Franco American communities constitute a large percentage of the population of Maine and the Northeast region. It is the mission of the Franco American Program to serve these communities while recognizing that cultural patterns do not stop at national borders. The Franco American Program includes the Franco American Centre as well as Franco American Studies.
The University of Maine Office of Franco American Affairs was founded in 1972 by Franco American students and community volunteers. It subsequently became the Franco American Centre. The primary goal of the Franco American Centre is to support and enhance the Franco American communities of Maine. The Centre looks to disseminate the richness of Franco history, language, and culture, as well as to bridge Franco Americans both to the University campus and to other peoples of the region. The primary goal of Franco American Studies is to broaden the canon of knowledge on Franco American peoples, culture, and literature. It encourages and facilitates interdisciplinary research, faculty engagement, and student exploration.
We seek to make Franco American Programs at the University of Maine into an international center for Franco American scholarly research and community engagement. The Franco American Program responds to an unmet need: it researches, teaches, and serves the French cultures of the Northeast. This need is felt locally, nationally, and internationally. The University of Maine is singularly capable of responding to this need and providing national and international leadership. The University’s land grant mission to serve the people of Maine and its large Franco American population, its location close to Canada, and its role as the state’s flagship campus present a unique opportunity to build upon our strengths and create a national and international profile.
The Franco-American Collection at Lewiston-Auburn College began in 1972 as a community effort to preserve the Franco-American heritage by two high school teachers on the Lewiston Historical Commission. Jo Ann Lapointe and Louise Forgues assigned their advanced students to collect materials on Franco-Americans within the local community and the Centre d’Héritage Franco-Américain was born. When the founding group disbanded in 1988, they ceded the material collected to the University of Maine at Augusta’s Auburn campus. When in 1990 the Lewiston-Auburn College was founded, it agreed to house the Collection, and Professor Emerita Madeleine Giguere, a sociologist whose expertise was Franco-American studies and who had been an original trustee of the Centre d’Héritage Franco- Américain, became its first coordinator. From its inception, the Collection was an eclectic mix of archival documents, photographs, memorabilia and artifacts as well as resources on Franco-American history and culture. In 1995, Professor Giguere oversaw the establishment of a Board of Directors, the majority of whom were community members, although administrators, faculty and staff of LAC were also included.
Given a home at the Lewiston-Auburn College of USM, the Collection grew and thrived under a series of coordinators devoted to its mission to preserve and collect materials on the local and regional Franco-American community and its connections to other francophone communities in North America and beyond, most recently new francophone African residents of Lewiston-Auburn. USM-LAC has continued to support the Collection with staffing and expanded space as the Collection has continued to grow. In 2018, it came under the direction David Nutty of USM Special Collections. Under board chair Doris Belisle Bonneau, recent efforts to document the community’s Franco-American history include a significant effort to collect materials from Franco-American veterans and their families funded by the NEH and materials on the rise of Franco-American entrepreneurs from their immigrant and working-class origins. The Collection sponsors programming on Franco-Americans and francophones. In the past year, USM affirmed its commitment to the Collection’s mission through the appointment of a francophone African specialist to a newly created Fellow position that combines teaching French language with management of the Collection, shared with its Board.
Situated on the campus of the University of Maine at Fort Kent, the Acadian Archives acadiennes’ mission is to document, preserve, celebrate, and disseminate the language, culture, and history of the peoples of the Upper St. John and Allagash rivers, with a particular focus on Acadians and Franco-Americans. It offers services in both English and French.
The Upper St. John Valley area is unique in many ways. The historic Madawaska Territory, as it was called, encompassed all lands west of Grand Falls on both sides of the St. John River, up to the St. Francis River and the county of Témiscouata in Quebec. After the first Acadians families settled in 1785, they were quickly joined by French Canadians. In spite of the 1842 international boundary which divided people into two nations: Canada and the United States, the French of the St. John Valley maintained their language, their culture, and their relationships. Today, it has, per capita, the highest percentage of French descendants and the highest percentage of French-speaking people in the United States.
The Archives is a repository for manuscript materials. Its climate-controlled storage rooms hold 440 collections, over 20,000 photographs, 830 audio and visual recordings, 232 microfilms, 175 maps, and genealogical resources including Léon Guimond’s collection, registers of all the parishes of Québec, St. John Valley, and New Brunswick and numerous Franco-American communities as well. The Archives is a cultural center for the St. John Valley and beyond. Throughout the year, it hosts artistic, historical, or thematic exhibits in its gallery, invites guest speakers and musical performers, offers workshops on various subjects, creates educational activities for public schools, and experiential learning for UMFK students. The Archives’ staff offers visitors guided tours and presentations about Acadia, the St. John Valley, and Franco-Americans.
The French Institute is an academic research center devoted to collecting, preserving, arranging, and making accessible published works, archival documents, and artifacts pertaining to the French in North America, particularly the many French Canadians who immigrated to the Northeast United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. All aspects of the French presence are of interest: historical, linguistic, literary, religious, political, etc.
The French Institute was established in 1979 to honor the French heritage of Assumption College and our region. Founded by a French religious order in 1904, the College originally provided French-language education to French-speakers throughout New England, and its curriculum remained bilingual into the 1950s. Today, the College’s founding tradition of French culture is promoted primarily through the work of the French Institute.
The French Institute collection consists of both print and archival materials. We have about 500 linear feet of catalogued print materials or 8,000 items, many of them rare. Print materials include books; parish histories and ephemera; French-language newspapers, for example, a complete run of Worcester’s Le Travailleur (1931-1978) in the editor’s bound copy; among our notable archival holdings. An active community of researchers ranging from undergraduates to professional scholars uses the French Institute collection. Scholarship emerging from the Institute has relevance both for specialists and a broader public concerned with issues of diversity, ethnicity, and assimilation.
The Monsignor Wilfrid H. Paradis Archives and Special Collections is a department in the Geisel Library at Saint Anselm College. The department is responsible for the College Archives and the Benedictine Abbey Archives in addition to four Special Collections: the O’Rourke Saint Anselm Collection; the New England Collection; the Rare Book Collection; and the Franco-American Collections. In total, there are approximately 11,000 volumes in Special Collections and over 2,000 cubic feet of archival materials.
The Franco-American Collections at Saint Anselm College are comprised of book and manuscript collections. The collections were donated in 2008 by a group led by Richard Lavalliere, a local businessman interested in preserving the cultural heritage of Franco-Americans. The collections were formerly owned by the Association Canado-Américaine (ACA), a fraternal benefits society in Manchester. The books were transferred to the college in 2008 and the manuscripts in 2011.
The ACA/Lambert Franco-American Collection is a book collection named for the collection’s former owners and collectors—the ACA and Adélard Lambert. Lambert was a prolific collector of books and respected Canadian folklorist who sold his collection to the ACA in 1918. He later wrote about his bibliographic interests in his book Journal d’un Bibliophile (1927). The Geisel Library has catalogued this collection and bibliographic records are available in WorldCat.
The ACA developed a strong collection of manuscript and archival material beginning in the early 20th century. Materials include personal papers, manuscripts, clippings files, video recordings, and records of the ACA. The archival materials were transferred to the college in 2011 with minimal descriptive control. This collection has been inventoried and the college has received support to fund a project-term part-time archivist to assist with processing the approximately 600 cubic feet of materials. Beginning in the summer of 2019 we will be using ArchivesSpace, the web-based archival collections management software, to create accession records and finding aids for this collection.
Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, was founded in 1889 by Benedictines from St. Mary’s Abbey in Newark, New Jersey, at the request of the bishop of the Diocese of Manchester to educate young men for the priesthood and professional careers. This liberal arts college started small and included a preparatory school until the 1930s. Students took the usual liberal arts subjects as well as courses in Theology and French, a requirement for all students given the likelihood graduates may encounter French speakers in New England during their careers.