Jesup Memorial Library holds history—not just in books on the shelves but also in an historical archive. The original and unique materials in the library’s special collections and archive offer an untapped source for research about the history of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. Kathy Woodside describes a few of these historical resources in a video marking her 2020 retirement as Collections Manager.

Kathy Woodside takes a tour of Jesup’s special collections.

Library Director Ruth Eveland embraces the institution’s role in keeping and sharing historical documents. She serves as Chair of the History Trust Governing Council and sees it’s work as “fundamental to the purpose of libraries, which is to make information and resources widely available to their communities.” She enthusiastically participates in The History Trust as one way to fulfill the Jesup’s organizational mission.

Most of the library’s archival items currently are on long-term loan at several off-island sites. The library plans to unite these materials and give them a permanent, climate-controlled home in the Jesup’s forthcoming expansion. Then, their treasure trove of history will return to Mount Desert Island, housed in state-of-the-art facilities open to all. And, they’re planning space to accommodate future donated items and materials from partnering organizations that may lack storage space.

Digital Archive

In the meantime, Jesup Library features its “vertical file” on Digital Archive. The library’s Maine Vertical File is a compilation of historical material in a variety of formats, mostly pertaining to Mount Desert Island but also including information about people, places, and events throughout Maine. Many of these items are one-of-a-kind or no longer available through other sources.

Collection Highlights

The Jesup is in possession of a unique set of papers chronicling the development and creation of Acadia National Park, a gift from Douglas B. Chapman. At its core this collection comprises:

  • correspondence among John D. Rockefeller, Jr., George Dorr, Luere Deasy, Albert Lynam, and others
  • papers documenting land transactions
  • information depicting life on Mount Desert Island during the park’s seminal years.

In addition, there are more than 400 maps and a not-yet-itemized number of original documents from life in Bar Harbor 100 years ago.

The Jesup has issues of the Mount Desert Herald (1882-1891), Bar Harbor Record (1887-1917), Bar Harbor Times (1919-1970 and 1980-2009), and Mount Desert Islander from 2004 to present. Issues of Bar Harbor Times (1881-1994 and 1996-2007) are also on microfilm at the library. As The History Trust was getting organized, the founding organizations created a virtual archive of these at newspaperarchive.com.

There’s History in that Building!

historical photo of library exterior
The Jesup Memorial Library on Mount Desert Street (c. 1914).

In September, Jesup Library gathered a distinguished and highly knowledgeable panel to talk about the architecture of the historic building. Earle Shettleworth, Pamela Hawkes, Scott Simons, and Sargent Gardiner participated in the virtual presentation. Visit Building on the Past, for Our Future to learn more about the structure, preservation work, and how new and old will complement and reflect one another in the library’s expansion.

Thus, not only is Jesup Library an historical institution—founded in 1911 by George Dorr and others—but its prominent historic building holds original records, along with books, that are significant in understanding the broader history of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. Thankfully, Ruth and the library’s Board of Directors freely share it all with the community.