A Year of History Room Live

When Karen suggested doing a Zoom program back in March 2020, I had no idea what it would become. History Room Live has been such a joy to produce every week. We’re both going to miss seeing our patrons’ faces while we focus on bringing the 17th Annual Town History Series online.

Jill’s Reflections

We started in April with the idea that we could help patrons access local history and genealogy resources on the web while we were closed to the public. Karen, with her deep knowledge of genealogy databases, kicked off the series with a tour of Ancestry.com resources, then introduced us to the multitude of genealogy resources available on the web. Then, since the first week of the transition from my old job as cataloger to my new job as archivist was also National Postcard Week (May 3-9), I dug into our awesome postcard collections to share some highlights with you. We finished out the first month with Coffee Hour, a casual session which would soon become my favorite day of the month. (Watch recorded History Room Live presentations here.)

In the early days of the pandemic, it was nice to have something challenging to focus on. We brainstormed, studied, brought on guests, learned the ins and outs of PowerPoint, Zoom, and YouTube. At first, my number one goal was to know what next week’s topic would be by the time we started recording on Friday afternoon. Then, as we started getting the hang of things, I managed to slow down and recognize the faces in the audience. Some were faces of people I had already met in person, but many others had been strangers just a month or two before.

The best thing about making History Room Live this year has been meeting people from the community! It has been huge for me to be able to learn about the history of this place – during lockdown, no less! – from the experts who love it. Next best was learning from our guest presenters, Jack, Anna, Craig, Brenda, Tim, and Nathan—and from Karen, who has been a great collaborator.

Once the library reopened to the public in July, I had made some new friends. Some of them came in to do research, some became volunteers and correspondents, and some sent in materials to add to the collection. When we returned to curbside pickup in November, History Room Live was there to keep us connected.

I hope all of our History Room Live friends can join us on January 16 at 10:30 AM, when we kick off the Town History Series with Nathan Lipfert’s presentation Two Centuries of Working for Bath Customs.

Karen’s Reflections

Here’s what Karen has to say about History Room Live:

When Jill and I were planning and developing this program, some of my own personal goals for it were to provide a program for the community, connect with the community, and provide a way for you all to get to know your new archivist (and vice versa). All of those things happened, but there have been other results, too, that I hadn’t expected, though I probably should have. A few people are now volunteers and some of you have donated materials to the History Room. Best of all, we’ve had a lot of great conversations. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to get an audience to participate in programs, but we’ve never had to be concerned about that. In fact, I don’t think of you folks as an audience. I feel more like you’re all partners with us, sharing your own stories and expertise, asking great questions, and helping us better understand our communities and the people and places in them. You also don’t limit these conversations to this one hour; I know many of you reach out to Jill often, and one of you has even emailed me with resources, ideas, and general knowledge. I’ve enjoyed these weekly gatherings with all of you and I truly appreciate all your contributions to us, both personally and professionally. Thank you so much for helping us, and each other, survive this year and find some bit of joy.

Coming Up in 2021

When we resume History Room Live in the spring, I hope to welcome even more experts and local organizations who serve Sagadahoc County and Maine as a whole, to share current projects and research, collection highlights, special skills, or the history of their organization. Interested in presenting? Email Jill at history@patten.lib.me.us or call 207-443-5141 x18.

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