I thought I was working on a quick task—that was my first mistake. Historical research takes time, and it’s never as easy as typing a word into a search box and clicking ‘Enter.’ 

My goal was to write clues for a History Hunt Challenge, a scavenger hunt competition between our members at the Seal Cove Auto Museum and members of the MDI Historical Society. I focused my clues on automobiles, and anticipated that hunters would be thrilled to discover this side of history in sites all over the island. 

My second mistake was forgetting that, to fully explore the histories of the island, I had to venture outside of our own collection and archives. A photograph of early automobile drivers in Acadia National Park might be housed in the MDI Historical Society collection. Automobile dealerships advertised in 1920s Pemetic yearbooks found at Southwest Harbor Public Library, and early 20th century letters condemning automobiles in Bar Harbor are in the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association’s collection. 

There’s nothing like an AHA! moment. After many more hours researching and digging than I’d planned, I found myself wishing that I could search all of these local collecting organizations simultaneously. I realized, somewhat sheepishly, that what I was wishing for was well on its way to being granted by The History Trust: a shared search of multiple collecting organizations, designed to be thorough, inclusive, and promote discovery.

The auto museum is a History Trust partner and I have had an insider’s view of the development the Digital Archive. After years of planning, preparation, and partnership, we are reaching a major milestone with a public launch this summer of the online research tool.

Soon, typing a word into a search box and clicking ‘Enter’ will get me so much further than it had before—an array of results, here on this island, just waiting to be discovered. 

~ Photo: “Leslie Brewer, Freddy Richardson and William Dolliver Homemade Car Postcard, c. 1908,” Seal Cove Auto Museum …view item

Jenna Beaulieu formerly represented the Seal Cove Auto Museum on the History Trust Governing Council and has worked with several other regional historical organizations.