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A celebration of statehood at UMaine

May 29, 2019
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ORONO – A big anniversary is looming for the State of Maine.

Specifically, the state’s bicentennial. Maine was part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until it voted to secede in 1820. Maine was then added to the Union as part of the Missouri Compromise on March 15 of that year, becoming the 23rd state.

As part of the ongoing celebration of that momentous occasion, the University of Maine is playing host to the Maine Statehood and Bicentennial Conference from May 30 through June 1. Through a series of panel discussions, keynote speakers and other presentations, scholars from all over Maine and beyond will delve into the state’s history and what its path to statehood meant both back then and now, two centuries later.

Dr. Liam Riordan is a professor of history at the University of Maine. He is the primary organizer of the conference and was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Maine Edge.

TME: What's the process of putting together a conference such as this one?

LR: Basic logistics require a lot of time and advance planning. Simply selecting a date, reserving good spaces for very different kinds of events and, of course, fundraising, takes a lot of time. The President's office at the University of Maine committed funds to support this several years ago, which allowed planning and grant writing to go forward. The fun part is thinking about the themes to explore and what individuals to contact as potential presenters. It was a huge boost that Pulitzer-Prize winning historians Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Alan Taylor agreed to be our keynote speakers very early in the process.

TME: Which of the panels/speakers are you most anticipating?

LR: The events that are most exciting are both on May 31 and are totally free and open to the public with no advance registration. The Maine History Festival will be a bit of a three-ring circus with informal poster-style presentations by students ranging from middle school to graduate school, as well as by community organizations. The goal is to bring together a huge range of people who love Maine history and culture to share their passion about Maine in an informal and friendly setting. The Festival also includes a free reception to add to the convivial mood. The Keynote will start at 5:00 p.m., immediately after the Festival, in DP Corbett Hall (adjacent to the Collins Center). It will include short presentations by Taylor (a Maine native!) and Ulrich followed by discussion. Both are very talented historians who have written extensively about Maine in the statehood era.

The full three-day conference with seven diverse panels is also open to the public, but for a registration fee to partially cover break and lunch costs. I am very proud of the range of topics that they will examine from Wabanaki people's relationship to the Maine state constitution to the visual arts, the national politics of slavery that exploded in the Maine-Missouri Crisis, early music in Maine, and more. There was a public call to submit paper topics, so a lot of this was generated by the vision of individual presenters.

TME: What sort of challenges come with producing an event like this?

LR: It is hard to balance organizing a large multi-day event with my regular teaching, research and other sorts of responsibilities. One thing that has been really fun has been learning more about the state through local talks and workshops that I've done across the state since 2016 as part of the planning process. These have taken me to places from Madawaska and Eastport to Union and Falmouth, where I learned a lot. Locality really matters in Maine, and it shaped the statehood process as well as how we see it today.

TME: What's an example of something most people don't know about Maine's journey to and through statehood?

LR: A surprising thing about Maine's separation from Massachusetts is that it was a hard decision and took a long time. Today it seems natural that Maine would be its own state, but the process began in the 1780s and it took six popular votes from 1792 to 1819 (and then a big national controversy with the forced pairing of Maine statehood to Missouri) for it to actually occur. I think it's helpful to think about the Maine independence process as somewhat parallel to BREXIT today. Nobody is quite sure how that will play out – there are big fears on both sides – and the United Kingdom has been part of the European Union for a much shorter time than Maine was part of that flatland place to the south of us.

TME: Anything else you think might be of interest to our readers?

LR: I hope that Maine Edge readers will feel especially welcome to attend the Maine History Festival and Keynote on Friday, May 31. They are designed as community engagement events – both are free, and the Festival includes a reception. Parking will be easy in the large Collins Center for the Arts parking lot. These two most-public aspects of the Maine Bicentennial Conference highlight the community-based mission of the University of Maine as a public land grant institution. Music lovers should note that we open and close with concerts – the DaPonte String Quartet at Minsky Recital Hall ($15 ticket required) on May 30 and the Bangor Band on June 1 at 4:00 p.m. with a free show in Wells Conference Center.

(For more information about the Maine Statehood and Bicentennial Conference, visit the website at https://umaine.edu/mhc/me-bicentennial/)

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The following is a partial listing of the schedule of panels and speakers from the three days of the conference. In addition to what is listed here, there will be a number of meet-ups, tours, receptions and meals aimed at bringing together conference participants, as well as welcoming addresses from an assortment of UMaine dignitaries.

Conference Schedule

Thursday, May 30     

(Opening day at (or adjacent to) the Collins Center for the Arts)

12:30-2:00 pm: Maine-Wabanaki REACH will lead the interactive program “Exploring Wabanaki Maine History” prior to the formal start of the Conference in the Bodwell Lounge of the CCA. Co-sponsored by the Friends (Quaker) Committee on Maine Public Policy and the Episcopal Committee on Indian Relations.

Pre-register online at: www.mainewabanakireach.org/exploring_wabanaki_maine_history_orono.

(No more than 40 can take part in this free, interactive program.)

3:00-4:30 p.m.: Panel #1: Maine Indians and the Maine State Constitution, Bodwell Lounge, CCA

Presenters: John Dieffenbacher-Krall (Episcopal Committee on Indian Relations), James Francis (Director, Penobscot Nation Cultural and Historic Preservation Department), Donna Loring, LHD (Penobscot Tribal Elder, Senior Advisor to the Governor on Tribal Affairs), Sherri Mitchell (Penobscot Nation Citizen, Indigenous Rights Attorney, Author, Teacher), and Darren Ranco (University of Maine).    

5:30-6:45 p.m.: “Crosscurrents: The DaPonte String Quartet Explores the Mixed Musics of Early Maine,” Minsky Recital Hall, adjacent to the CCA. Concert tickets must be purchased separately, unless you are a Conference presenter.

For tickets, please visit: https://www.collinscenterforthearts.com/event/daponte/.

Friday, May 31

8:30-10:00 a.m.: Panel #2: The Maine-Missouri Crisis and the Politics of Slavery, Wells Conference Center

Presenters: Mary T. Freeman (University of Maine), Matthew Mason (Brigham Young University), Diane Mutti-Burke (University of Missouri-Kansas City), Patrick Rael (Bowdoin College), chair.

10:30 a.m.-noon: Panel #3: Circulating Images: The Production, Distribution & Reception of Visual Culture During the Statehood Era, Wells Conference Center

Presenters: Bernard Fishman (Maine State Museum), Martha McNamara (Wellesley College),Kevin Murphy (Vanderbilt University), Justin Wolff (University of Maine), Frank Goodyear (Bowdoin College Museum of Art), chair.          

1:30-3:00 p.m.: Panel #4: The Madawaska Territory and the Aftermath of Statehood, Bodwell Lounge, Hudson Museum/CCA

Presenters: Béatrice Craig (University of Ottawa), Elizabeth Mancke (University of New Brunswick), Lise Pelletier (University of Maine Fort Kent), Lisa Lavoie (independent scholar, UMaine at Fort Kent), Guy Dubay (independent scholar, Aroostook County).

2:30-4:30 p.m.: Maine History Festival and Reception, CCA

Concurrent poster-session presentations and table displays by Maine community groups and students in the large lobby of the Collins Center for the Arts. Informal one-on-one exchanges at the Festival aim to foster collaboration across boundaries, stimulate new thinking, and encourage revision and further development for presenters to share in the 2020 bicentennial year.

Co-hosted by the Osher Map Library and the Maine Folklife Center in partnership with National History Day in Maine and the Maine Historical Society.

5:00 p.m.: Keynote Event, 100 DP Corbett Hall

Opening Remarks:

Jeffrey Hecker, Executive VP for Academic Affairs & Provost, UMaine

Maulian Dana, Penobscot Nation, Tribal Ambassador

Featured Speakers:

Alan Taylor, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair, Univ. of Virginia

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, 300th Anniversary University Professor emerita, Harvard University

Moderator:

Liam Riordan, Professor of History, University of Maine

Saturday, June 1       

(All Saturday events at Wells Conference Center)

8:30-10:00 a.m.: Panel #5: The Maine Centennial in 1920: Commemoration and Remembrance through Photography

Presenters: Kevin Johnson (Penobscot Marine Museum), Micah Pawling (University of Maine), Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. (Maine State Historian), Anne Collins Goodyear (Bowdoin Museum of Art), chair.

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Panel #6: Pine Tree Songscape: Historic Music of the Folk of Maine

Presenters: Laura Artesani (UMaine), Kristopher Paprocki (Pembroke, Charlotte and Perry Elementary Schools), Stephen N. Sanfilippo (Maine Maritime Academy, ret.), James Moreira (UMaine at Machias), chair.

1:30-3:30 p.m.: Panel #7: Public Ownership vs. Private Rights: The Case of Maine’s Disputed Public Lots

Presenters: Lee Schepps (former Assistant Attorney General of Maine and past director Bureau of Public Lands), Richard Barringer (Maine Bureau of Public Lands and Muskie School of Public Service, ret.), Martin Wilk (Maine Attorney General’s Office, ret.), Thomas Urquhart (Maine Audubon Society, ret.), chair.

4:00 p.m.: Concert by the Bangor Band

The Bangor Band had its inaugural performance in 1859 and is one of the oldest continuously operating community bands in the United States.

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 May 2019 11:37

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