Archivist Anna Faherty oversees the Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College. The sheep at left was a parade fixture during multiple St. John the Baptist Day parades here in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON – Anna Faherty, the Franco-American Collection archivist at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, likes to tell people that she works as a “librarian of old stuff.”

“What I mean by that is instead of handling books, like librarians do, I work with other materials: letters, photographs, scrapbooks, rare books and museum objects,” said the 32-year-old Portland resident.

Archival items are primary sources — unlike secondary sources that often use primary sources found in an archive — which makes them unique, she said.

“There is only one copy of a letter with a specific date that your grandmother sent to her sisters while working as a nurse in World War II,” she said, offering an example.

Her many responsibilities as the sole archivist include cataloging, managing and preserving documents and objects for the Franco-American Collection, as well as assisting researchers, teaching students and coordinating community events.

Faherty, a Brunswick native, said the archivist position at the collection was a perfect fit for her because it involves her interest in immigration and labor history and “my love of local Maine history.”


What sparked your interest in this field and how did you get to where you are now? What do you enjoy most about being an archivist? When I was 8 years old, I went on a school field trip to the Pejepscot Historical Society, now Pejepscot History Center, in my hometown of Brunswick. It was there that I realized it was a job you could have to work in a museum and so I decided that was what I wanted to do! I went to college in my parent’s home state of Minnesota, where I majored in history and minored in theater. I spent a few years working in museums in Saint Paul, Minnesota, before deciding to go to graduate school for either museum studies or archives.

Ultimately, I decided on the dual master’s (degree) in history and archives management from the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons University in Boston. While in graduate school, I worked for a summer as a graduate fellow at Fort Ticonderoga in the Adirondacks, where I worked on a collection of artworks and diaries from the 1840s and 1850s. My final project was an exhibit of the artwork, (which is) still hanging in the research center at the fort. Afterwards, I moved back to Maine and heard about a position at the Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine.

My favorite aspect of my job is teaching people about archives and creating access to archival materials. I always say that if people don’t know we have it, what is the point in having it? Archives have information so that people can use it, not (just) so we can preserve it.

What does your role as archivist and historian for the Franco-American Collection entail? Did you always have an interest in Franco American history? At the Franco-American Collection I work to catalog, preserve and create access to the collections. I make finding aids, rehouse items in acid-free folders, arrange and describe collections, manage interns and volunteers, teach university and K-12 classes about primary sources, coordinate events, create exhibits and co-host a podcast. The collection has a podcast about Franco American culture and history in Maine, which I work on with my colleagues Maureen Perry and Julia Rhinelander and is called “Franco-American Pathways.” You can find more information wherever you get your podcasts!

I have always been interested in immigration and labor history and was excited to learn there was a job available at the Franco-American Collection because it was an archive that represented an intersection of those interests with my love of local Maine history.

What do you enjoy most about working with the Franco-American Collection? What’s one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on? One of my favorite things about this job is that I learn something new every day. This can happen when conducting oral histories with community members, when describing collections or when receiving new collections.


One of my favorite projects I’ve worked on was a mobile app walking tour of the Franco American history of downtown Lewiston. My colleague Megan MacGregor and I worked to develop the walking tour using images from the collection and GPS coordinates provided by the app. I also really enjoyed collecting items related to the Franco American experience of COVID-19. When we all were sent to work from home in March 2020, I was worried I wouldn’t have anything to do, but in fact there is a lot of archival work that can be done remotely.

We started the podcast, implemented a new collections management system – basically a database where all our collections are listed – transcribed oral histories and scrapbooks and worked to clean up our online metadata. “Metadata” refers to contextual information about an object, such as its title, creator or related subject tags.

Why is Franco American history important to Lewiston-Auburn and Maine? What’s something you didn’t know about Franco American history in Maine (or that surprised you) until you began this job? Franco American history is important to Maine because of the many ways in which Francos have shaped and continue to shape the state and the Lewiston-Auburn area. Francos have been involved in all professions from textile work to politics to teaching and have affected industry, law and public education as a result. Franco culture has also permeated the state more than I realized, as a non-Franco myself. I knew lots of kids growing up who called their grandma “memere,” but I didn’t realize why until I was much older.

Similarly, snowshoeing clubs were an important aspect of Franco sporting culture, an interest still prevalent in Maine today. I had no idea about the Franco and French Canadian history of snowshoeing until I started working here. It is also important to consider the changing immigrant landscape of Maine over time, and what aspects of Franco immigration were similar or different to those of current immigrant groups today. This can give us a better understanding of what current immigrants may be experiencing in the context of the larger history of immigration.

Comments are not available on this story.