March 12, 2004
Members of the Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes advisory board got a sneak peak inside the large plastic bubble on the quad of the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus recently, as the group toured the construction site of the future home of repository of documents and material which chronicle the Acadian way of life in Northern Maine.
Joined by UMFK President Richard Cost, other members of the university administration, and archives staff, the advisory board toured the first floor of the two-story building, hearing what the space will look like when completed later this spring from Lita Semrau, an architect with Port City Architecture, the Portland-based firm that designed both the archives building and UMFK's new residence hall.
"This will be an impressive building," said Geraldine Chasse of Madawaska, a member of the advisory board and well-known local expert on Acadian culture. "What a long way we have come since the archives was first dreamed about 15 years ago."
Chasse's sentiments were echoed by other members of the advisory board, all of whom have witnessed the evolution of the Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes since its concept was first proposed by former UMFK President Barbara Leondar in 1989, and became reality in 1991 under the leadership of then President Richard Dumont.
"The culture we seek to preserve is still evolving. It is both historical and current. Your role as members of our advisory board is as critical today as it was when the archives was first established," said UMFK President Richard Cost to the advisors at their meeting held prior to touring the construction site. "This advisory board is the key to connecting us to our community."
Cost has worked tirelessly with John Murphy, vice president for administration, Sharon Johnson, dean of information services, Lisa Ornstein, director of the Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes, and Richard Bouchard, facilities management director to ensure construction of the new facility would remain on target and be complete this year.
The building will serve as a connector between Powell Hall, an existing residence hall, and Blake Library. It will greatly increase the amount of space on campus for the Archives.
The project was made possible by Maine voters who passed a $36.7 million higher education bond in November 2001, which included $3.2 million for UMFK to purchase technology for Nadeau Hall, to renovate Cyr Hall, and to build the new Acadian Archives facility.
When complete, the building will include a conference room, reading room, work room, Archives reference desk, a bank of computers, research materials stacks, and Archives personnel space on the first floor. The second story will consist of a collections area, accessioning room, and administrative offices for university information resources personnel.
The additional space and much improved quarters will be a stark contrast to the current Acadian Archives.
The facility is housed in a cramped 733 square foot space on the second floor of the Blake Library. Bursting at the seams, the current facility is not handicapped accessible, and includes a climate controlled collections storage facility, an audio-visual lab, visitor's area/reading room, an accessioning work area, two small offices, and 78 additional feet of locked reference shelves.
With no dedicated space to process collections that are received, a visitors' area too small for more than one visitor, and no storage space, the activities of the Archives are hampered.
The Acadian Archives was founded in 1990 at UMFK to document, preserve, celebrate, and disseminate information about the history and cultural heritage of Maine's St. John Valley.
The Archives collects manuscripts and audio/visual materials relevant to the history, folklore, and folk-life of the region. It also has a library of reference books and other publications, including U.S. and Canadian census records for the Valley and microfilm editions of local newspapers.