FAIRFIELD, Maine — Earle Shettleworth, the longtime director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, will present a free, illustrated discussion on Civil War photographs next week.
Shettleworth’s talk gets under way at 7 p.m. July 8 in the Prescott Building at Good-Will Hinckley on U.S. Route 201.
The talk begins the summer-long Central Kennebec Heritage Council of Museums’ Central Maine Serves project, in which eight area museums will showcase exhibits about military service.
“He has access to a wonderful period of photographs and images that he’ll be showing,” said Deborah Staber of Good-Will Hinckley’s L.C. Bates Museum. “His talk is the kick-off for all the exhibits. People really do like him, because he’s been in this position for quite a number of years.”
Shettleworth, a Portland native and graduate of Bowdoin College, has served as the State Historian since 2004, and the topic of his discussion is Maine Civil War Photography.
“The focus is trying to convey a sense of what Maine’s part was in the war through old photographs, and the photographs really break down into several categories,” said Shettleworth. “This is a lecture I have given to groups in the past.”
This spring marked the 150th anniversary of the April day that shots were fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the start of the Civil War. About 70,000 Maine men from 32 regiments went into battle between 1861 and 1865, and 9,000 of them perished.
Shettleworth will present all types of images, from battlefield shots to group photos of Maine battalions after their return from combat, many of which were taken by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady.
He’s hoping for a large crowd after attracting 50 people at a Bar Harbor Historical Society gathering on Sunday.
“I think the director told me they had a record number of people,” Shettleworth said.
Using century-old photos is also a great way to help people establish a connection with their country’s history.
“Through my entire career I’ve given talks that are primarily illustrated,” said Shettleworth. “I believe that old photographs have a wonderful way of communicating to people.”
“That’s what I’m hoping to do a week from Friday night, is simply to make Maine’s contribution to the Civil War more real to people today, and what better way to make it real than to show them photos of the actual people and events?”
The talk will wrap up with a discussion on how Maine’s Civil War survivors lived their lives after the war.
“It changed the demographics of Maine,” Shettleworth said, noting that the state’s population declined between 1860 and 1870.
That was because many Maine soldiers died in the war, Shettleworth said, and many of those who survived settled out West after the conflict.
Shettleworth’s talk is open to the public and refreshments will be served.
On July 9, museums throughout central Maine will open their exhibits on military service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Participating museums and libraries include the Fairfield History House, Norridgewock Historical Society, Macartney House Museum in Oakland, Taconnett Falls Genealogy Library in Winslow, the Old Canada Road Museum and Research Center in Bingham, the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, and the Skowhegan History House Museum.