Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Diary Project Begins

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.)

As I write this, my daughter is decorating a folder with stickers. She labeled it "Diary from Maine" on the front and has labeled each folder slot. She plans to put the "diary transcript" on one side and "diary research" on the other. Incorporating arts and crafts with research will probably be one key in keeping our project interesting for her. She is reading over my should now and asked if we can do more arts and crafts as we go. I said "Absolutely!" and here's what I am of the places identified in our transcript is "Boothbys Bridge." If we can find more about it -- perhaps even get a picture of it -- we can make a likeness out of popsicle sticks. Perhaps we can make a collage with images of townspeople. We can make a mind map of the diseases we discover with information about them....I think the possible activities are endless.This project can take us on many great information adventures.

I look forward to sharing these adventures with you too!


  1. Wow - this sounds like a fantastic project. What a wonderful way to spend time together as mother and daughter, and it sounds like such a fun adventure! I'm looking forward to following it!

  2. This is so fantastic and just sounds so exciting! Perfect for the Summer and Fall! Looking forward to many other posts detailing your adventure!

  3. What a great project for the two of you. My 9 year old granddaughter joined me for a trip to the library once to help with some DAR research and she had a blast. Her favorite activity was scouring a section of books for the words Daughters of the American Revolution :-)