November 28, 2011
The University of Maine at Fort Kent's Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes has been gifted a 25-volume set of scrapbooks from the estate of Marcella Bélanger Violette. The scrapbooks' 3,000 pages detail the social, cultural, political, and current events of the St. John Valley from 1920 through 2004.
The donation was made on behalf of the Violette family by Dennis and Holly Violette, Marcella's son and daughter-in-law, from Orrington, Maine.
The name Marcella Violette is interwoven in the history of the St. John Valley over much of the past 50 years. Her influence and commitment to causes was profound, and, in many cases, legendary. Mrs. Violette, of Van Buren, directed her energies, passions, beliefs, value of higher education, and support of her native French language.
The 25 donated scrapbooks were carefully arranged each year by Mrs. Violette at the family's dining room table. They include photos of prominent politicians including John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy; Edmund Muskie; Jimmy and Rosalind Carter; Lyndon B. Johnson; Joseph Brennan, and John L. Martin. Marcella's husband, Elmer Violette, was involved in politics at both the state and national levels. Elmer also was a major proponent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
Marcella Violette's passion and advocacy for UMFK, education, civic responsibility, the Catholic religion, and preserving the French language and heritage are well documented. The volumes are filled with photographs, newspaper articles, letters, cards, telegrams, postcards, brochures, and other archival artifacts. Along with the scrapbooks, the collection includes 15 gallery posters, audio CDs, and portraits of Elmer and Marcella Violette.
“This donation represents a glimpse into 80 years of life in the St. John Valley. Not just the major events that make state or national news, but daily events that shape families and are often overlooked as insignificant,” said Lise Pelletier, director of the Archives.
“Judge Violette's role in the Allagash Waterway and his wife's speeches to state officials about the importance of keeping UMFK open and to Franco-Americans about preserving and transmitting their French heritage are selfless examples of how much one person speaking for an entire community can affect a profound difference. The scrapbooks lovingly created over so many years reflect the Violette's unfailing devotion to the St. John Valley and have much to offer us, their successors,” Pelletier added.
Both Elmer (1974) and Marcella (1991) Violette received honorary doctoral degrees from UMFK.
The scrapbooks that have now been donated to the Archives were the subject of an exhibit at the Archives from the fall of 2007 through spring, 2008. The exhibit, Contributing a Lifetime to Public Service, detailed the life and times of one of the most influential women ever to live in the St. John Valley. The exhibit was a collaborative effort of UMFK's Information Services staff, and Holly and Julia Violette, Marcella Violette's daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
The exhibit closely mirrored the five major themes of Marcella's scrapbooks: UMFK; Cultural Preservation; Civic Responsibility; Allagash Wilderness Waterway; and Education/Family/Women.
To mark the occasion of the exhibit, a DVD entitled “Remembering the Contributions of Marcella and Elmer Violette” was created. The DVD contains interviews with 15 people who knew the Violettes and the different aspects of their lives.