On this blog on May 6th, I introduced a diary I found in a local antique shop. The diary covers a six month period in 1882 and includes the names of many people, places, and events in Southern Maine. My elementary school aged daughter and I are about to embark on a summer history project. We hope to uncover the name of the person who wrote the diary and to find out more about this person's life.
I spent a few weeks typing a transcript of the diary. My daughter's copy is to the left. She has spent some time highlighting the names of people, places, events and objects (important artifacts) mentioned. [She wanted to make sure I wrote "important artifacts" in this blog. She feels this conveys to the value of knowing items such as the instrument that our diary writer played.] This year my daughter learned how to make map keys in school. She locked onto the idea of making a key for the transcript. She has five highlighter colors. We just decided this morning that the fifth color would be for diseases she will identify in the diary. (It is very important for an eight year old girl to use all the colored markers at her disposal!)
I have triangulated our diary between the areas of Biddeford, Saco, and Portland. The writer speaks of townspeople traveling among these areas. We have done just a little bit of Internet research to get us a started. Our diarist mentions the newspaper "Eastern Star." I keyed in on that to see if the publication was produced for one of the towns the diarist mentions. A paper by that title was indeed produced in Biddeford (and three other unfamiliar locations.) So, we are going to start in Biddeford.
I contacted the reference desk at the MacArthur Public Library in Biddeford to plan our trip. It is a little strange being on the other end of an archives reference question. I introduced myself as an archivist and writer. I told one of the reference librarians about my project, asked questions about the hours that the local history collection / archives was available, and made sure that my proposed schedule would jive with them. The librarian seemed as excited about the diary as I. (It's so much fun to share a passion for information.)
I look forward to sharing these adventures with you too!