October 29, 2004
A new website, which makes valuable information on the history and cultural heritage of Maine's Upper St. John Valley available to the world, will be accessible to the world, beginning Friday, November 5 at 2:00 p.m., when it will be officially launched at a ceremony on the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus in the Nadeau Hall teleconference room.
The launching of Acadian Culture in Maine, a site developed by the Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes, hosted by UMFK, and funded in part by the Maine Acadian Heritage Council, will bring together representatives of each organization, students, faculty, and the local community. The public is welcome to attend this free event.
The website contains all of the original texts, maps, and black-and-white photos of Acadian Culture in Maine, an original 92-page report published by the National Park Service in 1994. Acadian Culture in Maine was so popular that the 2,000 printed copies of the book ran out almost immediately
In addition to the material from the book, the website edition of Acadian Culture in Maine includes more than 110 color images, maps, drawings, and photographs which did not appear in the original publication. A printer friendly version of the text is also available for downloading from the site.
"The site makes available once again a wonderful book which would otherwise remain out of print, since the National Park Service lacks the funding to produce additional copies," said Lisa Ornstein, director of the Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes. "By using the web as the means to publish, Acadian Culture in Maine is available for the first time to people all over the world at no cost. Because the University of Maine at Fort Kent has agreed to host the site, it will remain available for years to come."
The original publication, which was based on contributions from local experts from the St. John Valley and a diverse group of cultural professionals from across the United States and Canada, surveys early Acadian history and provides an overview of the history and culture of northern Maine's French-Canadian and Acadian population.
The report further examines ways in which contemporary Maine Acadian cultural identity reflects deeply-felt connections to family, religion, language, and the land. It provides an overview of regional folklife and material culture, and partnerships in cultural conservation.
It also includes information about the Maine Acadian Culture Preservation Act (Public Law 101-543), a federal law recognizing the distinctive contribution of Maine Acadians in the United States.
In 1998, as requests for copies of the out-of-print publication continued to be directed to the Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes, Nicholas Hawes, assistant director, came up with the idea of turning the publication into a website in order to make it available on a long-term basis at no cost to both residents of the St. John Valley and to the world at large.
The National Park Service, who retained copyright of the publication, agreed to the concept and granted the Archives permission to develop a web edition.
From 1998 through 2002, Archives staff, assisted by work study students, worked on a part-time basis to develop the basic text that would be featured on the site.
Upon completion of that phase of work, the Maine Acadian Heritage Council stepped in to provide funding to hire web designer Steve Michaud of Fort Kent to create the web design in order to make the site easily navigable.
In August 2003, Archives staff again took over, selecting and inserting an additional 110 color images to make the web version visually rich and attractive.
"Transforming the publication into a website allowed us to enrich the visual content: the original text contained only black-and-white photographs because color photo printing is so expensive," said Ornstein. "Another benefit of the web edition is that it uses a technology (the Internet) which is increasingly relied on by teachers and students at all grade levels as a resource. A web edition of Acadian Culture in Maine is sure to reach new, younger generations of readers. Finally, the creation of a website publication offers future spin-off projects."
One such project is already underway, as students currently enrolled in the computers in the classrooms course at UMFK this fall will be offered the option of using Acadian Culture in Maine as the focus of a class assignment on curriculum development.
Students are further invited to submit their work for consideration by their professors and the Acadian Archives staff for eventual publication on a "lesson plans" link, which could be attached to the website and used by schoolteachers to more effectively incorporate the site into classroom activities.
"We hope to add lesson plans to the web site and to organize a teacher training workshop about the site for Valley teachers in the future," said Ornstein.
More immediately, Ornstein plans on working with her colleagues on the Maine Acadian Heritage Council's education resource development committee to contact local schools in the region to inform them about the new site.
Local educators and others wanting to participate in the official launching of the Acadian Culture in Maine website on November 5, who are unable to attend will be able to participate in a live webcast of the event by logging on the UMFK's website at www.umfk.maine.edu/vstream.
The Acadian Culture in Maine website will officially go on-line at the event Friday. After that time, the site can be found at http://acim.umfk.maine.edu. A quick "walk-through" of the website will be made available on the UMFK website so that classroom teachers and members of the general public who miss the launching can learn how to navigate the site
For more information on the new website or the launching event, contact Ornstein at (207) 834-7536.