Oral HistoriesOver the past two years, we’ve collected oral histories from almost a dozen Maine residents about the Androscoggin River. Our narrators have included native Mainers and people from away, young and old, scientists and mill workers, activists and politicians. Below are excerpts from some of our interviews.

For each oral history interview, we contact potential narrators by email, phone, or in person. We discuss what topics they might be willing to cover before scheduling an appointment in a quiet place where we can hold our conversation. We record our interviews with a Marantz PMD661 Professional Compact Digital Audio Recorder with a Shure SM58 Vocal Microphone (for the interviewees) and an Electro-Voice RE50N/D-B Handheld Interview Microphone (for the interviewers). Our interviews are informal exchanges although we do ask interviewees some standard biographical questions alongside specific queries about their relationship to the Androscoggin River. We adhere to the principles and best practices of the Oral History Association in our interviews, asking narrators sign a release form so we can use recordings for our project. All interviews will be deposited in the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives at the Bowdoin College Library for public use.

After our interviews, we take the raw digital recording and listen to it several times, extracting excerpts that both are powerful in their own right as well as relevant to particular images or writings from our project. In turn, we believe the interviews shape how we craft our images and essays. We strive to collect and present as many diverse voices and opinions about the Androscoggin River as possible. Our project isn’t an errand of advocacy or journalism; it is an artistic and scholarly venture to raise questions and complicate preexisting ideas about place and time and our connections to both.

We conduct these interviews together, seeing them as another artistic and scholarly collaboration we create in concert with our interviewees. Seen this way, these oral histories are not unlike photographs or writings—they have their own textures, tones, and emotions that make each one unique. When combined with the photographs, they reveal other complexities to the Androscoggin River and its environs, past and present, as well as the people who call this place their home.

We are always looking for more stories. If you want to share yours, please contact us.

Neil Ward

Neil Ward

Neil, a forth-generation Androscoggin River Valley resident, was born and raised in Greene, near Lewiston and Auburn. He and many of his family worked in the region’s textile and shoe mills. Neil pursued his long-standing interests in environmental politics and […]

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C. Thomas Settlemire

C. Thomas Settlemire

Tom Settlemire is Professor of Biology and Biochemistry (Emeritus) at Bowdoin College. An Ohio native, Tom came to Bowdoin in 1969 after completing his Ph.D. at North Carolina State University. A specialist in cell biology and biochemistry, he was one […]

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Naomi Schalit

Naomi Schalit is the executive director and senior reporter for the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, a non-profit organization devoted to in-depth investigative journalism. A graduate of Princeton University, she also attended the Graduate School of Journalism at University […]

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Barry Mower

Barry Mower was born in Lewiston and raised in Greene, near the Androscoggin River. A graduate of the University of Maine at Orono and Oregon State University, Barry has worked as an aquatic biologist for the Maine Department of Environmental […]

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Greg Ponte

Greg Ponte

Greg Ponte was born in Massachusetts and moved with his family in high school to Auburn, where he attended high school and later graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy. He was a Merchant Marine deck officer for more than two […]

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Harvey and Rachel Desgrosseilliers

Harvey and Rachel Desgrosseilliers both come from parents born in Quebec, Canada, who immigrated to Maine as young children. Harvey grew up in logging camps outside Bethel in the headwaters of the Androscoggin River as a young boy before moving […]

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Boye and Sue Ainslie

Boye and Sue Ainslie were born and raised in Augusta, Maine, where they attended Cony High School.  Susan worked for many years in Augusta city and regional government before returning to school to become a certified paralegal. She now works […]

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Elizabeth Wilkins

Elizabeth Brown Wilkins was born and raised in Rumford, Maine, where her father was a chemical engineer and sales service manager at the former Oxford Paper Company Mill for over thirty years. The youngest of five children, Betty graduated from […]

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Jonathan LaBonté

Jonathan LaBonté was born and raised in Auburn, Maine, the son of a longtime local Franco-American family. After graduating from the University of Maine with a degree in chemical engineering, Jonathan began his career in Boston, and returned to Maine […]

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Macauley Lord

Macauley Lord grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1978 and did graduate study in natural resource policy at the University of Michigan. He returned to Maine in 1986 to help build the famed fly fishing instructional […]

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