PORTLAND — Maine Historical Society has been awarded a $500,000 Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. NEH funds will enable MHS to install compact storage and consolidate collections storage from across four buildings at the offsite collections management center on Riverside Street that MHS recently developed with Portland Public Library. The collections management facility provides climate-controlled storage space that ensures the long-term preservation of critical museum and library collections and space to care for, process and digitize collections. 

Maine Historical Society’s mission is to preserve and share Maine’s story. MHS was founded in 1822 and has been collecting, preserving, and promoting research and scholarship in Maine history ever since. MHS includes the Brown Research Library, MHS Museum, Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Maine Memory Network (www.mainememory.net), its nationally recognized digital platform which empowers communities across Maine to share their collections, stories and perspectives.  

MHS collections provides the most comprehensive resource for the study of Maine and New England history in the state. Library and archival collections include unrivaled book, architectural, map, newspaper, print, and photographic collections; manuscript holdings from the 16th to the 21st centuries, and important rarities, including a copy of the Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence. The museum collection includes approximately 20,000 artifacts ranging from prehistoric material to textiles, costumes, furniture, paintings, tools, industrial equipment, and decorative arts. MHS’s largest artifact is the Wadsworth-Longfellow House (1785-6), a National Historic Landmark and boyhood home of 19th century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. These collections, searchable via MHS’s online library and museum catalogs and with many items accessible on the Maine Memory Network, support research, scholarship, exhibitions, publications, education and public programs and loans to other institutions. 

Development of the collections management center is a critical step in MHS’s strategic effort to improve its facilities, Congress Street campus and capacity as MHS approaches its Bicentennial in 2022 and prepares to serve Maine in its third century. Since taking occupancy in 2015, MHS has moved approximately 25% of museum and 10% of library collections to the facility — including material that was stored in overcrowded or environmentally poor conditions or space better suited to other activities. It has also enabled MHS to acquire and process large, historically-significant collections, including the Bangor Theological Seminary archive. 

NEH Infrastructure and Capacity Building grants leverage federal funds to incentivize private investment in the nation’s cultural institutions. The grant to MHS was one of 30 totaling $13.9 million awarded in this cycle. 

MHS seeks to encourage and support a vibrant future for Maine by providing historical context, access to information and resources, building knowledge, fostering dialog and bringing together wide-ranging Maine perspectives and voices.