SEARSPORT, Maine — The Searsport where Alivia Cross lives is a very different community from the one that existed 150 years ago during the golden age of shipbuilding and sailing.
Through a multimedia class project, the Searsport District High School sophomore had the chance this semester to learn about her town’s history and create an exhibit that will be on display at the Penobscot Marine Museum this summer.
“I learned a lot about our history,” the 16-year-old said Monday evening at the museum after an opening for the “Then and Now: The Dangers of Life At Sea” exhibit. “I didn’t realize how big an impact we had on the world.”
Many of the world’s sea captains came from New England, and Searsport produced a disproportionate amount, she said. For her project, she talked to local historians including Charlene Farris and Faith Garrold, and worked with Cipperly Good, the collections manager at the museum. With their help, Alivia learned about different aspects of life at sea. Her exhibit, located in the Old Church Vestry at the museum, features photographs such as an unhappy toddler perched on the knee of her father, a ship captain.
Many sea captains were encouraged to bring their families aboard for long journeys to faraway continents, so lots of Searsport families lived an exotic and well-traveled existence in the 19th century, Alivia said.
Her classmates made short movies that combined oral histories and archival photographs to look at topics such as navigation and technology, lighthouses, the loss of Searsport captains at sea and more. One was a spoof about living at sea.
Leslie Gregory, a Searsport District High School teacher, has done the annual “Then and Now” project for four years now. Each year has had a different focus from maritime occupations to the dangers of life at sea.
“The best part this year was that students got to pursue a medium that was important to them,” she said.
Kevin Johnson, the museum’s photo archivist, said that he was pleased students used the museum collections database to find the images they wanted to incorporate into their movies.
“We’re really trying to encourage that,” he said. “It’s putting our resources to use.”