Bethel Organizations to Shine Light on Local Civil War History
BETHEL, Maine – Gould Academy, the Bethel Historical Society and the Bethel Library Association are bringing local Civil War history to life thanks to a $2,000 grant awarded by the Maine Historical Society (MHS) and Maine Humanities Council (MHC).
The grant is part of a joint MHS and MHC program called “Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War.” The program, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, aims to bring Maine libraries and educational and historical organizations together to explore local Civil War history and engage their communities. Bethel is one of five communities in Maine to receive the grant in the second and final round of project awards.
“As a community, we’ve been talking about doing something like this for awhile,” said Gould Academy History Department Chair and project lead Dr. Brad Clarke. “Working with the Bethel Historical Society and the Bethel Library to enhance what we do in our history department has always been a personal goal of mine. This grant program really helped to bring it all together.”
Gould juniors studying the Civil War for their U.S. History classes will have access to the Bethel Historical Society’s impressive collections, including artifacts from its popular exhibit, “In the Field and On the Homefront: Bethel During the Civil War.”
“This will make the Civil War very real for our students,” said Clarke. “When you link the primary source work that we do in class with real artifacts and local history a quarter mile up the road, the content becomes experiential and more powerful.”
For the historical society, working with Gould students means exposing a younger generation to the importance of the society’s mission as well as to the impact the Civil War had on Bethel and neighboring communities.
“Ever since I took a course in the Civil War as an undergraduate, I have been a student of that war and written widely on that topic,” said Stan Howe, Ph. D., executive director emeritus at the Bethel Historical Society. “I am anxious to share my insights with young inquiring minds.”
The Local and Legendary grant will also give Bethel Historical Society Executive Director Randall Bennett and his staff the opportunity to participate in the MHS Maine Memory network, an online archive of Maine history. The society will digitize and upload copies of historical items from their collections into the centralized, web-accessible database, giving many in the local community and throughout Maine access to their collection.
At the Bethel Library, which offers a number of children’s programs, the grant will help fill a current gap in adult programming. The organization plans to offer a “One Book, One Community” reading program and discussion group based on the content provided by the historical society. Tom Davis, a library trustee, hopes the grant will kick start an ongoing series of programs for working adults in the area.
“The library plans to engage as many people as possible in a shared reading experience, where folks can learn how the Civil War affected the Bethel community and how it shaped who we are today,” said Davis.
Clarke, Howe and Davis will participate in workshops in May and this summer as required by the grant. Project work will begin in earnest in September.