Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maine Wins Highly Competitive Grants to Preserve Historical Artifacts

This week Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced that Maine would receive over $350,000 in two “Save America’s Treasures Grants” to restore and preserve two dynamic pieces of Maine history—the 82-year-old oyster boat J & E Riggin in Rockland, and in Saco, an 800-foot representation of “Pilgrim’s Progress” painted in 1851.

“If we let pieces of our past fade away we lose the history that educates and enriches us,” said Pingree. “These funds will go a long way toward protecting irreplaceable parts of Maine’s unique legacy and allowing us to keep that legacy alive for generations to come.”

The grants, administered by the National Park Service, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, are extremely competitive. This year over 420 applications were received and only 44 grants awarded.

“Only the most significant projects of the highest historical and cultural value win these grants,” Pingree said. “We should be proud of these projects and the contributions they make to American history.”

Moving panorama of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’
Before the days of the cinema, audiences were once entertained by moving panoramas—long, continuous paintings unwound off spools to reveal scenes from a story across the stage. Painted in 1851, one such piece showed the popular storyline of John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” in 62 beautiful scenes. With an 800-foot-long, 8-foot-high canvas, the panorama awed audiences as it toured the region.

Given to the Saco Museum in 1896, the piece was thought lost for 100 years, before being found in 1996. The museum then restored a quarter of the canvas, which has been exhibited across the country.

Using a $50,000 Save America’s Treasures Grant, the museum will restore the remainder of the painting. It also plans to produce a video of the scenes as well as a replica of the entire piece so it can be dynamically displayed for the public as it was originally intended.

“There are only about 10 moving panoramas left in the country and this one is in the best condition,” said Saco Museum Director Jessica Skwire Routhier. “These were a big deal in their time. When this piece was originally made, it was like the release of a new ‘Harry Potter’ movie.”

Schooner J & E Riggin
In Rockland, a $300,000 grant is being awarded to the Association for Maritime Preservation to restore the Schooner J & E Riggin, built in 1927. An iconic symbol of Maine’s Midcoast working waterfront, the vessel is one of only four 1920s oyster dredgers in the world and is the only one that remains a working vessel.

Funds will be used to replace fastening, planking, framing and decking so the Riggin can continue to educate passengers about North America’s maritime heritage. The restoration work will be done in Midcoast Maine.

Administered by a partnership of several federal agencies, the Save America’s Treasures Grant Program helps preserve naturally significant cultural artifacts and historical structures and sites.

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