2017-04-14 / Community

Oral histories focus of new fort exhibit

The Fort Williams Park Foundation, Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society and Thomas Memorial Library have partnered to offer a month of discovery to those who wish to explore the park’s 90 years as an Army post. Throughout May, a multimedia exhibit showcases “Fort Williams: First Person,” an oral history retrospective. A series of short films, created from an archive of interviews assembled during the last 18 months, forms the core of the installation. Photos, vintage postcards, artifacts, original 1920s-era film footage and a timeline round out the library’s gallery space.

“History comes alive when recalled by those who lived it,” said Janet Villiotte, Fort Williams Park Foundation’s education coordinator, in a press release. “One of our goals in developing educational opportunities around the park was raising the profile of its prepark history.”

Villiotte teamed up with Jim Rowe, amateur local historian and president of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society, to conduct a series of interviews with 13 individuals. Firsthand recollections from the early 1930s through 1950s were recorded. Participants’ connections to the fort were many and varied. Cape Elizabeth High School students provided editing and production assistance.

Other features and events at the library are designed to actively engage visitors of all ages. Cape Elizabeth High School student artists’ rendering of Fort Williams invites visitors to use Post-It notes to “share and stick” their memories of the fort on the wall-size map in the library’s foyer. A community celebration is planned for Friday, May 5. All are invited to attend. Fort Williamsthemed map-making workshops and an “Afternoon of Storytelling” with several interviewees are scheduled for later in the month. This celebration of Fort Williams’ history culminates on Memorial Day weekend, with Army veterans and oral history participants Frances Jordan Banks and Ernest Brien sharing the role of grand marshal at the annual Cape Elizabeth Memorial Day parade.

For more information on the Fort Williams Park Foundation, visit www.fortwilliams.org.

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