MHS Wins Prestigious Award of Excellence from The American Association for State and Local History
June 20, 2022
Portland, ME: The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has bestowed an Award of Excellence upon Maine Historical Society for BEGIN AGAIN: reckoning with intolerance in Maine. The Award of Excellence is part of the AASLH Leadership in History Awards, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation of state and local history. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH conferred 53 national awards this year, honoring people, projects, exhibits, and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history.
Exhibited at Maine Historical Society May 27 to December 31, 2021 -- and permanently available online on Maine Memory Network -- Begin Again addressed the roots of injustice and discrimination in the Maine. It stimulated and supported dialog around race and inequality in response to events beginning in 2020: a pandemic, political unrest, race-based violence, and economic disparities. Begin Again acknowledged the legacy of governmental structures based in White male privilege dating to the European Doctrines of Christian Discovery and Domination in 1453 and 1493. The lasting impacts of these systems benefit specific settler-colonialists and their descendants, perpetually disadvantaging other peoples today.
“We are proud to have MHS' work recognized by AASLH,” says Steve Bromage, Executive Director of Maine Historical Society. “Begin Again is part of our ongoing effort to provide context, information, and a place where the Maine community can explore the profound ways that history shapes Maine today.”
MHS hired three community co-curators: Anne B. Gass, Independent scholar and women's rights history activist; Darren J. Ranco, PhD (Penobscot), Chair of Native American Programs, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Coordinator of Native American Research, University of Maine; and Krystal Williams, Attorney and Executive Advisor, Providentia Group. Along with MHS' staff curator, Tilly Laskey, co-curators amplified their networks by engaging eighteen advisors from diverse Maine populations. First person voices provided holistic narratives about barriers that perpetuate inequality.
Krystal Williams affirms, “We designed Begin Again so that visitors could viscerally experience the tension between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ throughout Maine's history. This tension has the power to galvanize us to sincerely grapple with and seek to undo the systemic inequities that have increased with each passing generation. Personally, I wanted to create an exhibit with emotional heft and intellectual integrity that would inspire self-reflection and Begin Again exceeded anything I could have imagined.”
The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena.
About AASLH: The American Association for State and Local History, a national nonprofit association, provides leadership and resources to help the history community thrive and make the past more meaningful for all people. AASLH serves the tens of thousands of history organizations, professionals, and volunteers around the country who help people of all ages develop critical thinking skills and understand how learning history helps society make progress toward justice. Through research, advocacy, and our field-leading professional development program, AASLH advances public history practice and connects history practitioners to critical issues in the field and to one another. www.aaslh.org.
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Maine Historical Society preserves and shares Maine's story to enrich life in contemporary Maine.