My six month review

January 14th, 2011 by Cathleen Miller

Lately, I have been finding myself too busy to even think of a compelling post to share with our blog readers.  As you can see by the general quietude of this site lately, we have been focused elsewhere in the past month.  We are sorry to have been neglecting you.  In the spirit of new year reflection, I want to share some of our accomplishments from the past six months (since I started as Curator), and offer a view to what the next six might hold.

We announced the completion of our first expanded featured writer site Perdita Huston: Global Passion, Local Action, which took many months to construct.  Our next featured writer page will showcase the work of book artist Rebecca Goodale, whose studio we visited yesterday.  We had a fantastic day looking at the range of her work, and dreaming about what book we might purchase next!

In other web projects, we have begun to map out the changes to our website that will make the site more visually appealing, more useful to researchers, and enhance access to the collections we hold.  This overhaul project begins with the upgrade of our database next week, but will likely extend for most of 2011.  We are hoping to implement many improvements.  Six months ago, there was no blog, no Facebook page, and no Twitter profile for Maine Women Writers.  We will continue to solicit suggestions for our “Maine Women Bloggers” list, and will continue offering insights into our collection and our processes here on the blog.  If there is anything you would like to see, please leave us a comment.  We want to know what you like, what is useful to you.

Here on campus, I have been focusing outreach efforts to continue to integrate the collection into the curriculum.  During the fall 2010 semester, I worked with three UNE courses to bring research materials to students on topics like women’s health, girlhood, and environmental studies.  These students had the opportunity to use diaries, scrapbooks, photographic collections, artists’ books, rare books, and contemporary monographs in their research projects and class discussions.  Collaborating with Michelle Steen-Adams’ Introduction to Environmental Issues class, we mounted a show of student responses to Rebecca Goodale’s books on threatened and endangered species, alongside some of Rebecca’s work at the Biddeford campus library.

In addition to serving UNE students, one literature class from Southern Maine Community College came to visit the collection, and a few students returned to use materials for their research papers.  We were visited by a class from Coastal Studies for Girls in Freeport.  I have been meeting students, faculty, researchers, and faculty from other universities.  We hosted an open house at the collection in September, which we hope to make a yearly event.  We hosted the Maine Women’s Studies Consortium meeting.  We sponsored the Donna M. Loring lecture by Isabelle Knockwood.

In the quieter moments of the past six months, we worked on organizing, processing, and entering collection information into the database.  Our interns Billie and Christianne worked hard this summer updating database entries, organizing the periodicals collection, inventorying the manuscript room, and many other administrative tasks.  Gay spent some time integrating stray materials into existing collections, created a “data dictionary” that will serve as our local standard for database entries, and organized the MWWC administrative collection, among other important tasks.  Catherine finished processing the Kate Flora papers, the Clifford-Flanders Family papers, helped with exhibits, worked tirelessly to get the Perdita Huston site up and running, accessioned many books and manuscripts, and many more things I am probably forgetting.  Billie processed the Mildred McKinley papers and the Nora Archibald Smith papers.  Our intern Travis is nearly finished processing our Manuscript Volumes collection, which includes diaries, ledgers, scrapbooks and other books written by unpublished Maine women.  Our volunteer Sue has almost completed processing the Cathie Pelletier papers, and has worked on shelf-reading the collection.  We hired Laura Taylor as our new cataloger, and she has been plowing through our three year backlog of books waiting to be added to the collection.  I am working on finishing the arrangement and description of the Donna Loring papers, and have been helping with other processing-related projects since I started.  In addition to all of this work, we spent the last week of December reorganizing the manuscript room to make collections more accessible. This is really just a taste of what we have been doing behind the scenes to make our collection available for research.

This fall, I also attended two important conferences–the New England Archivists conference in Keene, NH, and THAT Camp New England in Boston.  I had hoped to share some of my inspiration from those conferences, but other things took precedence during that busy time.  The day of the NEA conference, there was a fire in the library that shut down our HVAC system for nearly a month.  No materials were damaged, but the whole event was certainly a wake up call for us, and took time and effort from other projects.

Near the end of November, we began writing a proposal for a special collections facility on the Biddeford campus to better serve students who may not have access to transportation to the Portland campus.  If approved, this facility would incorporate a classroom, exhibit space, student study/lounge area, in addition to the reading room, collection storage, and processing space for all five special collections at UNE.  We are excited about the idea of making primary source materials readily available to students and faculty.  We are committed to supporting the interdisciplinary work of many faculty and students at UNE, which has so enriched the collection.

Much more happened in 2010, but I want to highlight some of the events that you can look forward to in 2011.

We will be co-sponsoring a lecture on Thursday, February 17, 7 p.m. at Maine Historical Society by Dr. Lois Brown, who is Elizabeth Small Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College.  Dr. Brown will deliver a talk entitled “Black Daughter of Maine, American Woman of the World: The Storied Lives and Times of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins”.  See the MHS events calendar for a full description.

On Monday, March 21 at noon, Maine Women Writers Collection will host a lecture by JoAnne Dauphinee, who is a founding member of Maine NOW.  She will present the lecture “Toward a More Feminist Maine: 40 Years of NOW Activism and Alliances”.  Please see the UNE calendar for the full description of this event.

We are collaborating with the organizers of the Stowe at 200 conference, which will take place at Bowdoin in June.  We hope to host a reception at MWWC, are organizing several panels for the conference, and may take part in a discussion on collecting Stowe.  We also hope to sponsor an event in the fall, which will commemorate Fanny Fern at 200.  In October, we will cosponsor a poetry and book arts workshop with the Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts at USM.

This year, we hope to make all of our manuscript collections searchable in our library’s online catalog.  This goal is one among many that aims to make our materials more available to wider audiences.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some projects in this list, but I feel good about all that we have done in the six months (almost seven months!) that I have been at the collection.  I hope you have enjoyed expanded access, and will hang in there with us while we grow into our goals.  I look forward to meeting the challenge of balancing all these projects (and more!).  Thank you for your support.