2018-04-05 / Editorial

Help needed:Calling all tour guides

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by Jeff Cabral

The importance of volunteers can never be overstated. Many of our library patrons and visitors give their limited free time to deserving organizations throughout our communities, including to us at McArthur Library for many years. We have 11 active volunteers who help to run our delivery service to eight health care facilities and housing units within Biddeford, organize our shelves and prepare materials to be loaned to library patrons. In fact, some of our volunteers are so committed that they want to help us expand our delivery service to door-to-door (for those individuals who may be completely homebound in private homes); we hope to do this sometime in 2018.

April is National Volunteer Month, so join us in speaking to your colleagues, friends and family. Ask them where they give their time – I can almost guarantee that many of them donate in some way – and then say thank you. They all help to make our communities richer, safer, healthier and happier places by working on events, programs, services and in our neighborhoods.

I have enjoyed working on the board of Biddeford Mills Museum, which has been 100 percent volunteerdriven since its inception. Biddeford Mills Museum is a relatively new nonprofit (six years strong) which found its roots in the efforts of many volunteers almost 10 years ago, when the last mill operation closed in the city. In 2017, we were awarded the Originality Award at the Maine Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

“The Biddeford Mills Museum celebrates an important piece of our heritage and makes it accessible to visitors. Working with past employees of the mills, they have created an immersive tour for visitors that builds pride and provides a unique Maine experience,” said Steve Lyons, acting director of the Maine Office of Tourism at the conference.

Maine Tourism is a huge supporter of our work, as we have continued to help Biddeford become a destination for major tourist activity.

We are expecting a busy summer and we need more volunteers to be involved. If you are interested in being trained to become tour guides for our 2018 season, please reach out and contact Board Member Priscilla McGuire at 282-4631 (prmcguire2@gmail.com) or Jeff Cabral at 284-4181 (jcabral@mcarthur.lib.me.us). You will learn an incredible amount and have a fantastic time with a wonderful group of people. Please help us out.

Our mission is to preserve the rich heritage of the mills in honor of all who worked in the mills and to strengthen the community’s knowledge of mill history to reinforce a broader sense of community. We accomplish our mission through offering educational programs, tours and events. We have also built a collection that can be utilized in a number of ways: to create exhibits that will educate the community and highlight mill history; as a research collection to assist the public in locating information on mill buildings, history and employees; and to ensure the story of Biddeford’s economic and industrial revolution remains relevant and accessible to diverse audiences.

While we do not own our own museum space yet, we have been working with Maine Historical Society since 2016 on the creation of a pilot exhibit which will be located at 40 Main St. in the venue space adjacent to Portland Pie. This exhibit has two components open now (our steam engine/technology exhibit and our Saco River mural and timeline). There is more to come by this summer, and it is all open to the public free of charge. The exhibit is designed around five themes: textile process, community diversity, technology and machinery, Pepperell’s contribution to Maine as a national textile player and how the innovation of mill workers and managers kept the mill vibrant and competitive for generations.

It’s an exciting time to become a volunteer for Biddeford Mills Museum.

Jeff Cabral is director of McArthur Public Library in Biddeford.

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