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Franco American Collection kicks off veterans project

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Professor Mary Rice-DeFosse is dwarfed by the image of a WWI poster specifically designed to recruit Franco-Americans.

The Franco-American Collection at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College kicked off its project, “Franco-Americans During Wartime: A Heritage of Service,” recently with a presentation by Mary Rice-DeFosse, Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Bates College, on the experiences of several Franco-American participants in WWI.

Rice-DeFosse described the experiences of Albert Béliveau, who served with the Judge Advocate’s Office in France, and Irenée Marcotte, who served in the Canadian Air Force. Although fighting for different countries, both men had the opportunity to use their bilingualism to experience the wider world during their military service, and both went on to have successful professional careers in this country after the war.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of its Common Heritage Grant Program, an effort to help preserve historical materials by making digital copies of items held by the community, the project will continue with two more talks in the fall, culminating in a Digitization Day later this year.

“We hope people will bring in wartime letters, diaries, photographs, and other materials to be scanned or photographed,” said Janet Roberts, Coordinator of the Franco-American Collection. “They can then keep their materials in the family, but if they wish, we will keep a digital copy so the information can be used by researchers or for exhibits.

“We are interested in Franco-American-related materials from all wars, whether a letter from your Civil-War ancestor or a photograph you took in Afghanistan last year.”

If you have materials you might like to bring to Digitization Day, are willing to be interviewed about your wartime experiences, want more information about the project, or wish to be notified of related events, contact the Franco-American Collection at 753-6545 or janet.roberts@maine.edu.

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