LEWISTON — David Cheever, State of Maine Archivist, will be the presenter at the USM Lewiston-Auburn Senior College “Food for Thought” 11:30 luncheon on Friday, March 14, in the Function Room 170 at USM LAC on Westminster Street.

His subject is the State of Maine Archives and the importance of historical records with evolution as a society and as a state. The topic is very timely in light of the press releases coming from Augusta recently over the preservation of state documents. The public is invited.

The cost, which includes lunch, is $7 with advance reservation or $8 at the door. Reservations must be made by noon on Thursday, March 13, by calling 753-6510. Any late callers will be considered “at the door.”

A long-time Mainer, Cheever has a strong commitment to preserve Maine’s historic documents. “The crown jewel of the Maine State Archive Collection is the Civil War material,” Cheever said. Although some states have larger volumes, Maine has what Cheever believes is the most extraordinary variety of Civil War material. It includes photographs, letters, lithographs, muster rolls, battlefield reports and telegram transcripts.

These Civil War letters available on the website were penned, not just by politicians and military officers, but by soldiers, their wives and widows, volunteers who made supplies such as shirts, socks and mittens for the soldiers, and those who were otherwise involved, including a woman who expressed her disappointment in the way some soldiers’ funerals were conducted.

Cheever sees the letters as important because they show the profound effect the war had on the state in myriad ways, from health care and race relations to intergovernmental relations, tax policy, business and banking practices.

Perhaps the most captivating part about the letters is how they reflect the war’s impact on people’s everyday lives. “It changed everything about the State of Maine,” Cheever said.

In focusing his presentation on the Civil War, Cheever will use historic examples from Lewiston, highlighting a couple of those changes, and place them in a context that proceeds to this day. A significant reason why we can point to the people and events that reshaped life in Maine is because the historic record exists and is accessible. That is the underpinning behind appreciating our evolution as a society and a state and it underscores the importance of preserving records even if it is not a commonly cited priority.

The State of Maine Archives was formally established by the Legislature in 1965, when it became apparent to everyone that the State needed to take a more serious and dedicated approach to the preservation of Maine’s most treasured records, and to the idea that those records should be readily available to the public.


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