“I am a Thing-finder, and when you’re a Thing-finder
you don’t have a minute to spare.”
Pippi Longstocking, in Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Might you be, like Pippi, an avid collector? Is there a certain breed of stuff that you treasure, and thrill to whenever a fresh one of its kind falls into your grasp? A pristine addition to the classic stamp collection, maybe? A rare bit of Elvis memorabilia? How about fine art at an auction, or fridge magnets on vacation? Or maybe you’re one who likes to bag hurricanes, volcano eruptions, or 4,000-footers. Or maybe you just like BOOKS.
Even if you’re not one to stockpile anything in particular and your home looks more like a Zen temple than the thing-finder pad of Pippi Longstocking, still I’ll bet you can muster an imagining of what the collector’s thrill feels like. To capture and cherish something really special, and then share it with others who are equally (or even more) jazzed by it…it’s a happy pursuit that can be as much about the communion of the likewise-interested as it is about the treasured objects themselves.
Here at the Collection, collecting (and protecting) is, of course, a large part of what we do. And even though that’s the case, and has been so for over fifty years, adding new gems to it never gets old. It’s still delicious to slit the packing tape on a plain, cardboard shipping box, lift out a brown paper bundle, peel away its wrapper and release a beautiful book we’ve been expecting. Sometimes it’s old and rare, sometimes it’s fresh and new, and always it’s the one we’ve been waiting for.
And what could be even better? Picture this, if you will: It’s afternoon in our lovely, sunny space, and an author (or an author’s descendent, or agent) comes in and says, “I’ve got a bunch of boxes in the back of my car. Where should I park to bring them in?” Or, “It’s finally here! The book I was researching here last year finally came out this month. Here’s a copy for the Collection.” Or, someone arrives and announces, “We found these papers and notebooks in our barn. Would you be interested?” These are great moments. And equally as enjoyable is the visit to an author’s home to collect her papers, where we get to listen to her talk about her writing life, her home life, and her plans for her next chapter. Just yesterday we traveled to York where Rose Safran generously passed on to us the archive of her art-related journalism, unpublished book manuscripts, commercial work and teaching materials. What a stimulating morning!
Whether it’s books, notebooks, manuscripts or letters; photographs, memorabilia or all of the above; whether it’s by an author who’s well- or little-known, living or deceased; whether it’s a gift or a purchase acquired in person or by mail…new additions to the Collection always feel to me like the addition of fresh cells to the body, key pieces in assembling the whole of what we can and want to be.
On display right now at the Collection are some of the items we’ve recently acquired, both manuscript material and books. Here is a brief synopsis, with hopes that you’ll visit and enjoy them for yourself.
Manuscript material and artist’s books
This new collection of professional papers of the recently-retired University of Maine, Farmington president, spanning 1974-2012, includes her scholarly articles, presentation papers and organization materials; published reviews and newspaper articles; correspondence; awards; interviews with Kalikow and a bound student thesis on her. Kalikow is taking over as the next president of the University of Southern Maine, just a day or two after her retirement from Farmington!
These additions to our Rachel Carson collection, dated 1951, 1962-1963, include correspondence between Carson and literary agent Joan Daves; a photograph of Carson by Erich Hartmann; 2 Carson postage stamps; a copy of her commencement address to Scripps College; and an exhibition catalogue.
Grace M. Calvert
A 1915 daily diary of Grace M. Calvert of Park Street in Portland has been added to our Manuscript Volumes collection, which includes diaries, ledgers and daybooks, copy books, scrapbooks, albums and other personal volumes of unpublished women writers of Maine.
Adding to the wealth of books and periodicals previously given by this journalist/photojournalist who has covered Alaska since the early 1960s, this extensive new acquisition contains over fifty years worth of clippings, notebooks, correspondence, sailing logs, book manuscripts, photographs, videos, slides and memorabilia, including her gold pan!
We acquired this beautiful artist’s book, She Tells Me, from Cumberland Foreside artist Buck along with another of hers entitled Scarlet Strawberry Runners (Angus). These join a third already in our collection, In Her Memory Garden.
We received Salutation to the Dawn as the generous gift of this Cumberland Foreside artist. The accordion fold book contains original text and eight vibrant photographs of the sunrise.
A large amount of new material has been added to the collection of this Hallowell columnist and spans the years 1966-2012. Included are manuscripts and clippings of her articles in the Capital Weekly, Hallowell Register, Portland Press Herald and other publications.
Two framed photographs from Marasco’s “Domestic Objects” series have joined the sizable collection of her work already gracing our walls. We hope to follow the acquisition of Egg Diary and Sink Diary with more pieces from the series in the future.
The earliest volume on display at the moment is the 1921 Journal of the Thirty-seventh Annual Convention of the Department of Maine Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic at Portland, Maine, June 15 and 16. This slim book in a soft red paper cover records the general proceedings of the convention as well as the detailed reports given by various office holders, with a photograph of each woman accompanying her account.
Annette Vance Dorey’s Maine Mothers Who Murdered 1875-1925: Doing Time in State Prison explores the incarceration of 3 dozen female murderers in the Thomaston prison. Dorey, of the Androscoggin Historical Society and University of New Brunswick, presented on this topic at our Spring Academic Conference in March.
Red Nails, Black Skates: Gender, Cash, and Pleasures on and Off the Ice, by Erica Rand, Professor of Art and Visual Culture and of Women and Gender Studies at Bates College, is Rand’s depiction of her experience as a queer femme participating in the sport of ice skating, “a sport with heterosexual story lines and rigid standards for gender-appropriate costumes and moves.”
Maine Moderns: Art in Seguinland 1900-1940, is a beautiful book by Libby Bischof, assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Maine, and Susan Danly, curator of graphics, photography and contemporary art at the Portland Museum of Art. This companion piece to their show at the museum last September explains how forsaking New York pressures for summers on the coast of Maine influenced personally and artistically modern artists such as photographers Paul Strand and Gertrude Kasebier, painters Marsden Hartley and John Marin, sculptor Gaston Lachaise, and others.
Pionierin der Arktis: Josephine Pearys Reisen ins ewige Eis might not be destined for repeated use by visitors to the Collection given that it is in German, but it was very exciting for us to receive it in the mail one day, as its very personable author Cornelia Gerlach traveled from Germany to explore the Josephine Peary Collection at the MWWC for her research. We had such a great time with her.
Three books of poetry are included in the display, just a fraction of those we have added in the last six months. The language of Alicia Fuller’s Tenants is gritty and real as it comes up against and embraces daily life in all its raw imperfection; Drift: A Poem by Kirstin Hotelling Zona is a meeting of the pulsations of the earth body and the body human; and When No One is Looking, by Red Hawk pipik-w-ass (Carol Dana) paints the Indian Island experience of this Penobscot teacher, historian and conservator with both personal and universal strokes.
The three food-related books in the display add to the deliciousness factor of collecting in a more literal way. Baker’s Notes, published by the Scratch Baking Company in South Portland, discloses a few of their recipes and brings the reader into the warm, yeasty atmosphere of the bakery in the wee hours of the morning. Wilma Redman’s Neal Street Cookbook achieves a near-complete compilation of her old New England recipes that have stood the test of time and make one proud to be from around here. And Notes from a Maine Kitchen: Seasonally Inspired Recipes by Kathy Gunst is a literary cookbook that combines personal essays, recipes, cooking tips and foraging information. And in addition to some fun food activities, The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule and Stephen Soule offers fresh, creative activities families can enjoy in harmony and connection with nature.
Of course, a display case and side table only allow us to exhibit a small sampling of the treasures that have been gathered into the Collection in recent months, but we’re always more than happy to pull out other precious gems from the archives and let them shine. Because after all, show and tell is definitely one of the best parts of thing-finding, don’t you think?