Brunswick Historic Center to Explore Immigration to the South Midcoast in 2022
As a focal point for 2022, the Pejepscot Historic Center in Brunswick seeks to explore the stories, challenges and opportunities that have driven more than 300 years of immigration to Maine’s mid-coast south region.
The theme of immigration to the Midcoast will be told by the historic center through a gallery exhibit, Zoom and in-person talks, an elementary school program, walking tours and other special events throughout the year.
According to the Executive Director of the Center historique de Pejepscot, Larissa Vigue Picard, immigration was chosen because of its obvious historical significance as well as its current prevalence in the local area.
Programming will be varied, mostly spanning the 1700s to the present day, Picard said, though the center also addresses European colonization of Maine’s native populations by the English and French.
“It’s a huge point that we’re going to make throughout the year, that immigration and colonization are not the same thing,” Picard said. “Colonization really complicates the notion of immigration.”
The programming will focus on racism and other challenges various immigrant groups faced upon arriving in Maine, Picard said, as well as what ultimately drew people to the area. The waves of immigration of Scots from Ulster in the 1700s as well as French Canadians in the late 1800s and early 1900s will also be covered.
Picard said the historic center plans to investigate blind spots in its collection and is seeking family histories, photographs and community genealogy to help tell the stories of less documented groups.
“You can talk about immigration as a people and a large group, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people, but you can also talk about immigration and the family level or the person level, and that It’s a very individual story,” Picard said. .
The historic center will also look at immigration to the present day, which in the Midcoast region has recently included asylum seekers from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the vice president of Mid Coast New Mainers, Carol Kalajainen.
Mid Coast New Mainers was officially formed in 2017 and the organization connects new immigrants to community resources primarily in Brunswick and Bath.
Kalajainen estimated that Mid Coast New Mainers worked with approximately 35-40 families. General challenges some asylum seekers face, Kalajainen said, include winter gear, the trauma of leaving home suddenly, and navigating a new language and culture, among others.
“It’s also important to recognize the strengths they bring: resilience, a desire to give back to the community that has helped them, a willingness to work hard, a young age in a state with an older population, and a desire to live and raise their families in peace and security,” Kalajainen said.
Among them is Odette Zouri, 43, from Bath, who came to the United States from Burkina Faso with her two children in 2016. Zouri said she came to the United States for a better life and that she had come to the Midcoast to find a safer place to raise her children.
Zouri, who recently bought a house and is now in nursing school, said an early challenge upon arriving in Maine was adjusting to a new language, though groups like Mid Coast New Mainers helped her establish a foothold in the area she now calls home. .
“I also want to congratulate all immigrants who give back to the immigrant community. It’s really a good thing,” Zouri said. “We cannot ask the host community to give us everything, we must also be able to give back to the community that has accepted and welcomed us.”
The first showing of the Pejepscot Historical Center by the Maine Historical Society is scheduled for January 20, and the gallery exhibit will open on Memorial Day weekend.
For more information, visit pejepscothistorical.org.
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