August 21, 2019
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‘STILL STANDING, The Abyssinian Meeting House Story Archive’ exhibit at Maine College of Art

Community Author: Nancy Walker
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Nancy Walker | BDN
Nancy Walker | BDN

PORLTAND — The Public Engagement Program at Maine College of Art presents the exhibition STILL STANDING, The Abyssinian Meeting House Story Archive, to be held at Maine College of Art. The show is a culmination of a three year oral history and storytelling project with elders and community leaders from Portland and students at MECA.

The Abyssinian Meeting House is full of great stories. In 1866 it survived The Great Fire when fireman and member William Wilberforce Ruby saved it by covering it in wet blankets courtesy of spring running through the building’s basement. The Abyssinian Meeting House functioned as a cultural center and a leading contributor to The Underground Railroad. After years of vacancy, this cultural center was almost lost again in the 1970’s when it was slated for demolition by the city. Deborah Cummings Khadraoui rediscovered this important cultural center and catalyzed its restoration. As the third oldest African American meeting house in the country, The Abyssinian Meeting House is an important American cultural landmark.

For the past three years, students in the Public Engagement class Storytelling 101 have collaborated with The Abyssinian Meeting House to celebrate its story. For this project, students interviewed African American elders in Maine, to create an archive of stories to be housed at The Abyssinian Meeting House. By documenting these stories, the partnership aimed to honor the contribution and experience of African American elders by creating an archive of stories for future generations. Still Standing is the culminating event to celebrate the importance of African American experiences in Portland and communicate the significance of this history in the state of Maine. The exhibition features audio, text and photographs from all three years of the project. The exhibition runs through February 24, 2018 in the Artists at Work Gallery at 522 Congress Street, Portland.

For more information contact Elizabeth A. Jabar, Associate Dean + Director of Public Engagement,