LEWISTON — Longtime Maine resident Janet Roberts has been named coordinator of the Franco-American Collection, a vast archive of books and photographs, recipes and records located at the University of Southern Maine's Lewiston-Auburn College.The work of the collection and its coordinator is about preserving the relics of Maine's Franco culture, said Roberts, who spent more than 20 years working for the Maine State Archives.
"It's about the lives that Francos lived, the music that they sang or played, the schools that they went to and the churches where they prayed," said Roberts, a Maine native.
During her tenure at the Maine state archives, Roberts oversaw the preservation of the Lewiston-based French language newspaper, Le Messager. The project saved decades of the newspaper, from 1917 to the 1960s.
"I've always been interested in ethnic groups and migration," she said.
Roberts has a master's degree in historic preservation from The University of Vermont. As an undergraduate at Williams College in Massachusetts, she studied both French and history.
"The opportunity to combine those things, that I have been interested in from the beginning, has been great," she said.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Janet Roberts as the new coordinator as she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position," said Roger Philippon, chair of the collection's board of directors. "In a very strong applicant pool, Janet stood out with her extensive background in archival work and historic preservation. Janet can read, write and speak French, and she truly understands and appreciates the important mission of the collection. We look forward to working with her.”
Roberts, who begins her full schedule in August, plans to begin by familiarizing herself with the collection. She hopes to make the collection more accessible to researchers, both online and in person.
During her tenure with the Maine State Archives, Roberts reviewed and administered grants with a variety of history-related organizations. She has also served as a preservation consultant.
"Ms. Roberts brings a depth of knowledge and experiences in the language and culture of Franco-Americans, and in private and public archives and museums that will enhance and strengthen our rich collection," said Dr. Joyce Gibson, the dean of USM's Lewiston-Auburn College. "We are particularly excited about her background in historic preservation, and welcome her to the USMLAC community. "
The Franco-American Collection contains material on a wide variety of topics including politics, religion, language, education, industry and business, theater and music, genealogy, Lewiston-Auburn history, and civic leaders. There is also material on sociological aspects of Franco-American culture relating on a state-wide and regional level covering ethnicity, work and labor issues and community demographics.
Some of the books and periodicals are cataloged on URSUS (the University of Maine online library catalog).
People may also explore the collection online at https://usm.maine.edu/franco.