Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Modest Proposal for Educational Outreach and Programming at The Curran Homestead

The following was presented before the Board of Directors of The Curran Homestead in September, 2008 by Robert Schmick.

A Proposal

The most important initial step for any such proposals is to develop a website for The Curran Homestead that exemplifies an active and vigorous attempt at developing further educational programming. The new website should be linked to popular sites related to Maine museums and other institutions. There are ways to move such a website towards the top of search lists related to Maine life, rural life, small museums, living history museums, etc. on search engines like Google, and these should be sought out. Such a website could be a vehicle for initiating more effectively the proposed programming below and all other proposals for educational outreach.

This website would not only include digital images characterizing the farm site and its offerings but a text of its mission, future, and currently evolving educational outreach. It would be a resource that would be invaluable to the process of soliciting interest in programming by the public and school districts (teachers, administrators). Such a site would also serve as a ready reference to grant providers and potential donors. So much can be said for having the ability to say “Visit our website.”

Since there are relatively few museum websites that provide resources like lesson plans that link standards and curriculum with their collections for teachers, serving in “teaching across the humanities,” there is a perfect opportunity for The Curran Homestead to become a vibrant and useful resource for an area where there are relatively few history museums competing for visitors (DiSalvo 2007). Providing lesson plans that connect specifically to the museum’s material culture would be a way “to increase” their “impact” on the community and draw more teachers and students to both website and physical site. These resources could be made as printable documents on the website. Certainly with rising fuel costs, school field trips are becoming harder to justify. This reality and the added work of linking the specifics of the Curran Homestead to a teacher’s curriculum make a trip to the site an increasingly harder sell to both administrators and teachers alike. Creating some finely tailored resources online that would be attractive and pertinent to standards would serve as a hook to get schools to the physical site and also serve frequently as an alternative when coming to the site is cost prohibitive. Such resources could be easily created with little or no cost.

The website could also serve as a meeting place for those who wish to share their rural Maine experiences both past and present. The Curran family has a website that documents their history and briefly their connection with the Homestead. The Homestead, both the physical one and the website, could more immediately and effectively become the “Homestead” of other Mainers and others with similar rural connections. A website could become a type of scrapbook of stories and images about Maine rural life evolving into a digital component of the museums “collections.” The numerous photos taken in the past at gatherings at the site, and that have filled the pages of past printed newsletters, should be archived on the website, for they too add to the museum’s evolving narrative. Such a “collection” that would evolve through contribution and interaction from the public could further add to the resources from which educational programming is developed. There have been a number of small museums similar to The Curran Homestead that consist mainly of historical structures but lacks unique material culture, like photos of known people in rural Maine, known settings in rural Maine, and the agricultural material culture it does have in use. A partnership with a local institution does have such images within its holdings might be something to pursue. What makes a museum a museum and its “artifacts” worthy of museum status is that they are effectively attached to a narrative. Building a collection of photographs related to the current collection and mission has been the response and success of other museums like The Curran Homestead.

This focus on building a collection of donated digital reproductions of vintage photographs from the public allows would serve The Curran Homestead effectively. These digital images would not require the tedious and often expensive preservation and care of original photographs. Such a scheme would embrace many new participants/patrons instead of merely traditional wealthy donors and the precious objects they alone can afford to donate. Their donated images could assist in the telling of an American story that is inclusive of all of the US rather than only a small community in Maine. Such digital images would further assist the museum’s use of existing material culture now present onsite to more effectively reach a greater number of educators and tell better stories for educational purposes.

Making that connection with the story of rural life beyond Penobscot or Hancock counties too, or even Maine itself, may serve in The Curran Homestead’s efforts to find funding in places never considered before. The population of Maine rural communities is becoming increasingly diversified; making them included in The Curran Homestead story would be important to its continued relevancy. Such an element could be a part of the museum’s website and be a part of rebranding efforts. For as The Curran Homestead is poised to develop a greater level of volunteerism, capital development, fund raising, educational programming etc., it would need to realize strategies that will serve multiple purposes like the above scheme, and it will constantly need to consider its own relevancy to the communities it intends to serve.

With greater concern for the limitations of our current energy sources and the subsequent cost rises effecting such essentials as heating and food in the US, Mainers may be especially receptive to revisiting traditions of the past that seek out the essentials of living more independently of global markets and embracing greater self sufficiency. Such points might be key elements to marketing strategies, and rebranding, as well as educational programming that would serve to generate revenues for the museum. Many domestic traditions like canning fruits and vegetables, sewing, knitting, crocheting, soap making, gardening, animal husbandry, and the like once characterized rural life in Maine, but the knowledge and skills required for these have largely slipped from the contemporary lives of most. Creating a program of short courses that promise to reintroduce and nurture such skills and pastimes among contemporary Mainers may be appropriate to the educational outreach of The Curran Homestead and serve to generate added revenues. Such offerings of “experiential education,” or “learning by doing,” is more appropriate than the more common alternative of lecture, gallery talk, and guided tour which are fundamentally flawed pedagogically for kids on a trip to a museum for the first time or the tenth time (

For a nominal fee, area residents would be offered seasonal programming at the museum’s campus or nearby meeting place. Area experts would be sought out for the purpose of instruction. An incentive for these proposed future instructors could be, if needs be, an agreement to share the collected tuitions from the student participants with them, profit sharing.

Adult After-School and Weekend Programming

Instructors would have to be sought out, interviewed, reviewed, and contracted to carry out such an endeavor. There would also have to be recruitment and training of volunteers who could be called upon to carry out such tasks as setting up, preparing materials for courses, setting up instruction areas on a weekly basis, and assisting instructors, if necessary. There are a number of institutions that might assist in developing the human resources for such an endeavor. The University of Maine has its own museum with an historical and agricultural theme, and students run it. Perhaps students could be sought out for such an endeavor, if there is an interest among them. Museum Studies programs could be solicited for summer interns. Local schools often require community service for graduation; students might be recruited for a time interval. Boy Scouts and youth groups are potentially seeking opportunities for volunteerism that would provide leadership experiences. Grants could include funds for staffing some educational programming.

Where could all this programming take place? As a 501(c)(3) non-profit it would be prudent to have some or all of the programming to take place onsite; this would also serve in building public exposure to this institution and its offerings. That is the point after all of a living history museum, life onsite. There are a number of out buildings that could be used for such purposes in warm weather. The Curran Homestead has repeatedly used tents and canopies for “gatherings,” and these are a good way to achieve shelter for such programming in warm weather. The main house and gift shop building are possible sites for inclement weather and colder seasons. The possibility is there for year round programming, and that practice would further The Homestead’s role as an ongoing and permanent educational resource in the community rather than an occasional place of functions. Areas within the farmhouse that presently serve as historical tableau might serve greater purpose as areas for active and participatory educational programming.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) provides funding for educational programming for museums, and there have been a number of institutions similar to The Homestead that have found funding for making their collections of material culture effective tools for learning about the arts. The NEA’s Learning in the Arts For Children and Youth Grants should be of particular interest. Given that there is currently no arts programming linked to The Homestead’s material culture, a decision would need to be made to broaden the focus of the museum to include “creativity and education in the arts” as part of its educational mission. This would not in any way effect the current mission but simply create new ways of appreciating and utilizing the facilities and collections for educational purposes. Such a grant, with its emphasis on “children and youth acquiring knowledge and understanding of and skills in the arts,” could fit nicely with the museum’s current collection and the educational needs of the community. The museum’s offering of potential “hands-on” learning experiences centered around rural, agricultural life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries offers a potentially good match to this grant’s goal of “participatory learning” for community-based learning, outside the “regular school day.” There is a potential for creating weekly after-school programs with the existing material culture onsite.

This “learning” could be accomplished not only through after-school programming but “summer arts education” as well. Such summer programming could similarly focus on school-age children acquiring new “knowledge and skills” as well as gaining a lifelong interest in not only arts and culture but local community, history, and livelihoods, which is directly linked to Maine standards for fourth graders. The Homestead would have to staff the site with “skilled artists” and “teachers” from the area to make such a program possible. The museum’s own collection of tools, farming implements, buildings, landscape ( including specimens of flora and fauna), domestic appliances, furnishings, and, potentially, the development of recorded, print and audio, narratives associated with them and their origins could all be subject to arts programming. Such programming could be a significant source of earned income for the museum as well as serve to humanize it in the eyes of its constituents.

There are a number of other grants that are available for further development of educational outreach to particularly pre-school children, and these would be worth further research by the museum. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (ILMS), specifically, its National Leadership Grants, provide funding for the development and implementation of educational programming with “engaging activities to help develop the skills needed to reach [school] readiness as well as for an “after school arts and a homework assistance center” that “supports mothers and children through learning and play” in recent years. Such a project would be applicable to both the needs of current and potential future visitors. Such grants emphasize “welcoming and supporting activities for parents to participate with their children as families” (ILMS).

The fact that The Homestead is located near the Fields Pond Audubon Center is especially fortuitous, for it could allow for partnership programming which would justify parents and caregivers traveling out to The Homestead on a weekday or weekend for something more than one purpose and for more than one hour or two for a specific program at The Homestead. Both institutions could simply seek to have their unique programs scheduled so that the public could participant in both; this would appeal to those concerned with conserving fuel expenses and limited time. Certainly, proximity to this well established institution warrants nurturing the potential residual effects of its student and family visitation.

Networking the stories The Homestead tells and the experiences it provides in order to have greater impact and relevancy to its visitors’ experience might be realized by creating programming that specifically complements the themes of nature and environment so important to the Fields Pond experience. This type of networking would provide greater impact and relevancy to its visitors’ experience. It could be the “hook” to get Fields Pond visitors down the road to The Homestead too, and “once you get them in then you can get them back” says Carl Nold, President and CEO of Historic New England and Chairperson of the American Association of Museums.

The fact that one of the 2003 recipients of ILMS Learning Opportunity Grants was the similarly small institution the Essex County Historical Society, in upstate New York, evidences that there is a possibility for funding similar projects at The Curran Homestead with large federal funding institutions. Such a proposal would likely seek funds for a “permanent presence in local schools expanding educational services.” It could also seek to create a “presence on [its] museum website,” which could begin before the protracted and required application process with proactive steps to incorporate educational resources in the website content. The tuition for public participation in such programming could, like the Essex County, NY grant recipient, could be sought through subsidization for targeted low-income families in Penobscot and Hancock counties. Ronald McDonald House Charities is yet another organization that provides grant money “for sponsored membership and free admissions for low income families, and this is worth consideration once educational programming has been organized; the Maine Discovery Museum has been a recent beneficiary of this funding (2007). The “application and review process” for such grants is often time consuming, taking from eight to eighteen months in the case of ILMS grants. Having a comprehensive educational plan with some programming in place and ongoing would be necessary before beginning the application process for grants promising tuition subsidization.

One of the most important considerations in planning marketing and development for an institution like The Curran Homestead is continually broadening its audience. A website would serve in targeting new people. A potentially receptive audience is the parents of sixth graders and under, and the children themselves. The museum has served an audience of children and their parents, relatives, guardians, friends, and caregivers; there could be an increased emphasis on children and those who accompany them. Programming should provide greater emphasis on an experience for children. Family and community based learning experiences should be further emphasized. Such a circumstance might be a focus of marketing as the museum continues to seek new audiences. Knowing who parents are should be a focus of current marketing concerns, for these will ultimately affect the pursuit of grants for educational programming. New families are migrating to Maine. Gen-Xers are a significant part of this demographic, and these may be a group that the museum specifically focuses on in the future.

Educational programming can be an integral part of a museum’s earned income revenues (Genoways 155). The museum could be marketed specifically to parents seeking programming for their pre-school children during both the work week and weekend. “At home” mothers and fathers are always seeking new daytime activities, and there are only so many story hours, swimming lessons at the “Y,” and playtimes scheduled within a community the size of Orrington and its environs. Advertizing scheduled weekly offerings of story and/or activity hours that connect thematically with Maine traditions, heritage, landscape, and agriculture could be a draw for this audience. Revenues would come by way of subscription to such activities whereby a seasonal or monthly bargain fee could be charged for each child or family participating. A membership card to this activity could identify subscribers. Paying per visit would be a more expensive alternative. Such programming for especially children of pre-school age is never sufficient in any community.

A marketing campaign specifically devoted to recognizing the needs of twenty and thirty something parents would serve the causes of increased participation and visitation. Gen-Xers (1965-1981) are the parents of “three fourths of [all] elementary school children” in the US, says James Chung, president of Reach Advisors, a Massachusetts-based marketing firm and specialist on the generation ( Gardiner 2006). Knowing them would help to bring greater numbers to The Curran Homestead fold.

Gen-Xers are a “different breed” than their baby boomer predecessors, for they are more likely to move for college or career, “marry later,” “have children later,” and “likely to find themselves distant from family support networks,” and more likely to take time off” for the sake of their kids ( Johnston and Chung). Fathers are especially unlike the generation before with their “paternity leaves,” rejection of “overtime,” and rushing home to spend time with their kids (Wen 2005). They are a generation that characteristically likes “getting involved and meeting new people,” yet are “not living up to the giving patterns to non-profit institutions like their parents may have been.

Given these factors, it might be prudent for The Curran Homestead to direct some marketing towards the specific characteristics of this parent group. Focusing on this group’s participation through “volunteerism” has been seen as a means to compensate for the widening gap in this group’s negligible giving habits, and this is being seen in New York State’s capitol region where one Gen-X volunteer, among a growing number, claims “volunteering gives him a sense of gratification and credibility in an uncertain world” ( Gardiner 2006). The museum should emphasize a role whereby it serves as a conduit for interaction between community members thereby targeting specifically this group’s characteristic disconnect with community. A strategy might call attention to the fact that The Curran Homestead brings parents with similar experiences and lifestyles together as well as people of all ages. Greater understanding of this by the museum might serve to turn specifically Gen-Xers on to giving to this newer institution when they as a demographic are more characteristically “turned-off by the cultures and images associated with long standing charities” ( Panepento 2005). Inviting individuals to the site for more frequent social gathering is a means to insure greater volunteerism.

The Curran Homestead has the potential to be more effectively touted as a vehicle for community building through the development of greater educational programming. A relationship with area schools will be an important step, but overtures should be made to day-care providers and pre-schools too. Weekday (i.e. after-school, field trips) and weekend programming on and offsite could be developed. The museum could assist individuals or groups in satisfying increasingly demanding curriculums; for example, resources can be provided for Grades, 1, 3, 4, and 6 that include a study of family, societies, and communities in Maine. Maine history, commerce, and livelihoods embody The Curran Homestead experience, and, therefore, it is perfectly suitable for assisting teachers in satisfying state standards and aligning itself with Maine State Learning Results. Core curriculums like social studies, in addition to English language arts and the visual arts, would be targeted through programming that focuses on the use of the museum’s material culture for purposes of discussion, writing, reading, story telling, and the use of a variety of art media, among others.

In conclusion, The Curran Homestead would be well served by a vigorous campaign to interest area childcare centers and schools that specifically serve pre and elementary school children in educational programming. Programming that focuses on arts and humanities making use of not only onsite material culture but digital representations, i.e. photographs of it, online though the museum’s website. This programming would focus on state standards in a variety of disciplines. Grants, offered by the ILMS, NEA, and others (The Maine State Archives), that promote inclusion of low-income audiences, community-based learning, arts education, school readiness, after-school, and summer programming should be actively pursued after initial steps are made to create a comprehensive education plan for the museum and its website.

Proposed Adult and Youth Courses and Programming for After-School, Fun Saturdays, and Summer

Rural Maine Life and Its Global Connection: There are many possibilities for partnerships with local institutions for funding and programming. There are also possibilities for partnerships with distant institutions. The World Awareness Children’s Museum (WACM) in Glens Falls, New York maintains an ongoing cultural exchange program and partnership with schools in the US and abroad. Part of their mission includes collecting youth art that is thematically linked to a student’s culture. Through an arrangement with teachers, art is created that characterizes the lives of schoolchildren which is subsequently exchanged with artwork similarly created by another class in another part of the world. The point is that schoolchildren can communicate through visual art with a global community about their cultural identity. Greater understandings about each other evolve without the stumbling blocks of verbal communication.

The WACM has always been successful with acquiring art produced from abroad but getting American teachers to participate has often been a challenge. Given the mission of The Curran Homestead, a program that allows for a conversation about the unique characteristics of Maine rural life and its traditions with school children could evolve through a program which allows a museum educator to visit area schools and facilitate art making centered around this theme. The art produced could be merchandized and used for traveling exhibitions (displays at local and statewide businesses). The art work could be exchanged with classrooms abroad, and such a conversation about others like us in other lands can evolve with the public through a variety of methods of presentation. Overtures could be made to WACM to develop a joint project and joint application for funding.

Saturday Games

This would provide a venue for parents and their kids to play games together rather than stay at home and watch TV or play video games. Tents with tables could be the environment for good old fashioned board game playing and the like. Musicians could be invited to practice as accompaniment to the play or old records could be amplified through a PA system. The point would be that the Curran Homestead becomes associated with fun for families and as a place for the community to come together and interact. Games provided. Admission fee for parents and children necessitated.

Square Dance ( “Ho-Down Saturdays at the Curran Homestead”)

What happened to community dances (Block-dances, “Ho-down” in the barn)? This could be the theme for an adult fundraising event as well as an after school/Saturday program in which traditional folk dance and music is revisited and practiced in a fun learning experience.

An annual summer dance (the making of a new tradition) could become a fundraising event. Wooden flooring could be rented and set up on the lawn with tenting for inclement weather. Participants might be required to show up in period dress that connects with The Homestead’s origin with their ticket in hand. Live entertainment and food could be elements of such a fundraiser. Local media would be invited for public relations, and staff could solicit membership for The Curran Homestead, including among seasonal residents.

Say “Goat Cheese”

Goats require little land and are suitable to rocky terrains characteristic of Maine. How does one go about raising them, and how do you go about making cheese from its milk. Learn these basics. Make cheese.


A challenging offering, for it may be that such skills are maintained and regulated by the State of Maine? Leonard’s Mill offers a summer workshop in blacksmithing. Such skills were often a reality of the small family farm when larger blacksmithing establishments were not available. If possible, a portable and temporary work area might be set-up onsite for a weekend course. Such an offering would depend on the feasibility of being able to set-up such tools and work area in a reasonably short amount of time. The participants would learn the essentials of fire-making, bellowing, simple iron heating and bending, shaping. This may evolve into larger projects. Given that acetylene torches were available in the late 19th century, a course in simple welding and brazing could also be offered, and would undoubtedly be a popular offering. Safety would be a concern, and insurance issues might be quelled with the requirement that participants provide evidence that they are insured if injured. There are supplementary insurance plans that would cover a participant for such an educational endeavor, and these would be solely the participant’s responsibility. Such measures are taken by many area schools that are no longer responsible for carrying injury insurance for students. A form is sent home with students, and parents are required to provide insurance information and a signature affirming their knowledge of the insurance coverage policies. This would all be disclosed in the course application and literature.
Knitting: Students would learn the essentials of materials and tools. Participants will complete a project using a variety of techniques offered in class. Materials for completing or participating in this course could be offered in the gift shop for a nominal fee. A materials fee could be included in the tuition.



Rug Hooking


With a large number of local weavers who produce fabrics etc., it might be easy to find people to spread the knowledge of weaving to a group of eager participants using a variety of locally produced raw materials like wool, alpaca fiber, and goat hair. Materials provided in the gift shop. Looms? Could include one instruction loom whereby participants are introduced to the essentials in limited classes with a limited number of participants.

Caning Chairs

Learning the essentials of materials and tools. Students could re-cane donated chairs. These would become part of The Curran Homesteads furnishings or they could bring in their own personal objects for refurbishment. Materials could be sold at the gift shop. Traditional materials like dried cattails might be had onsite and prepared as a Boy Scout project, students seeking community service projects for graduation, or through volunteers (docents).
Basket Making : A partnership might be formed with the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor for such an endeavor as could other course proposals be realized through some type of partnership allowing for shared responsibilities with local museums like the Maine Maritime Museum. Materials for such an offering could be had from onsite resources. This would be in keeping with the Curran Homestead’s mission of being a living history museum that also seeks to recreate the various industries that were once realized by small Maine farms.
Foraging : Identifying edibles in the wild. There are many interested in what there is for the finding, preparing, and consuming in the Maine wild. Parsnips, mushrooms, berries, greens, and the like are just some of the edible treasures. There are many with the expertise to show us what there is free for the taking. Caution observed.

Home Entertainment 1900 Style

Offer an alternative to our contemporary lives with a program that re-introduces the card games, board games, puppets, playmaking, and music of ancestors. Participants might include separate groups of specific age.

Fly Fishin’

How many of us are curious about the art of fly casting and fly making? Amateur experts share their knowledge. Participants learn the fundamentals.

Parlor Music Circa 1905

Participants will gather around the collections vintage Victrola and listen to music from the area. Eats and social interaction emphasized, and possibly dancing. Music enthusiasts can share their own records with the group and their stories, and this would obviously not focus exclusively on 1905 and thereabouts but from multiple generations of music appreciation through 78s, 45s, and 33rpm records exclusively. These gatherings, and the stories revealed about music tastes, might contribute to the museum’s oral history collection.

Jug Band Workshop

Participants will construct a stringed washtub Bass, tambourines from household items, and other music makers. Jugs and washboards provided. Participants will learn simple skills in composition and performance using instruments found or constructed. Lemonade served. Kids K-5, Teen Group, Adults.

Banjo Lesson Saturdays

Participants supply their own bangos. Accomplished bangos share appreciation for and the basics of banjo music. With this type of arrangement the museum could offer a profit sharing arrangement with instructors.

Naïve Portraiture

Even after photography was invented itinerant painters crossed the countryside with wood panels and brushes creating likenesses for a fee. Participants will learn the rudiments of oil painting.

Photography Circa 1909

Participants experience the ubiquitous box camera of the past through their own construction of a pinhole camera with found materials. They take pictures and share them.

Stamp Collecting

Especially with the long winters, and before TV and videos took their time away, Maine kids collected things like stamps. In the 1890s throughout the first half of the twentieth century kids spent much time with their collections, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the more famous amateur philatelists. This hobby is not just about finding stamps and sticking them in an album. There is knowledge about condition and the variety of types that is known be fewer. Stamp experts will impart this knowledge to them. Kids can trade and share their collections with each other in this Saturday venue. Stamp collecting supplies, which are sometimes hard to find today, could be had in the gift shop. Old timers could share their collections and the stories that go with them ( oral history ). Display ( compliments of the Curran Homestead) could be set up at local businesses or institutions like banks for further PR.

The Curran Homestead Gift Shop could offer for sale materials related to course offerings.

Maine State Archives Grants

This institution is still in the midst of making its offerings available for this year; these grants are solely dependent on the State’s budget. It is anticipated that there will be an opportunity to create an educational partnership with area schools through such an award. The following could be funded by a number of grants both State and Federal.

With each day unfortunately many with valuable skills and stories from the past to share are lost. A program of documenting Maine’s past on audio cassette/digital storage could assist in preserving and utilizing a potentially rich resource for learning about Maine identity for students now and in the future. Some possible themes that would be worthy of seeking out and collecting as oral histories might include:

The Curran Homestead

Who were the Currans? Interview contemporary Currans and their memories of the family homestead. What was here that isn’t here now?

The Curran Homestead Restoration and Refurbishment

Have volunteers from the past fifteen years tell the story of what the Curran Homestead looked like at the beginning of its museum status and how its present condition was achieved.
This week I spoke with Irv Marsters , and he informed me that oral histories focusing on The Curran Homestead were done five or six years by UMO , but that no one had ever listened to the final project. These involved members of the Curran family. Tracking these down and getting copies would be a first step in planning out such a project. These oral histories could become part of The Curran Homestead’s website.

Tools & Materials

Explores the relationship between occupations and the tools and materials by which they were realized (logging, maple sugaring, farming, fishing etc.)

Native American Life

Hunting and Fishing

Building My Home


Downeast Maine

What is it that is unique about this region of the US? Participants would be made aware of some the unique traditions of this area and their origin.

Immigration (4th and 5th grade)

Who were these people? Who are these people?
What did they contribute to farming in Maine in the past and in the present?
Why did they come, and what attracts them today?
What traditions did/do they bring with them?

The Curran Homestead could create a scripted framework by which storytellers are introduced. This would more obviously connect these individual’s stories to The Curran Homestead and its specific history. A multimedia presentation could be part of this. Students would seek out their own oral histories to add to the collection making contact with family friends, relatives, or acquaintances with worthy experiences to share and be recorded. Students would propose to interview each interviewee to their teachers and these would require an approval by the teacher and a formal permission slip signed by interviewees granting permission to the State and The Curran Homestead to use the recording for educational purposes. This would insure that there would a standard of potential usefulness/pertinence for all the histories collected. In sum, Museum educators from The Curran Homestead would model the process by which interviews are given by students. Students would learn by experience an interview in class in which they also participate assisting in a Q & A with the guest storyteller in an initial visit to their classroom. Follow-up visits would also be part of this programming, and students would offer their progress for discussion. Ultimately, all participating students would make a visit to The Curran Homestead itself. The initial visit and oral history orchestrated by museum educators from The Curran Homestead would be recorded and would contribute to the collection of oral histories. Students would learn by seeing and doing. Teachers would contribute in nurturing the skills of interviewing, reviewing the results, and follow-ups about these individual storytellers connection to Maine identity. These would be further reinforced by subsequent follow-ups by the museum educator.

Developing a program of using oral histories to satisfy ELA and social studies standards would be at the forefront of current pedagogy with its emphasis on collecting and using primary source information for the purposes of critical thinking and understanding about the past and present. Student participants would be subject to such learning experiences as story telling and acquire such skills as first hand information gathering through interviewing and note-taking, among others. There would also be an element of public speaking because students would be acting as interviewers in these recording that would become a public resource. Students would share their experiences with this project. The Curran Homestead would provide guest storytellers who could offer informal narratives that in some way relate thematically to the material culture of the museum itself. The grant would provide funding for cassette recorders ( or digital recorders) and educators for the implementation of such a program.

The program would create a collection of oral histories that would insure the preservation of some of Maine’s past while also further contributing to The Curran Homestead’s evolving identity as an educational resource for Maine citizens and schools receptive to cooperative educational programming with the museum. Such a project could be used for public relations purposes, for such a project would be of interest to the local, state, and national media. The oral histories collected would become part of the Maine State Archives collection. Participating schools and The Curran Homestead would also preserve copies for their continued use.

Creating a website with audio offerings might be key to creating a resource for area teachers and others. No building would be needed to house audio cassette or digital recordings. All the recordings could be housed in cyberspace making them always available and requiring no staff to physically locate them. Of course, a webmaster would be essential for managing these files. This means of storage and delivery of “new collections” could be had relatively cheaply. Podcasting has become increasingly popular with not only techies but more general consumers. The software for downloading and editing digital audio are free with MacIntosh systems; GarageBand software is really a great product for downloading your digital audio files and producing quality recordings for sharing on the Internet. PC users can find the free download for Audacity software online, and this more primitive editing software can be utilized at no cost. The cost for making the proposed collection of oral histories available online would only entail having a large storage capacity for continual additions to the site as well as someone to manage these. Volunteers could be trained to manage these files.

Funding for such a project might be had through current grants like the National Archives and Records Administration’s Basic Projects grants, specifically, the Electronic Records Project. This supports projects that will lead to sustainable electronic records archives that preserve digital records with enduring historical value. The ILMS and the National Endowment for the Humanities provides funding for Digital Partnerships with their Advancing Knowledge Grants that might assist The Curran Homestead in such a project. Making a decision to take the first steps towards consultation with these funding institutions may be the first step in deciding the feasibility of realizing such a project.


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