DIXFIELD — Nick Waugh envisioned a project to digitalize Peru history that would benefit area students several years ago when he was a technology specialist for the former Peru school district.
Now, still a technology specialist who works for Regional School Union 10, that vision is not only coming true, but also much broader than originally planned thanks to a grant from the Maine Memory Network.
History will be digitalized for all 12 towns in the school district with a team of district teachers, historical societies, public libraries, students and a professor from the University of Farmington.
Waugh thought such a project would help students and community members learn their local history. He believes that the project is one way to bind the 12 towns of the school district together.
“This district's motto is 'Becoming One.' We'll learn about each other,” he said.
Larissa Picard, a spokeswoman for the Maine Community Heritage Project, under which the Maine Memory Network operates, said Waugh's plan is unusual. Although there are other history digitalization projects around the state, the largest, until Waugh's, involved just two towns.
“The desire on the part of the RSU and its constituent towns to join together on this intensive project as a way of highlighting and strengthening their regional connections was admirable,” she said in an email. “Nick Waugh has proved himself a great team coordinator.”
RSU 10 Superintendent Tom Ward is thrilled with the Western Foothills History Project.
“It will be great for the RSU and will give us a flavor of RSU 10,” he said.
Theresa Overall, a University of Maine at Farmington education professor who was part of a Farmington community heritage project several years ago, said the project has the potential to boost student curiosity.
She said up to six research assistantships will go to UMF students who will help inventory artifacts, scan them into computers, and help RSU 10 students with research and writing.
Waugh expects the project to go on for years, so that data will keep up-to-date.
The archives and other data in several area historical societies, including those in Rumford, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield and Byron, will be scanned into the database. The Rumford Public Library and Ludden Memorial Library in Dixfield are also taking part, as are teachers and students from six RSU 10 schools and the Parish of the Holy Savior Catholic School.
“This will promote collegiality and create hands-on learning curriculum, as well as breathe new life into the historical societies in the area,” said Waugh, who said he was very much interested in history and preserving it and teaching it to students.
A core group of the Western Foothills team will travel to the Maine Historical Society in Portland in July for an orientation program, then have monthly meetings after that until January, when the team will return to the Maine Historical Society for further training.
“We're all very excited, and a little daunted,” Waugh said.