The University of Southern Maine’s Franco-American collection is one of the largest repositories of Franco-American archival material in the State of Maine. The Collection’s holdings cover local history, government, religion, language, education, industry, sports and the arts.
The mission of the University of Southern Maine’s Franco-American Collection is to preserve and promote the culture and heritage of Maine’s Franco-American population.
The Collection focuses on Lewiston-Auburn and other areas of Maine, with additional regional materials providing a link to the wider contexts of French North America.
For generations Franco-Americans have been the largest ethnic group in Maine. As the second largest metropolitan area in the state, Lewiston has a population of sixty percent French-Canadian ancestry with Auburn at over thirty percent. The primary workers for the textile mills in Lewiston after 1890 were French Canadians from Quebec or Acadians from New Brunswick and the Maritimes who came by the hundreds to seek a better living. Those who came from Canada sought employment in the mills, and it is their diligent labor and skill that is the heritage of the Franco- American community.
The French Canadians brought a cultural identity to Lewiston that is characterized by a strong connection to the Catholic Church, a distinct language identity, close family and community ties, a strong work ethic, a rich musical heritage, and a dedicated interest in education. To reflect this community identity, the Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College promotes interest and study of local culture and history for students, faculty, and the community. This archive of documents, photographs, and artifacts has become an increasingly important resource for the College. From doctoral dissertations and oral history projects to French songs and fables and recipes for tourtieres, the Collection continues to be a resource used by scholars, university students, high school students, and the public.
The Franco-American Collection contains material on 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, community demographics, work and labor issues, and French newspapers.
The remainder of our materials (newspapers, photographs, sheet music and audio-visual recordings) are in the process of being cataloged digitally.