Museums of the Bethel Historical Society creates “Last Twenty” Collection to make available works published between 1923 and 1941

Did you know that the Founding Fathers intended for books to be protected for only a fourteen-year term (renewable once)? The original 1790 Copyright Act has been repeatedly updated, each time extending the duration of the copyright term. While this benefits authors and artists who are now guaranteed rights to their work throughout their entire life (and beyond), it has had a particularly detrimental effect on genealogy and local history research. Much of the information researchers seek is contained in books which are extremely rare and long out-of-print. Current copyright terms place severe restrictions on what the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society, and much larger projects like the Internet Archive, Google Books, and Hathi Trust are able to digitize and make available. It most cases, without extensive research, published works cannot be determined to be in the public-domain unless they were published prior to 1923.

Recently, however, Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a copyright scholar at Tulane University, has brought attention to a little-known, and little-used provision in the copyright law affecting books in their last twenty years of copyright protection. As the Internet Archive, which is now making use of this provision, explains, Section 108(h) “allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold.” The Internet Archive is now going to begin scanning books that fit this description, and hopes to encourage other libraries to take similar steps.

While the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society does not have the capacity that larger institutions have for mass-scanning thousands of books, we are eager to play a small but vital role in rescuing a few important texts from obscurity. We have started our own “Last Twenty” Collection and are hand-selecting books which meet the requirements of the provision.

The first title to be digitized by MBHS as part of this project is Metallak, Last of the Cooashaukes with the Life of David Robbins, the Story of Molly Ockett, the Adventures of Lieut. Segar and the Killing of the Last Moose by Arthur D. Woodrow. This rare book, published in Rumford in 1928, is a great example of what is possible under Section 108(h). The book, which contains information on Metallak and other local Native Americans, is owned by only a handful of libraries. An Internet search turned up only one copy for sale for $200. Now however it can be read and enjoyed by people everywhere for free.

Bethel and Greenwood Historical Societies Collaborate on New Book

Addison VerrillTo commemorate this year’s bicentennial of the Town of Greenwood, the Bethel Historical Society and Greenwood Historical Society are teaming up to publish an annotated and illustrated book based on the early 20th century writings of Addison Emery Verrill (1839-1926), a Greenwood native and renowned American zoologist who recorded his memories about the early history, natural resources, social life, and genealogy of Greenwood, Maine, in a series of more than two dozen articles for a local paper. The book, which will contain rare photographs and maps provided by Verrill descendants, is being edited by Herb Adams of Portland and Larry Glatz of Scarborough, with formatting and layout by Will Chapman of the Greenwood Historical Society (Chapman also serves as librarian/archivist at the Bethel Historical Society).

The new book is expected to be available in time for Greenwood’s official bicentennial celebration in mid-August, and after publication will also be for sale at the Bethel Historical Society’s Museum Shop and on its website. Donations in support of this project are already being collected by the Bethel Society, and anyone who makes a financial gift to assist with start-up costs will be recognized in the book’s acknowledgments section.

Herb Adams, a Maine historian and politician who teaches at Southern Maine Community College, will present a program about Addison Verrill at the Greenwood Town Hall on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, at 7:00 pm. This free event is sponsored by the Greenwood Historical Society and will include an update on the bicentennial book project.

New Signs and “Branding” for BHS Museum Facilities

new-sign-2015-e1439511264732Following much research and lengthy discussions, the Bethel Historical Society’s Executive Committee has approved new wording for replacement signs that are being installed in front of the O’Neil Robinson and Dr. Moses Mason houses.  Because each building is essentially a stand-alone museum, with different open times and public offerings, the name “Museums of the Bethel Historical Society” will now be used to identify the organization’s facilities on Broad Street.

BHS Receives Major Gift for Facilities Expansion

south-elevation-Robinson-House-with-barn0001Thanks to the financial generosity of Charles R. Huntoon of Portland, the Bethel Historical Society is moving ahead with a long-planned-for facilities expansion project at the O’Neil Robinson House. Mr. Huntoon has specifically directed that his donation be used to build a barn-like structure at the east end of the Robinson House to serve as a secure storage facility for the Society’s largest museum objects, plus many of its rare books and manuscripts.

According to BHS Executive Director Randall Bennett, Mr. Huntoon, a Rumford native, was inspired to make his “dedicated gift” following the successful completion of the Mary E. Valentine Collections Wing in 2014. That facility has provided the Society with temporary breathing room as it relocates and consolidates its museum study collection. Based on a two-and-a-half story barn that stood on the Robinson property from 1821 until 1931, the new “barn” will blend with the Robinson House, which was remodeled from the Federal to Italianate style in 1881.

In announcing this gift, Society Board of Trustees President Tineke Ouwinga stated, “’Mr. Huntoon’s generous support will allow us to complete the expansion and restoration of the Robinson House. To receive this gift so soon after the construction of the Mary E. Valentine Collections Wing is truly exciting and tremendously appreciated.” One of the Society’s staunchest supporters, Charles Huntoon earlier presented BHS with a collection of rare books, booklets and audio tapes focused on Maine and northern New England’s Native American heritage. He was also the first person to initiate a Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) at the Society, providing a donation of cash in exchange for guaranteed lifetime income payments at a fixed rate.

In summarizing the significance of this gift, Director Bennett stated, “This second and final addition to the Robinson House will meet our collection storage needs for the foreseeable future and allow the Society to continue its mission of collecting, preserving and interpreting the history of Bethel and the surrounding region.”

Civil War Book Published by Society

WRITE QUICK front cover (BHS ed.), small“Write Quick”: War and a Woman’s Life in Letters, 1835–1867, published by the Bethel Historical Society, is now available from the Society’s Museum Shop. Edited by Bethel native Roberta Gibson Pevear of Exeter, New Hampshire—a descendant of Eliza Bean Foster, the main character of this book—and poet and author Ann Chandonnet of Vale, North Carolina, this volume is based on Civil War era documents, letters and diaries donated to the Bethel Historical Society by Mrs. Pevear in 2005. Over 570 pages in length, with more than 50 photographs, illustrations, maps, and index, the book tells of one New England family’s daily experiences on the Civil War home front and battlefield.

A New England native and longtime Alaska resident, Ann Fox Chandonnet is the author of numerous books, including Alaska’s Inside Passage (Fodor’s, 2009). Her food history, Gold Rush Grub (University of Alaska Press, 2005), won an Outstanding Book award from the American Association of School Librarians. She currently resides in the Hickory, North Carolina, area. Roberta Gibson Pevear, who spent thirty-five years in business administration and law before serving as a New Hampshire state representative, grew up in Eliza Bean Foster’s hometown of Bethel, Maine, and attended Gould Academy. She lives in Exeter, New Hampshire.

Henry C. FosterAmid the gathering clouds of war, far from the nation’s centers of power, two American families felt the first ripples on the breeze. Andrew Bean, a teacher and farmer from Bethel, Maine, answered the call to the Union infantry. His younger sister, Eliza, having found both employment and a suitable marriage in the bustling mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts, soon saw her husband, Henry C. Foster (photo, left), enlist as well

In more than 150 revealing letters dispatched from camp and field and home front, as well as Eliza Bean Foster’s own diary, the honors and horrors of war play out on an intimate stage. Seldom does a surviving cache of documents illuminate the full span of the antebellum and war years in such close detail, from so many different angles. While Andrew wrote from the eastern battlefields of Bull Run and South Mountain, Henry posted lines from New Orleans, Fort Monroe, and Sabine Pass in the Western Theater. Eliza’s replies describe children and family—and sometimes desperate circumstances. “I have a good mind to send this [money] right back,” wrote Eliza to her brother near war’s end. “I shant use it untill I hear from you. Write quick.”

Illustrated with original documents and never-before-published photographs, the book traces Eliza’s life from New England mill girl, to young married woman and mother, to war widow and victim of consumption. Write Quick presents a valuable case history and a poignant story of one Northern woman through her own pen and the lens of her contemporaries. To order, click here.

Read here about Write Quick co-editor Ann Chandonnet’s November 2011 visit to the Old Mint in New Orleans, where Civil War soldier Henry C. Foster wrote many letters to his wife, Eliza Bean Foster, the book’s major character.