In 1972, a collection of historical materials concerning the Franco-Americans of the Lewiston-Auburn area was begun at St. Dominic's High School - under a program sponsored by the Lewiston Historical Commission, the French-Canadian Institute of St Francis College (University of New England), and the Maine Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Over the next fifteen years, this collection continued to grow, as the Centre d'Heritage Franco-Américain (Franco-American Heritage Center), and was administered by a group of trustees. The Centre housed at various sites around the Lewiston-Auburn area, relocating as it outgrew each space in turn. By 1988 it was housed at the Sacred Heart School in Auburn, and the Centre's leaders were searching for a way to permanently maintain the Collection at a prominent local institution.
It was then, in the fall of 1988 that the University of Southern Maine at Lewiston-Auburn (USM/L-A) opened its doors. People from the old Centre and from the new College felt it would be a good idea to give the collection a permanent home there. JoAnne LaPointe of the Centre and Harlan Philippi, the first Dean of the new College, arranged the transfer of the collection in 1989.
Initially, the collection was housed in the campus library, as a temporary measure, but it was soon moved to a small room on campus, where it became known as the Collection d'Heritage Franco-Américaine (Franco-American Heritage Collection). From 1990 to 1996 it was run by retired sociology professor Madeline Giguere.
The Community Advisory Board in 2000 - left to right, seated: Barry Rodrigue, Tracey Mousseau, Madeline Roy, Madeliene Giguère. Standing: Susanne Pelletier, Linda Pervier, Cindy Larock, Robyn Holman, Roger Philippon, Donat Boisvert.
In 1995, a Community Advisory Board was formed to oversee operations, and a half-time coordinator hired. Madeline Roy became the first coordinator in 1995, and the Collection moved into a new, two-room suite. In 2000, Dr Barry Rodrigue was hired to become the first scholar attached to the Collection. In addition, he created the first program of Franco-American Studies at the College.
Dedication of the new Reading Room, November 2001. Left to Right, Betty Robinson, Dean, USM LAC; Representative John Baldacci; Prof. Madeleine Giguère; Richard Pattenaude, President, USM.
In 2001 the Collection adopted a mission statement and moved into a new wing of the campus. The new facility, consisted of a public reading room, storage stacks and administrative office, all of which are maintained at standard archival conditions.
2001 also saw Donat Boisvert hired as the Collection's full-time coordinator. In 2003 the Collection adopted formal by-laws, as well as policies and guidelines for Collection use.
In 2012, the Collection moved to an expanded space in the same wing of the facility. The construction of the facility was made possible by a generous gift from Madeline Giguère, after whom the reading room is named.
In 2004, Madeline Giguère passed away, generously ensuring the Collection's future stability through a bequest in her will which established an endowment for the Collection. In addition, a scholarship fund was established in her name, which seeks to support students with an interest in Franco-American studies at USM LAC.
James Myall was Coordinator for the Collection from 2010-14, Followed by Janet Roberts from 2015-2017.