By Larissa Vigue Picard, Director of Education, Maine Historical Society
Twenty students in teacher Jessica Kelly’s Gifted and Talented class at Scarborough Middle School spent the 2014-2015 school year learning about the Civil War–nationally, and at home in Scarborough–through photographs, artifacts, and volunteers at the Scarborough Historical Society; reading a graphic novel about the war and corresponding with the author; participating in community discussions; and preparing a final performance.
On Thursday, May 14, they got to show off all their hard work, and the performance, at a final community celebration for the city’s Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War project. Also unveiled to the community during the event was the online exhibit produced by the team for Maine Memory Network, “Scarborough: They Answered the Call.”
The evening kicked off, to a multi-generational audience of nearly 100, with a welcome and introduction of Local & Legendary team members by team leader Celeste Shinay, Scarborough Public Library’s manager of programs and development. In addition to Jessica, other teams members included Mary Pickard, Bruce Thurlow, Carl Ross, and Linda McCloon of the Scarborough Historical Society.
Celeste then ran through a slideshow of the year’s highlights including orientation at Bowdoin College, field trips to the historical society by the students, research and digitizing of artifacts, and the creation of the MMN exhibit.
Clicking through several pages of the exhibit, Celeste showed off the many hours of research, digitizing, and writing the historical society team put into the story of how Scarborough residents participated in the war, and what the lives of those who survived were like thereafter. A sidebar features individual photographs of several of the soldiers highlighted, and a full list of every Scarborough resident who served is available at the historical society, thanks to the meticulous work of Carl Ross.
This all built to the main event, the student performance, which the students wrote themselves based on the stories in the exhibit, and a number of letters in the historical society’s collection. The play was full of good history–students took on the roles of real Scarborough soldiers and family members and read passages from the letters–and creatively envisioned, with one character providing some delightful comic relief. Historical images projected on screen provided a rich backdrop.
Following the performance, attendees were treated to an array of cookies and collegial conversation about the project year. While that year has now drawn to a close, the students, and the community, are likely to remember these experiences for a long time to come.