Tag Archives: Portland Maine

American Writers Museum

Longfellow house and garden May 2015I am a big fan of literary sites – of course it helps that my office looks out onto the Longfellow Garden, behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of America’s most beloved poets. One of these days I want to travel the country, visiting literary homes and sites, reading and blogging about the literary works as I visit writer’s homes. But perhaps my first stop should be in Chicago at the American Writers Museum, which opens in 2017. The Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Garden is one of the affiliates.

The American Writers Museum Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives.

Check it out! http://americanwritersmuseum.org/


Books groups/clubs in Portland

Like to talk about books you’ve read with others? Portland has a plethora of book groups to join. I currently belong to two. One is winding up: the Maine Historical Society’s We are what we ate. We’ve read a wonderful variety of non-fiction books including a memoir by a New York City chef, a history of 1950s cooking, immigrant food history, and now a luscious history of chocolate through the eyes of the Hershey and Mars companies, as well as readings assigned to us from various books and magazines. We meet once a month, in the evening, and talk about food for an hour and a half – what can be better? The next subject to be read next winter may be Civil War related literature, so stay tuned for that one.

My other book group is at the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association – we meet once a month at lunchtime, so we can indulge in a lot of tea and goodies, as well as conversation about books, which are a combination of fiction and non-fiction, mostly popular with an occasional classic thrown in.

My friend Sue runs a book club through the Maine Irish Heritage Center: the Irish American Club, which meets every other month from about September to May (with summers off) – they read mostly fiction written by Irish or Irish American authors, with a wide range of literature, mysteries, young adult, and historical fiction. The Greater Portland Women’s Social Meetup Group has a book club that meets once a month at Panera’s in South Portland, reading mostly popular fiction and non-fiction.

An international book group out of Longfellow Books meets once a month, and food is served which is tied into the country of the book being discussed. Speaking of food, there is also a Dispatch Beer & Books Club, which meets at Novare Res Bier Cafe.

England beer

Most book selections are made by either the group or the leader, but I know of one book group where each member chooses a book to read on their own, and then when they get together they each talk about their own book. I think this is a wonderful way to share what you are reading, without the pressure of having to read a book by a deadline.

Any way you look at it, there are many opportunities to be a part of a book group in Portland, and besides enjoying the book itself, to be able to gather with like minded souls and often enjoy food and drink, whether it’s beer or tea.

Special libraries in Portland – The Maine Historical Society Library

Last in our series about special libraries in Portland – my own library, where I work. It’s especially pretty this time of year, so feel free to stop by and stick your nose in. If I’m here I’m happy to give a tour!

Tucked behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, the Maine Historical Society’s Alida Carroll and John Marshall Brown Library, built in 1907, was recently renovated and expanded, and is not only more beautiful than ever, but has more storage for all of its collections. The reading room is a delight to behold, with olive green walls lined with portraits of people who are associated with the collections, new handsome wooden shelving and furniture, and high arched windows overlooking the newly landscaped Longfellow Garden. The library maintains the original glass floors in the mezzanine to let in the light, while iron stacks are lined with old and new books where members can browse. The Society was founded in 1822 as the third oldest historical society in the nation, and has all sorts of treasures, from the Benedict Arnold’s letterbook from the 1775 expedition to Quebec, given to the library by Aaron Burr, to tickets to the Elvis Presley concert that was cancelled due to his death.The collections in the library don’t circulate, but researchers can use the books in house to delve into subjects ranging from genealogy to Maine history to researching your house’s history. If you’re not in the mood to research because the weather is just too nice to be inside, the garden is a lovely and inviting respite from the busy traffic on Congress Street. In the warmer months, members of the business and local community are welcome to bring their lunches into the garden to commune with friends or to just to enjoy reading a good book of their own.

For more information: http://www.mainehistory.org/library_overview.shtml

More special libraries in Portland to investigate

A few months ago I wrote about the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association Library, as well as the Maine Irish Heritage Center Library – both of which are elegant destinations in and of themselves, let alone the books they hold. Here are a few more libraries to investigate:

The Greater Portland Landmarks Frances W. Peabody Library is located at 93 High Street, in the Stafford House. The GPL library is the “only library specializing in architecture, preservation, and restoration.” The staff is dedicated to making the collection of books and magazines on architecture, home improvement, and preservation a useful resource to members of the Landmarks, as well as researchers interested in the history of their house and neighborhood.

If art is your thing, the Maine College of Art’s Joanne Waxman Library on Congress Street has the best view and sunshine in which to relax and read. Although you have to be a student or own a library card to check books out, Library Director Moira Steven welcomes folks in the community to just enjoy reading, in this large open modern library, the numerous art books and periodicals that she has available. Moira says, “We have approximately 30,000 titles and 100 journal subscriptions, 85{a924d0e49cc5813a40c6e5abf88cc5a144f266a1cd8c3074f66db425794a7bb6} of which are art-related. Our Special Collections room holds over 500 titles, many of them examples of Victoria printing and binding as well as an artist book collection of over 150 titles.  We hold exhibitions of student and community art and thematic displays of art and design titles throughout the academic year.”

If your interests lean towards religion and spirituality, Portland is most fortunate to have the Bangor Theological Seminary General Theological Library. This library is in the same building as the State Street Church offices, just up the street from the Maine Irish Heritage Center. (Go upstairs for the church office, and downstairs for the Seminary offices, classrooms, and library). Librarian Laurie McQuarrie is available to help you navigate your way through their collections of theological books and periodicals. While their primary mission is to serve their faculty and students, the public is welcome to use the library. Sadly, though, this library will no longer be with us after next summer, as Bangor Theological Seminary will no longer be granting degrees, thus no library. So, visit this library while you can.

So, if art, architecture, and religion is your thing, these three downtown Portland libraries offer wonderful resources, including books to absorb and relish.