LANCASTER — The Town of Lancaster and Plymouth State University (PSU) launched a Legacy Project — “Lancaster: Stories of People and Places” — at a multi-faceted presentation on Monday afternoon, April 27, at the Weeks Memorial Library.
PSU five-year senior Michael “Mike” DesRoches of Stratham, who spent the past year enthusiastically researching and developing the Project with the assistance of PSU junior Amanda Gagne, took center stage to explain the work he completed with guidance from key Lancaster residents: town manager Ed Samson; Weeks’ librarian Barbara Roberts; and Elizabeth “Betty” New- ell, board member of the Lancaster Historical Society.
The two students worked under the direction of PSU Professor Linda Upham-Bornstein of Lancaster and volunteer on-site resource Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar in the History Department at Brown University and retired director of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning.
Samson and town planning and zoning coordinator Ben Gaetjens-Oleson asked for assistance from PSU’s Center for Rural Partnerships in developing a long-term heritage project in conjunction with the town’s 250th Anniversary in 2014.
DesRoches, who will receive his B.A. from PSU on May 16, did such a thorough job that, thanks to a Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund grant, he received an internship to create a Township Legacy Guide, designed to help cities and towns across the state, Upham-Bornstein explained.
“Mike presented the Guide at the N. H. Preservation Alliance Conference in Concord and at the PSU Student Showcase of Excellence,” she said.
He used well-established research protocols and techniques, including recording seven oral histories to gather historical information to gain an understanding of Lancaster’s past and recent trajectory. He interviewed Samson, Newell, Alan Savage, Edward “Midge” Rosebrook Jr., Constance Cardinal, Kenneth Walker, and Magdalena Randall. DesRoches also used town history books, microfilmed copies of this newspaper and others, obituaries, church records, tax records, and real estate records.
He spearheaded making new visible manifestations of the community’s history and heritage through use of today’s technologies: a local history Web site —lancasterproject.blogs.plymouth.edu with links on the right-hand side of the home page — plus scanned photos plus mobile-phone-activated Quick Response (QR) Bar Codes to use on eight signs to be placed along Main Street for a downtown walking trail to create a sense of place for residents and visitors. Rack cards will available at the town’s Welcome Center.
PSU resources — the Center for Rural Partnerships, the undergraduate history program, and the graduate Heritage and Historic Preservation programs — were key to the support of this Outreach Initiative.
PSU President Sara Jayne Steen, who will step down on June 30 from the post she has held since June30, 2006, spoke of her pride and pleasure in the students’ work and the collaborative efforts of PSU professors and programs. When Steen stepped to the podium, Samson said, “She doesn’t look like a president!”
Others from PSU on hand included Provost & vice president of Academic Affairs Julie Bernier; Steve Barba, who also is stepping down from his University Relations post on June 30 and plans to write his memories of The Balsams; Marcia Schmidt Blaine, Ph.D, of the Department of History, Philosophy, & Social Studies Education; and Director Ben Amsden (blamsden@plymouth. edu) of the Center for Rural Partnerships.