BOOKS AND LECTURES

Malaga Island talk at COA

A family of Malaga Island, photographed in the early 20th century.
A family of Malaga Island, photographed in the early 20th century.
Posted April 15, 2013, at 10:52 a.m.
Photo of Malaga Island schoolhouse from early 20th century. Images courtesy of the Maine State Museum.
Photo of Malaga Island schoolhouse from early 20th century. Images courtesy of the Maine State Museum.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 4:10 p.m. to 4:10 p.m.

Location: College of the Atlantic - McCormick Lecture Hall, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: John Visvader; 207-288-5015; newsworthy.com

BAR HARBOR, ME—At the turn of the 20th century, the residents Malaga Island off of Maine’s midcoast were not unusual in their hardscrabble lifestyle. They lived as they could from the resources that surrounded them, fishing, clamming, doing odd jobs for summer folk visiting nearby Phippsburg. What was unusual—and ultimately unacceptable—was that this community of some 45 residents was composed of African-American and Caucasians living together, frequently as members of the same family.

College of the Atlantic arts faculty member Dru Colbert worked on a recent Maine State Museum exhibit about the island along with Kate McBrien, the museum’s curator of historical collections. On April 23 at 4:10 p.m. in McCormick Lecture Hall, they will give a talk on the island, joined by Amanda Devine, property steward of Malaga Island, now owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The talk is titled, “Malaga Island: A presentation and discussion about the controversial hidden history of a tiny island in Maine.” The exhibit, at the Maine State Museum in Augusta, continues until Saturday, May 26.

It is thought that the community originated from a free African-American man named Benjamin Darling who purchased nearby Horse Island in 1794. His descendants and their families eventually settled on several islands in the New Meadows River, between Brunswick and Bath. Malaga itself was probably settled in the early 1860s.

But in the early twentieth century, at a time when a large hotel was being built across the way in Phippsburg, the island suddenly came under intense scrutiny. More of the story of these people, their destinies—and the difficulties of creating an exhibit from lives that have been literally shattered—will be revealed when Colbert, McBrien, and Devine offer their human ecology forum. It is enough to say that the Salt Institute and WMPG subtitled a recent radio program about the island, “A Story Best Left Untold.”

For additional information on the Malaga Island talk on Tuesday, April 23 at 4:10 p.m. in COA’s McCormick Lecture Hall contact Colbert at dcolbert@coa.edu or 207-288-5015, or visit newsworthy.coa.edu.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit www.coa.edu.

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