AREA — The West Paris Public Library and the Norway Memorial Library are inviting other libraries and all residents of Oxford Hills to join them in creating the Western Maine Foothills Community Archive, an extension of a statewide digital archiving project sponsored by the Maine State Library.

The mission of the project is to build a comprehensive platform documenting life in Maine during COVID-19. Libraries across the state are soliciting photography and art, oral histories, written accounts, and community/business support programs from their local residents, with an emphasis on personal experiences.

MSL launched the initiative last spring. So far 20 libraries, universities and other organizations have joined and started regional archives from Ogunquit to Fort Fairfield. According to Brenda Lynn Gould, Director of the West Paris Public Library, the Oxford Hills libraries officially joined the collaboration in October with announcements on their respective Facebook pages. The website address for the community archive is: https://westernmainefoothills.omeka.net/.

Updates on the project are being posted on the West Paris Public Library and Norway Memorial Library Facebook pages.

“We are just getting started on it,” said Gould. “We hope that our towns’ historical societies, schools and other libraries will join us.

“Right now, we encourage people to submit their photos, poems, stories, videos, and oral histories about Veterans Day, which was this week.”

Gould and Alana DePerte, the reference librarian for the Norway Library, meet with other stakeholders weekly via Zoom conferencing to share ideas, take part in peer training and attend presentations by field experts organized by MSL.

“We will do call to actions for specifically themed seasonal and traditional events,” said Gould. “The first was based on Halloween celebrations – photos, stories, artwork, costumes and other ways the communities’ resident could document for a collection. It was a joint effort carried out by most of the organizations participating [in the overall project].

“We also want Oxford Hills’ help building a photography collection of area businesses, to categorize what the business community looked like during COVID.”

People wishing to participate can upload their contributions directly to the community archive website. The mediums being collected include personal writings from journals to poetry, photography and other artwork, and video and audio recordings of diaries, or short films or personal accounts.

Anyone wishing to participate in the Western Maine Foothills Community Archive can upload their historical documents directly to the archive website. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Gould would love to see oral histories with locals of all ages that cover a variety of past and contemporary remembrances.

One of the MSL Zoom sessions featured an oral historian, Natalie Springuel, who has spent the last 20 years working with the University of Maine as a marine extension associate, collecting recordings of coastal Maine fishing communities for historical posterity.

Gould says conducting oral histories are an important way to capture primary source data for the historical record.

“People no longer write letters and don’t often keep written journals,” she said. “Those kinds of documents are what make it possible to capture history, especially at the local level.

“The archive has several methods for people to use according to their comfort level. We want to have a collection that includes as many ways as possible for them to participate.”

Any individual or organization who would like to join the two libraries in this project is encouraged to visit the archive website to learn more. Brenda Lynn Gould can be reached by email at the West Paris Public Library at [email protected] Alana DePerte’s email address at the Norway Memorial Library is [email protected]

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