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Acadian Archives exhibit "Acadian Beginnings: Samuel de Champlain and St. Croix Island, 1604" opens October 14

October 7, 2005


The Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent invites the public to join them on Friday afternoon, October 14, for the opening of a new exhibit titled "ACADIAN BEGINNINGS: Samuel de Champlain and St. Croix Island, 1604."

The exhibit explores France's first attempts at permanent settlement in North America in 1604 and Samuel de Champlain, a bold and curious explorer who took part in this expedition.

The St. Croix expedition was led by French merchant venturer Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Mons. In September 1604, he and 78 colonists established the first headquarters of the territory they claimed as "Acadie" on St. Croix Island, on the international St. Croix estuary.

Due to their inexperience with North American climate and habitat, the French settlers suffered a terrible winter during which nearly half their party died. The following year, they moved across the Bay of Fundy to a more appropriate site at Port Royal, in present-day Nova Scotia.

"The explorations and experiences of these colonies are chronicled in diaries, maps, and drawings by Samuel Champlain," explained Archives director and exhibit curator Lisa Ornstein. "Lessons learned at St.Croix prepared the French for subsequent exploration and settlement in North America, and began a French heritage which remains a vibrant part of our nations cultural identity."

"ACADIAN BEGINNINGS" is a multimedia exhibit which incorporates materials from number of different sources. These include "Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635), Map Maker of France," a three-panel exhibit of historic drawings and maps by Champlain from the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine.

There are also new maps exploring Acadian settlements at St. Croix and Port Royal, produced by the Canadian-American Center at the University of Maine at Orono. The window displays feature artifacts and reproductions from private collections and from the St. Croix Interpretive Trunk, a production of the National Park Service.

Visitors will also be able to view a 10-minute video produced by Parks Canada. "'Doorway to the Past follows two children who slip through a time portal to talk with Champlain about the hard winter at St. Croix in 1604 and the year that followed at Port Royal," explained Ornstein. "It makes a wonderful introduction to Acadian history for children and parents alike."

The opening for "ACADIAN BEGINNINGS" will take place at the Archives' Gallery Room at the University of Maine at Fort Kent between 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 14th.

Refreshments will be served and will feature regional native ingredients and recipes from 17th century Europe.

The exhibit will be open to the public until November 18 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, or by appointment. For more information, call 834-7536.