On July 5, almost 100 gathered for the formal dedication of the North Haven Historical Society’s Archives Building.
The sun that has proven so elusive of late shone brightly on the new building, which boasts a climate-controlled storage room and library, office, workspace and a meeting room. The product of years of fundraising efforts, the building will provide a safe home for the society’s collection of archival materials, including books, photographs, and the records of numerous island organizations and businesses. In addition, it will serve as a venue for speakers, art exhibits and meetings.
A selection of archival materials was on display in the library for visitors to view. The library provides historical society volunteers with a space to do preservation work and is open to the public three afternoons per week for browsing and research. Historical documents representing the island’s schools, churches and town government were included in the display, which was put together for the occasion by archivists Gertrude Foltz and Helen Popp.
The meeting room was filled to capacity as the dedication began. North Haven Historical Society President Nan Lee spoke on the important, and often delicate, balance between tradition and innovation that the Society seeks to uphold in its work. “This building, that is formally dedicated today, represents…years of hard work, foresight, and generosity from many individuals and groups, all of whom believe in the power of tradition coupled with progress.” Lee introduced the event’s keynote speaker, U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a longtime North Haven resident.
Pingree’s speech echoed Lee’s as she emphasized the significant role that island life has played in her approach to politics. “Everything I needed to know about politics, I learned on an island,” said Pingree.
Pingree spoke about coming to North Haven as a teenager in 1971 with a copy of Living the Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing, pioneers of the back-to-the-land movement. She soon realized that she didn’t need the Nearings’ book; the island was full of people who were still “living the history.”
For Pingree, going to town was not only a chance to pick up mail at the post office, but to get advice from the postmaster on when to plant her peas and tomatoes. The wealth of stories and practical knowledge held by her neighbors impressed upon her the importance of history to the present.
“We are blessed to be in a place that has such amazing history,” Pingree said, “and it is important that this history is collected.”
Fittingly, the dedication coincided with the summer opening of the abutting North Island Museum, a treasure trove of artifacts from the island’s past. The Museum’s newest exhibit features the Oscar E. Waterman Collection of Native American Artifacts, a recent gift to the Society that allows for a glimpse into the culture of the island’s first residents.
Betsy Walker is the Historical Preservation Fellow on North Haven.