Engaging high school students to digitize local historical documents has benefits for both the students and the community.  Students will learn local history and document preservation, and the community will have a lasting legacy.

The project was set in motion by Spruce Mountain High School social studies teachers Sue St. Pierre and Nate Purrington.  According to them, history is not limited to textbooks, and students need to find it around them.

Students to Digitize Local Historical DocumentsThe Hands-On History program involves juniors and seniors, who work with the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center’s stone library.  A recent project had them poring over 19th century calling cards.

“I’ve always been a history buff,” senior Bradley Howes said as he prepared to digitize a calling card used by a member of the Washburn family who lived at the 445-acre complex. “I want to be a history teacher,” he said.

St. Pierre and Purrington secured a $2,000 grant and in-kind assistance from the Maine Historical Society and the Maine Humanities Council to offer the local history course to students.

“This is the first time we’ve worked with the Maine Humanities Council,” Purrington said.

Prior to receiving the grant, St. Pierre and Purrington were required to write research papers on Maine people from the 19th century. St. Pierre chose William Pitt Fesseden, a former governor, and Purrington wrote on the Stone family who helped settle Jay. Plans for offering the hands-on history course began in 2009, Purrington said.Students to Digitize Local Historical Documents

Students will research and digitize original documents at the Norlands until late spring. Once completed, all projects will be displayed on the Maine Memory Network website. Plans are underway to present a play or skit on some of what the students have learned.

Senior Peter Theriault said Tuesday that he liked poring through documents from the 19th century.

“It’s pretty cool to learn about our past and to bring it back to life,” he said.

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