Building museum exhibits bridges past, present of Penobscot Bay

By Tanya Mitchell | Feb 07, 2014
Photo by: Tanya Mitchell Searsport District High School student Meagan McKeon cuts burlap for the lining of her team's exhibit box about navigation on Penobscot Bay Monday morning, Feb. 3.

Searsport — A week long English and history project kept Searsport District High School students focused on how Penobscot Bay has impacted the community over the centuries, and their work will soon help teach visitors to the area about the region's past and its connection to the present.

Monday morning, Feb. 3, Searsport District High School sophomores put the finishing touches on a series of exhibit boxes they created with the help of the staff and resources provided at Penobscot Marine Museum. Come May, when the museum reopens for the season, the students' work will be on display and remain part of the museum's collection of exhibits for the next two years, said SDHS English and Language Arts teacher Kathleen Jenkins.

The students got started on the projects Monday, Jan. 27, when they broke off into small teams and chose one of several mystery boxes containing artifacts that served as clues about the project theme — topics ranged from fisheries and Far East trade to granite harvesting and navigation. To link the past to the present, the project required the students to find modern items like magazine articles or images of GPS units to add to the exhibit boxes.

SDHS student Justin Bacon said judging from the artifacts inside the box his team chose, which included a tool for rope making and a scrapbook filled with drawings of ships, he and his teammates decided to research ways sailors occupied themselves while living and working on the sea.

"I learned that a lot of the sailors and the sea captains were from Searsport," said Bacon. "Sometimes they were at sea for more than a year."

At times the children of the sea captains, added Bacon, were born at sea.

Some of what sailors did in the past to occupy their time, said Bacon, may still be a fun pastime for those who live and work at sea today.

"They used to sing songs on the ships," he said.

Cheyanne Moody's team was working on an exhibit on the history of granite in Maine, as her team's box included a granite stencil, and eight inch chisel and a hammer.

"It was mainly used for cemetery stones and lighthouses," said Moody.

The uses for granite have changed over the years, Moody said, as it is now more commonly used for counter tops.

The big change, Moody said, is that work crews now have the technology to pull large, heavy pieces of granite from quarries with the help of machinery, and can harvest the stone much quicker than what was possible in the past.

"Back then they did it all by hand," said Moody.

Monday, Feb. 3, the students wrapped up their projects at Penobscot Marine Museum, beginning with each team's selection of an historic captain's chest in which to display all of their items and artifacts.

From there, the group moved on to the museum library, where the teams assembled their boxes and prepared them for display.

SDHS student Meagan McKeon was busy cutting burlap for the lining of the inside of her team's exhibit box about navigation, an exhibit that included a quadrant, a map and a telescope to represent the past and images of a GPS unit and a VHS radio to depict modern day navigation tools.

"Without navigation tools, these ships wouldn't have been able to do trade in places such as the Far East," said McKeon.

SDHS students Hannah Garcelon, Alexis Burgin and Dana Wilson were at work on their exhibit, which highlights Far East Trade. The girls arranged items such as an antique tea caddy and ivory vase, as well as a tea tray. Modern items included art depicting the Chinese New Year's celebration and packets of tea.

Garcelon said she found it interesting to learn that heading to China for a shipment of tea meant more than just preparing the ship and crew for a long journey.

"They didn't just let people go over and get stuff, they had to have treaties," she said.

Wilson, like Bacon, said she was amazed at how long captains and their entire families remained on the ship.

"Some children would only see their home for a week every two or three years," she said. "They traveled all over the world; their life would basically be a sea trip."

Wilson also said the project helped her feel more connected to the past.

"We get to handle all sorts of things here that are decades, centuries old," she said.

 

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Tanya Mitchell
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Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.

 

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