Westport Island Says Thank You
To Mary Ellen Barnes for “putting its history in order”
Westport Island has an “attic” of photographs, news articles, genealogy, artifacts and letters that tell stories of our Island’s people and their times from the early 1800’s to today. There have been residents in times past that have compiled and shared this history in writing — Bea Harriman, John and Louise Swanton, and Ron and Cora Tarbox among them — whose books continue to be the mainstay of Westport history. There have been others who have organized events, tours or special preservation efforts for landmarks like the Town Hall,the Community Church and the Squire Tarbox Inn.
When Mary Ellen Barnes came to this Island in 2003, she brought a professional background in history and historical preservation and a vision for preserving Westport Island’s historical artifacts. She had worked at the Maine Folklife Center, the Maine Forest and Logging Museum and the Yarmouth Historical Society. Her passion for history helped to motivate the formation of a History project started under the Conservation Commission in 2005. When the History Committee was formed in 2008, Mary Ellen was elected Chair and has served in that capacity until this last month. She will continue to serve on the History Committee as a member.
As Mary Ellen steps down as Chair, Selectman George Richardson, the History Committee and community members took a moment to say thank you. She has worked tirelessly in her “spare” time to advance the preservation of our history, grow the collection, and advocate for improved and expanded storage space to protect our history and make it more available to residents and researchers. The “attic” is now cleaner and more organized. The beginnings of internet – and broad-based — access to our historical collections are underway and our digital library will continue to grow on the Maine Memory Network.
A very special thank you gift was created by Sandy Besecker and Jill Cooney with the help of all the quilters who created the 2010 Westport Island quilt, the newest member of our historical quilt collection. All 18 quilters signed a remnant fabric square from the 2010 quilt. The squares were stitched into a signature quilt wall hanging that will memorialize the work and cooperation that made the quilt — and makes the caretaking of our history — possible.
Mary Ellen will continue to work as a part of the History Committee to see her vision through: more storage space, improved preservation conditions, and a small exhibit space that makes our rich heritage available and visible to all.