Hard work brings book on Acadians to the Internet

Monday, November 08, 2004 - Bangor Daily News

Acadians in Maine link to book

FORT KENT - The Acadians of the St. John Valley have been battling long and hard to present their story to the world. The effort was assisted by the 1990 federal legislation that launched the Maine Acadian Culture Preservation Act. The act brought the National Park Service into the fold, and it launched a 92-page report on the history and culture of Maine's upper St. John Valley. The 1,000 copies of the book went quickly, but the Park Service did not have the necessary funds for a second publication.

"Acadian Culture in Maine," a 1994 publication of the National Park Service can now be viewed on the Internet because of the efforts of the University of Maine at Fort Kent Acadian Archives.

An Acadian, as explained in the book, means an American of French descent connected by history to the upper St. John Valley, including but not limited to genealogical descendants of early Acadian settlers of the St. John Valley.

The site www.acim.umfk_.maine.edu was launched Friday with some fanfare in a ceremony attended by some 30 aficionados in the Nadeau Conference Room.

"On amene un nouveau resource pour la communaute [We are launching a new resource for the community,]" Lisa Ornstein, director of UMFK's Acadian Archives, said before the ceremonies. "C'est vraiment quelque chose [This is really something].

"We've been working at this since 1998," she said. "It was Nick Hawes' idea and Steve [Michaud] really made this happen."

Hawes, assistant director of the Acadian Archives, wanted to make the volume available to the masses, she explained. The Internet became an avenue for getting the book out to the public.

"I couldn't help but jump at the opportunity," said Michaud, a native of Fort Kent who is a freelance Web designer. "This gives Acadians a world audience that otherwise could not have access to this book.

"I did not want this to feel cold or have a corporate look, so we added to it and made it easy to use," he said. "The book only had black-and-white-photographs and we added color along with many ways to travel through the book."

The site added 110 new color images. Those include paintings by Edmundston, New Brunswick, artist Claude Picard, including one of the Gran Derangement, or the expulsion of Acadians. 

UMFK President Richard Cost called the day important for the university and Acadians.

"The Web site expands the ability of the archives to carry out its main mission," Cost said.

The book details the travels of the Acadians from Gran Pre, Nova Scotia, through the Gran Derangement by the British who scattered the Acadians up and down the East Coast.

The Web site creators also added teachers' references and lesson plans to teach the travails of the Acadians. The site includes a wealth of information on Acadians in Maine.

The book also can be printed from the site.

"Information on the way of life of Acadians is being made available to the world," said Jason Parent, president of the Maine Acadian Heritage Council. "This is a critical moment in promoting the culture of the [St. John] Valley."

The book was called the "Bible of Acadian culture."

Ornstein said the launching of the Web site was a "new lease on life" for the park service's book. 


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