “Let’s Talk About It” series this winter and spring:   1. Roberta Morin at Albion Public Library  “Becoming an American: Struggles, Successes, Symbols” 2. Jackie Bennett at Bristol Area Library (New Harbor) “Crossing Over: Works by Contemporary American Indian Writers” 3. Janet Fricker at Brown Memorial Library (East… Read more

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New Community Outreach Grants | August 2015

$1,000 for “Poetry as a Force for Social Dialogue: A Panel Discussion”, Belfast Poetry Festival, Belfast Poet Elizabeth Gordan McKim will design and moderate a panel discussion on “Poetry as a Force for Social Dialogue” at the 2015 festival. McKim will also lead a workshop and participate as a featured reader in the showcase events…. Read more

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New Community Outreach Grants | June 2015

$1000 for “Representing the Irish Troubles on Screen,” University of Southern Maine, Portland. Irish documentary film-maker Maurice Fitzpatrick will give a series of workshops at USM and other southern Maine colleges on feature and documentary films made about the Troubles in Northern Ireland (1969-1998). He will discuss the politics, aesthetics and ethics of these films,… Read more

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Inspired design Victoria Mansion 2

Inspired Design: Fabrics and Fashion at Victoria Mansion

Picture the sumptuous, elaborate decorations that you associate with Victorian-era architecture and design. Now, picture work by modern designers. These two worlds seem vastly separate—in materials, motives, and tastes. But a recent partnership between Victoria Mansion and the Maine College of Art’s [MECA] Textile and Fashion Design department proved that one era of art can… Read more

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Maine Indian Basketry exhibit

“Maine Indian Basketry” at Maine Fiberarts

Housed in what was once a 1840s bank, the Maine Fiberarts gallery in Topsham forms a beautiful setting for their current exhibition, “Maine Indian Basketry,” supported by the MHC through an Arts & Humanities grant and a Community Outreach grant. Executive Director Christine Macchi described this exhibition as a departure from the usual fiber artwork… Read more

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New Community Outreach grants | May 2015

  $1,000 to “Micmac Warriors: Duty, Honor, and Culture,” Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Presque Isle Micmac Warriors is a photographic exhibit hosted by the Aroostook Band of Micmacs featuring tribal members who served in the United States military during the 20th and 21st centuries. As representatives of a long and proud warrior tradition within Micmac… Read more

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New Arts & Humanities grants | May 2015

$1,000 to “A Closer Perspective: Furthering Access to Native Culture,” Mahoosuc Arts Council, Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, Bethel The Arts Council, in partnership with the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, will work to deepen community engagement in an on-going project to authenticate local native culture and provide community access to native arts and culture…. Read more

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The Feminist Project 2

“The Feminist Project” hits Machias

By Kate Webber Listen to the full event podcast here.  “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?” British actor Emma Watson asked this question in a speech she made in September, 2014 as the United Nations Women Global Goodwill Ambassador. Her words inspired many—perhaps no one more so than Machias Memorial High… Read more

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The Feminist Project 2

Podcast | The Feminist Project

This episode of the Maine Humanities Council’s Humanities on Demand podcast series is a recording of “The Feminist Project,” an event put on at the University of Maine at Machias on April 27th, 2015 as part of the Maine Humanities Council’s Student Humanities Ambassador program. “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”… Read more

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Jason Read

Jason Read on Nostalgia in Mad Men

With its dapper suits, three martini lunches, and not a smartphone in sight, Mad Men is often understood to be a show about nostalgia, about a better workplace, if not a better life. Yet even the characters on the show who would seem to benefit most from these supposed good old days–the white men–fail to… Read more

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Educating for the Future Through the Past

With schools increasing their focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, it may seem like the humanities have no place in today’s classroom. Kymberli Bryant, head of the Language Arts Department at Spruce Mountain High School, disagrees. Her students are active participants in the Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War project, jointly… Read more

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New Arts & Humanities, Community Outreach Grants | March 2015

Arts & Humanities    $1,000 to “Arts On The Hill,” Coastal Mountains Land Trust, Camden Arts on the hill celebrates the synergy between art and the natural landscape in the setting of Coastal Mountains Land Trust’s Beech Hill preserve in Rockport, with the goals of inspiring creativity, engaging new audiences and demonstrating the value of… Read more

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Kate_staff_photo

Social Media Highlighted in Bangor Public Humanities Day Presentation

This January, the MHC joined the University of Maine Humanities Center for the Downtown Bangor Public Humanities Day. Staff member Kate Webber presented as part of the kickoff event, a Pecha Kucha style presentation with a wide range of humanities professionals and enthusiasts. Kate discussed her role managing the MHC’s social media platforms, posing the question: “How are we interacting with the humanities… Read more

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Donald Soctomah Donald Soctomah rows a birch bark canoe with his son, also named Donald. The canoe was built based on a 21-foot Passamaquoddy canoe dating from 1850.

Committed to His Native Roots: Soctomah to Be Honored for Contributions

Executive Director Hayden Anderson was interviewed for an article in Indian Country Today highlighting Donald Soctomah, 2015 recipient of the Constance H. Carlson Prize. This is the Maine Humanities Council’s highest honor, and is awarded to an individual, institution, or group in recognition of exemplary contributions to public humanities in Maine. Here is an excerpt from Alysa… Read more

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Nora Webster cover

BOOK REVIEW| Nora Webster

Nora Webster takes place around Wexford, Ireland, an area I’m reasonably familiar with. (I kept a ‘Complete Road Atlas of Ireland’- like the Delorme Maine Gazetteer – open as I read; I like to try to visualize/imagine that way.) Taking place in the late 1960’s, I have no problem imagining that time (Nora’s older son… Read more

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Poets and Assassins

Announcing new play, “The Poets and the Assassin”

Maine Humanities Council, SPACE Gallery, and USM’s Center of Multicultural Affairs are delighted to present The Poets and The Assassin–Daughters of Iran in celebration of Women’s History Month. The play was written by MHC Board member Reza Jalali . Event information: March 12, 2015 | 6:00pm | SPACE Gallery, Portland Reza has provided the following summary of the play:  Although… Read more

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Maine National History Day 2015 Call For Judges

Do you love history? Do you support dynamic hands-on projects for students? Then we are looking for you! Sign up now to be a judge for the 2015 Maine National History Day competition, to be held at UMaine in Orono, on Saturday, March 28. Whether you’ve been a judge for several years running, or have… Read more

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Successful launch of “Hooked”

January 22 was the launch of a brand-new MHC program, Hooked: A Critical Look At Shows We Love. About 40 people gathered at Guthries in Lewiston to discuss the theme of work in the show Breaking Bad with University of Southern Maine philosophy professor Jason Read. A group of avid fans led the discussion, all… Read more

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New Arts & Humanities, Community Outreach Grants | January 2015

Arts & Humanities   “Emma Lewis Coleman: Maine” $1,000 to Museums of Old York, York The Museums of Old York will present an exhibit of photographs by Emma Lewis Coleman (1853-1942) from the 1880s, including images of local tradespeople and historic buildings and landscapes. Picture Writing: In Island Voices $1,000 to Partners in Island Education,… Read more

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New Major Grants | December 2014

Major Grants Maine is Home Profile Project $7,500 to Welcoming Maine, Portland Through the “Maine Is Home” profile project, Welcoming Maine will create five multimedia profile stories that will highlight positive cross-cultural relationships in the Lewiston/Auburn area. The project will bridge social boundaries between new Mainers and their native-born neighbors through interactive storytelling, thereby creating… Read more

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Don Dearborn, evolutionary biologist from Bates College

A Successful Start: The First Annual Dorothy Schwartz Forum on Art, Science, & the Humanities

Anyone walking through the University of New England’s Portland campus on Saturday, November 15th, may have noticed an unusual number of Darwin bumper stickers on passing cars. A crowd of over 150 gathered to attend the Maine Humanities Council’s first annual Dorothy Schwartz Forum on Art, Science, and the Humanities. The day focused on an… Read more

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10-year old Nabiollah

Muslim Journeys in Portland: “Koran by Heart”

By Kate Webber Throughout the month of November, Portland Public Library hosted three film and discussion sessions as part of the MHC’s Muslim Journeys project. November 6th featured Koran By Heart, a 2011 documentary directed by Greg Barker (watch the full film here). It follows the lives of three children participating in an annual Koran… 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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Waterville Out & Allied Youth Theater

By Kate Webber “This is the next crusade, I think,” Waterville student Allie Richards said as she prepared to go onstage. “We really need to have everyone be equal.” On Friday, June 20, the Waterville Opera House hosted the opening night of “Gays of Our Lives.” The play was written, directed, and performed by Waterville… Read more

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The Inspiration behind Think & Drink

By Gina Mitchell When we selected “In a Networked World” as the theme of this year’s Think + Drink series, we were determined to avoid a polarized debate of the benefits and drawbacks of the digital age. Digital networks and technology are inextricably woven into our contemporary lives, rendering questions about whether we might be better… Read more

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Letters About Literature 2014

By Gina Mitchell Each year, the MHC coordinates Maine’s part of the national Letters About Literature contest, in which students write a letter to an author (living or dead) explaining how they found meaning, inspiration, courage, or support through one of the author’s works. Letters from Maine students share powerful stories of using authors like… Read more

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MHC Awards Civil War Grant to Five Communities

By Kate Webber The Maine Humanities Council and Maine Historical Society are entering the final year of their partnership for the Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War grant, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grants allow community partners to explore and share their local history while drawing connections to the… Read more

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Maine National History Day

By Kate Webber Maine National History Day is an annual event designed to promote critical thinking skills through project-based learning through the medium of historical research. On April 12, 2014, nearly 300 students between grades 6 and 12 traveled from across the state to the University of Maine campus in Orono. The winning teams and… Read more

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News from Local and Legendary: A Discussion of Soldier’s Heart in Presque Isle

Last month, 28 people gathered to discuss Gary Paulsen’s Soldier’s Heart as a part of Local and Legendary, the Maine Humanities Council’s Civil War program presented in partnership with Maine Historical Society. The partners in Presque Isle were holding a series of book discussions open to the community. This night, with Soldier’s Heart as the… Read more

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Maine National History Day 2014

National History Day is an annual event designed to promote critical thinking skills through project-based learning—all of this, of course, happening through the medium of historical research. On April 12, 2014, nearly 300 students between grades 6 and 12 traveled to the University of Maine Orono campus from across the state. The winning teams and… Read more

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Remembering Deedee Schwartz (1938 – 2014)

I remember Deedee’s voice. Imbued with an undertone of warmth, it could rustle through the static of a phone call from the road, sparkle with energy during a conversation about a program, or flow with a hush amidst a talk fringed with sadness. It could also strike a firm, loud note, like a viola’s first bow stroke in a concerto, ringing out above other voices, the hum of the furnace, the rumble of traffic. It was a voice instantly recognizable that made people attend pay attention and, more often than not, smile. Read more

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Teach Me How to Listen: A Retrospective on Seamus Heaney

By Diane Magras When I heard last August that poet Seamus Heaney had died, I couldn’t quite believe it. Yes, I knew he was elderly, but he was a poet who had been so inspiring for much of my life. I remember reading “Digging” as a teen and connecting at once to the pen in… Read more

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Expectations and Inspiration at Winter Weekend

By Sabrina Nickerson My first experience as a Winter Weekender began with a package. Returning home from work one cold, gray winter afternoon last winter, I found a manila envelope bearing the logo of the Maine Humanities Council…and my name. I was overjoyed, as the contents of the parcel revealed my own shiny new volume… Read more

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Persepolis book cover

Muslim Journeys: A Let’s Talk About It series for libraries

For those of you who have heard about Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys and wanted to know more about this project, we thought we’d share what it’s all about. The Maine Humanities Council is a proud recipient of the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys, and it’s a project we’re excited about taking to communities across the state. Read more

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In Memoriam: Judith Daniels

By Diane Magras On September 1, 2013, the Maine Humanities Council lost a board member and good friend, Judith Daniels of Union, Maine. An English major devoted to the works of Jane Austen, Judith was a wise voice at meetings, and a firm supporter of the Council’s work. She also knew how to push a… Read more

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Maine: Seen From Home and Afar

By Nicole Rancourt One of the wonderful things about Mainers is that we are not afraid to celebrate the countless treasures found within our borders. There are festivals throughout the state that highlight everything from apples to clams, from renaissance music to the blues.  We visit fairs that showcase each facet of agriculture peppered across… 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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James Joyce’s Ulysses: Nothing to be Frightened Of

By Diane Magras Along with Finnegans Wake, James Joyce’s Ulysses has a reputation of being one of the most unreadable texts of 20th century literature. But on June 13, Professor Daniel Gunn (University of Maine at Farmington) took three scenes of this day-in-the-life-of-Leopold-Bloom to show “Why You Should Read Ulysses” in a Maine Humanities Council… Read more

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At the Thomas Nevola, MD Symposium on Spirituality and Health

By Lizz Sinclair Earlier this month, I led a workshop at the Thomas Nevola, MD Symposium on Spirituality and Health an annual conference focused on integrating medical and spiritual perspectives and resources in health, healing, and wellness (sponsored by the Thomas Nevola, MD Memorial Fund; Maine-Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency; and MaineGeneral Medical Center). This year’s… Read more

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Comings and Goings: Our Creative Economy

By Gina Mitchell If you have a passion for the humanities, you’ve probably discovered that there are tensions between the fields you love and the trends of the current economy. If you decide to pursue a career in the humanities in spite of this, you may be fortunate enough to work among people who feel… Read more

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Borders and Borderlands

By Diane Magras   One of the best-known Acadians nationwide is Evangeline, a character made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem about the Acadian Expulsion. The National Endowment for the Humanities does important work through their grants, and here’s one example: the Maine Humanities Council’s Borders and Borderlands project, a highly competitive NEH grant… Read more

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Borders and Borderlands

One of the best-known Acadians nationwide is Evangeline, a character made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem about the Acadian Expulsion. Read more

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A Note from the Executive Director

By Erik C. Jorgensen   Dear Friends, As many of you probably know by now, I have decided to leave my position at the Maine Humanities Council after 13 years here (including more than five years as its executive director), with my last day on June 30th. The primary reason for this was to respond… Read more

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What do borders mean?

By Kathryn Olmstead What do borders mean? It is a provocative question that captured the imaginations of participants in two discussions sponsored by the Maine Humanities Council Sept. 16 and 17. Held in the border towns of Houlton and Frenchville, the discussions brought together residents of varied ages and walks of life from both Maine… Read more

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Opinion: On the 2011 Nobel Laureate in Literature

By Diane Magras Each year, I eagerly await the Nobel Laureate in Literature. Being an aficionado of things Swedish, including the language, I always listen to the first announcement made by Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, and watch the reaction of the largely-Swedish crowd of reporters. Like most other literary types, I… Read more

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Reflecting on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

By Diane Magras The tragic events of September 11, 2001 have evoked complicated responses from Americans and also the rest of the world. Now, ten years later, we are reflecting on how we at the Maine Humanities Council have responded. In summary, I think it is fair to say that we have tried to learn… Read more

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Opinion: Ideas, a Common Currency

By Diane Magras On August 14, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Neal Gabler about how big ideas area disappearing from our society due to, among other things, the rise of social media.  Gabler makes many interesting points, but early on writes, “If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we… Read more

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Coming to Language

By Bruce Span Coming to language was not easy for me. As a boy, the written word eluded me most of elementary school. I took third grade twice since my teacher discovered that I read from right to left, not left to right; breaking words into syllables seemed by then, and is still now, an impossible… Read more

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Taking Heart for Poetry

By Patricia O’Donnell What a pleasure it was to sit next to Shanna McNair on a rainy Wednesday last week in the Governor’s mansion in Augusta, and watch her father, Wesley McNair, be inaugurated as Maine’s 4th Poet Laureate. Wes has been my colleague in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Maine Farmington since we… Read more

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Great Maine Food

By Martina Duncan   Over 120 new friends, as well as long-time friends, of the Maine Humanities Council gathered on April 28th to celebrate  the re-release by Down East Books of “Good Maine Food,” a cookbook originally published in 1939 by renowned Maine author Kenneth Roberts and his niece and secretary, Marjorie Mosser. When Kenneth… Read more

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Spotlight on: St. John Valley

By Diane Magras The St. John Valley in Aroostook County is an area rich in history and culture. When I visited it two years ago for the second time in my life, I saw rural lawns mowed in straight rows, houses painted perfectly, and window boxes full of flowers. Fields of grass, clover, potatoes, and broccoli… Read more

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Honoring Joe Conforti

By Diane Magras The room was packed at USM’s Glickman Library on April 2, 2010, which was hardly a surprise: the MHC was honoring USM’s Distinguished University Professor Joseph Conforti with the Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize. Joe is one of the top regional history scholars in New England, founder of USM’s American and New… Read more

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Writing for the Love of It

By Diane Magras Writers of all stamps and kinds—young adult fiction, historical nonfiction, personal essay, fantasy, poetry, and more—are visiting New Books, New Readers groups this winter in a program partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Visiting Writer program is showing adults who struggle to read what it means to be a… Read more

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Students and Civic Awareness

By Erik Jorgensen I was saddened to read yesterday what has become a perennial story –the increasing lack of awareness of civic issues among American students. Saddened, yes, but surprised only by the sense of crisis in the report. For after what seems like decades of breathless accounts of high school students who don’t know… Read more

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Perspectives on East Asia Shine in Dover-Foxcroft

By Tom Lizotte, former chairman of the MHC board and a trustee at Foxcroft Academy   Five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for the Maine Humanities Council to produce a day-long forum on East Asia in Dover-Foxcroft. There would simply not have been an audience in my small town. That was before Foxcroft Academy, the… Read more

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Grants with Legs: The Children’s Puppet Workshop

By Diane Magras In the fall of 2010, the MHC awarded a $1,000 to Mayo Street Arts in Portland for “The Children’s Puppet Workshop,” teaching puppetry, reading, and creative writing to low-income youth from the Kennedy Park neighborhood, culminating in a performance and art exhibit. The first performances were in March, and now the puppets and… Read more

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Celebrating the Story of Claudette Colvin

By Diane Magras In February, the MHC funded a project at Portland’s King Middle School that narrated how an African American teenager took a big step for the Civil Rights movement in 1955. Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was riding the bus home from school, her mind full of the day’s lesson on Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth,… Read more

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Chosen Faith, Chosen Land, a book about the Shakers

Grants with Legs: Chosen Faith, Chosen Land

By Diane Magras It was a Sunday service at Chosen Land, the Shaker community near Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, that sparked broadcast journalist Jeannine Lauber’s interest in the history of the Shakers and their modern role in Maine. In the preface of her new book, Chosen Faith, Chosen Land: The Untold Story of America’s 21st Century… Read more

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Celebrating the Story of Claudette Colvin

In February, the MHC funded a project at Portland’s King Middle School that narrated how an African American teenager took a big step for the Civil Rights movement in 1955. Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was riding the bus home from school, her mind full of the day’s lesson on Harriet Tubman and Sojurner Truth, when she was asked to give up her seat to a white passenger. Colvin refused. When arrested, she courageously protested that her constitutional rights were being violated. This was nine months before Rosa Parks’ similar action made headlines. In his recent book Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice, Phillip Hoose explores why Colvin’s story was not more publicized at the time and what her action truly meant. Hoose is currently a National Book Award finalist for this book. Read more

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