You can help museum expand cache of glass-plate negatives

Posted April 25, 2010, at 6:53 p.m.

Vinalhaven, Islesboro, Belfast, Searsport, East Sullivan, Lincoln, Deer Isle-Stonington, Unity.

These are some of the towns in a brief slide show made from glass-plate photographic negatives on the Penobscot Marine Museum website at www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org.

Click on Photography Collections, then on Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co., the Belfast company that began making photo postcards in 1909.

The museum, located off Main Street in Searsport, has more than 40,000 negatives in its collection already. Now it is working to acquire 7,500 more glass-plate negatives that document Maine towns from the early 20th century.

Doing so will bring the museum a big step closer to completing its important collection of photographs from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co. The museum is seeking donations from individuals and local businesses.

“If we meet our goal, these remaining negatives will make the Eastern collection one of the largest and most significant coherent collections of historic photography from this region and era,” said Kevin Johnson, the museum’s photography archivist. “It will be a valuable resource for educators, historians, genealogists and anyone interested in New England history.”

The museum already has pledges for half the funds needed to acquire the collection, which documents more than 230 cities, towns and villages in Maine as well as towns in other Northeastern states.

The museum has posted an index of the Maine towns and the number of negatives from each on its website at www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org/pdf/2010/Eastern_Illustrating_2010_Campaign.pdf.

Individuals and businesses can “adopt” a town for a donation of $10 per negative. Castine and Bangor each have more than 60 negatives to purchase, so even a contribution toward the cost of those negatives would help.

Eastern Illustrating & Publishing published “real photo” postcards with images taken by its photographers throughout New England. The negatives, mostly on old-style glass plates, represent a fragile and irreplaceable record of the region’s physical and cultural history up to the early 1950s.

Since 2007, when it acquired the bulk of the Eastern Illustrating collection through a generous donation, Penobscot Marine Museum has been compiling pieces of the collection which had “escaped” over the previous decades. The collection now contains more than 40,000 negatives. The museum is scanning them with the help of volunteers, and plans to make the images available online later this year.

Prints will be available for purchase, but more importantly, “It is our goal to have all of our collection available for free viewing online,” according to the website.

You may send donations to Penobscot Marine Museum, PO Box 498, Searsport 04974; call 548-2529; or visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org.

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Interested in “The Basics of Doing Genealogy”? Come hear a talk by librarian Betsy Paradis at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, in the vestry of the Frankfort Congregational Church on Main Street, Route 1A, in Frankfort. The Waldo Peirce Reading Room and Library will host the event.

This will be a good talk, and not just because Paradis has been a genealogist since 1980, and worked in libraries since 1981.

For more than 15 years, she has helped other genealogists as reference and special collections librarian at Belfast Free Library. Yes, that means Maine history, and with a nice addition, the library in Belfast does have an elevator.

Paradis also has been a special collections librarian at the University of Maine’s Fogler Library in Orono, which gives her a tremendous background in Maine history, and in resources at UMaine. And of course, she has lots to share on Belfast and Waldo County.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine and a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina. She also is on the executive board of the Maine Library Association, a director of the Old Town Historical Museum and founder of the Wawenoc chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society in Belfast.

This event is open to all. Refreshments will be served.

A note about Frankfort: It was settled some 250 years ago and incorporated in 1789. In the first U.S. Census of 1790, Frankfort also included what is now Winterport, Prospect, Hampden and parts of Belfast, Searsport and Stockton.

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Bangor Museum and History Center has opportunities for volunteers June through September at the Thomas A. Hill House and Civil War Museum on Union Street.

Volunteers can work at the architecturally significant Hill House greeting visitors, or as costumed interpreters to lead house tours and discuss the history of the house, its past occupants and the Civil War collection.

The museum has one of the top Civil War collections in the Northeast. A new exhibit this summer will be “The Great Fire of 1911,” co-curated by fourth-grade pupils.

Like the outdoors as well as history? You can learn to help lead historical walking tours of Bangor and Mount Hope Cemetery.

If you enjoy Bangor’s fascinating history, this is the place to be. One half- or whole day a week this summer is all you need to make a difference. The only background required is an interest in history and liking people; you will receive training and background materials.

Contact Curator Dana Lippitt to learn more about the volunteer program and Bangor history at 942-1900 or curator@bangormuseum.org.

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The Greater Portland chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 1, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 29 Ocean Road, Route 77, Cape Elizabeth. Social time begins at 12:30 p.m.

Maine author Kate Kennedy will talk about “Remarkable Maine Women” from her book “More Than Petticoats.”

A business meeting will be held afterward. The meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, call Linda Aaskov at 490-5709.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402.

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