Special Collections

Sampson Center History

History of the Jean Byers Sampson Center

for Diversity in Maine and Timeline


Creating the Center

The Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine can trace its inception back to 1994, when Provost Mark Lapping formed an ad hoc committee to discuss accepting a large collection of books, journals, posters, photographs, artifacts, and the papers of Gerald E. Talbot (first African American to serve in the Maine State Legislature). By creating the African American Archives of Maine, the Provost saw the opportunity for the University to embrace diversity by building a resource and attract in a more diverse academic community. Three years later, based on the initiative of faculty, staff, and students, the Provost created the Gay and Lesbian Archives. By July of 1997, this commitment to diversity was formalized when the University of Maine System Board of Trustees accepted the University of Southern Maine’s proposal to unite the African American Archives, the Gay and Lesbian Archives, the Franco-American Heritage Collection at the Lewiston-Auburn College, and a planned Jewish Archives, into a Center for Diversity in Maine.

Jean Byers Sampson and Shepard Lee

The Center was named after Jean Byers Sampson to honor her life-long work for diversity, civil rights and liberties, and academic freedom. Before Sampson moved to Maine in 1952, she had worked for the NAACP in New York, researching and writing a report on African Americans in the military. Her 1947 report was circulated in government offices and helped lead to the desegregation of the armed forces. Her experience helped to found the Central Maine branch of the NAACP where she served as president during the 1960s. Sampson also served on the Maine Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission which did several studies on discrimination in rental housing in Maine. Sampson was Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union in the late seventies.

Sampson served on the University of Maine’s Board of Trustees, and as Chair, led the Board to support a homosexual conference at the University and defy the Governor when he demanded the Board’s resignation. In accepting the American Association of University Professors Alexander Meiklejohn Freedom Award on behalf of the Board, Sampson said “The University must be accountable to society and it must be responsive to its needs….” It is this understanding of the university’s role in society that made it fitting to name a center to document and study diversity after her.

It was Shepard Lee who first suggested to Provost Lapping that the Center be named to honor Jean Byers Sampson. Naming the Center that would hold the African American, Jewish, Franco-American, and Gay and Lesbian collections after Jean Byers Sampson would honor her life long work in Maine. As USM President Pattenaude later wrote “Jean represented all that is good in humanity in her respect for all people. USM will be proud to be home to a center devoted to issues of diversity and pluralism…”

Early Programming

Even though the Center existed mostly on paper in the early years, programming was always a priority. In February 1997, the African American Archives of Maine hosted a talk by Yolanda King, “Multicultural Diversity: The Next Frontier.” When Maureen Elgersman Lee became faculty scholar for the African American Archives in 1997, she established a newsletter, The Griot. The first issue was published in February 1998 and announced the first annual exhibition from the collection, “’What Shall I tell My Children?’: Selected Pieces from the African American Archives of Maine.”

Meanwhile, a committed group of USM faculty, staff, and students as well as community members were creating programming around the new Gay and Lesbian Archives. An opening reception for the archives was held in February 1999 with a performance by Brian Freeman of material from his play “Civil Sex.”
In 2001, the Franco-American Heritage Collection hosted an exhibition “Hands & Harmony: The Culture of Work and Music in Lewiston’s Franco-American Community” in the Area Gallery of USM’s Portland Campus.

The emphasis on programming has remained steady. In 2004, the Sampson Center was visited by seven University classes, created three exhibitions, and sponsored eight programs.

Faculty Scholars

It is the work of the faculty scholars that has ensured the Sampson Center would produce high quality programming. Each collection has a faculty member who is responsible for collection development, interpretation, programming, and outreach. Maureen Elgersman Lee was hired in 1997 as Assistant Professor of History and faculty scholar for the African American Archives of Maine. In the fall of 2000, Barry Rodrigue became Assistant Professor of Arts & Humanities / Franco-American Studies for USM’s Lewiston Auburn College where he also serves the Franco-American Heritage Collection. These full time faculty were joined in 2001 by adjunct history professors and scholars-in-residence Abraham J. Peck and Howard Solomon. Along with serving the Jewish Archives, Peck is director of the Academic Council for Post-Holocaust Christian and Jewish Studies. Howard Solomon, recently retired from Tufts University, is now helping to build the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Collection.

It is not just their individual skills and experience as scholars that makes their contributions to the Sampson Center so important, but their joint work. Each collection has its particular constituency, but the scholars have reached out to the entire Maine community by speaking for academic research and the importance of civil liberties and a diverse society. In January 2003, the four scholars wrote a strong statement in support of Lewiston’s Somali community. In November 2004, three of the scholars did a presentation “Memory, History, Diversity: Harvesting the Resources of the Sampson Center.” In 2005, they presented the Sampson Center’s first annual event, “The Ties that Bind: Experiences of Family in Maine, 1900 to the Present.” The event combined an exhibition, lectures, and a published catalogue. The scholars are also reaching out to public school teachers by offering a workshop through the Maine Humanities Council to introduce the Sampson Center into the classroom.

Changing Names and Building the Organization

Although the name of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine has never changed, the names of the collections have changed to reflect the best academic practices. The term “collection” has been substituted for “archives” since it better expresses the nature of the material being preserved. The current names are the African American Collection of Maine, the Judaica Collection, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Collection. In 2003, the Franco-American Heritage Collection was removed from the Sampson Center’s administration. The Franco-American Heritage Collection is geographically separated from the Sampson Center and it is funded by and reports to USM’s Lewiston Auburn College.

In 2003-04, the Sampson Center had a rebirth fueled by changes in personnel and the construction of a new facility. The Sampson Center has been administratively part of Special Collections, a department in the University Libraries, which report to the Provost. In 2000, Joseph S. Wood became Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Under his leadership, the Head of Special Collections, Susie R. Bock, was appointed Director of the Sampson Center in 2002. During that year and the next, working with the Sampson Scholars, the Director, and the Interim Library Director Zark VanZandt, Wood created a new structure for the Sampson Center. While this administrative structure was being created, a new facility for Special Collections was built on the 6th floor of the Glickman Library. The new facility would have offices for the scholars, a reading room for the public to use the collections, a seminar room to host classes, work areas for the Special Collections staff, and a stacks area with climate control and state-of-the-art security. The new facility opened in April of 2004, and in May the Sampson Center Steering Committee met for the first time.

The Sampson Center Steering Committee consists of University faculty, staff, and students, as well as members of the local community. Chaired by Bob Greene, retired AP reporter and local historian, the Steering Committee has focused on strengthening the Sampson Center so that it can accomplish its mission. The exhibitions, classes, and programming created by the Sampson Center in 2004-2005 is testament to the Committee’s success.

Now, in the fall of 2005, the Sampson Center is poised for a new level of research, education, and outreach. “The Ties that Bind: Experiences of Family in Maine, 1900 to the Present” will engage the community in an examination of Maine history and diversity.

Dated: September 2005



December Ad hoc committee meets regarding African American Collection


Gerald E. Talbot donates his collection which founds the African American Archives of Maine. The collection is placed in the Gorham Library.


September and December meetings of African American Archives of Maine advisory board


September through February 1996 student Andrew Horvat hired to inventory and pack Talbot Collection


Provost and USM community create the Gay and Lesbian Archives. From this time on there are programs sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Archives.


February 21, “Multicultural Diversity: The Next Frontier”, reception and presentation by Yolanda King


July, UMS Board of Trustees approves the creation of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine in the USM Libraries consisting of: African American Archives of Maine, Franco-American Archives (at LAC), Judaica Collection, Gay and Lesbian Archives.


Maureen Elgersman Lee hired as Faculty Scholar for the African American Archives of Maine and Assistant Professor of History


September, Stephen Bloom appointed Library Director and becomes Director of the Sampson Center


Madeleine Winterfalcon hired as a graduate assistant. Acquires and processes collections for the Gay and Lesbian Collection.


February 26, Gay and Lesbian Archive of the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, opening celebration, lecture and performance by Bayard Rustin “Scenes of Civil Sex”


March, Sampson Advisory Board meeting


Susie Bock is hired as Special Collections Librarian/Archivist. At this time the Sampson Collections (except) the Franco-American are managed by what was known as the Archives Department and is eventually renamed Special Collections.


September, Sampson Advisory Board meeting


October 14, the University has an event to celebrate the creation of the Sampson Center


David Andreasen hired as part time Library Assistant in Special Collections and half his time is devoted to the African American Archives in Gorham. The following year Andreasen becomes full time.


March 2, “Act Up Fight Back Take Pictures, Ten Years of Queer Activism in Maine”, opening celebration for exhibition of Annette Dragon photographs


November 20, We Were There, history of a gay summer compound on the coast of Maine in the early 1900s, talk by author Vance Muse


Abraham Peck becomes Scholar-in-Residence in the Judaica Collection


April 6, “Full Frontal Exposure: Visibility, Anxiety, Solidarity, and Pride” celebration of the Michael Rossetti Papers donation


November 20, We Were There, history of a gay summer compound on the coast of Maine in the early 1900s, talk by author Vance Muse


April 7, “How Will We Tell Our Story”, presentation by Susie R. Bock, 8th Annual N.E. GLBTQA College Conference


May, June, August, October, and December, meeting of African American of Maine advisory board. There are no further meetings.


March, September, July, Provost holds breakfast meeting of Friends of the Gay and Lesbian Archives. Several committees are created: Programming, Acquisitions, Fund Raising, Scholarship. Programming mounts some events and Fund Raising meets but not much is accomplished. Susie sends out 15 email postings to those who added the Provost’s meetings and others interested in the Gay and Lesbian Archives


October 11, “Coming Out: The History, and Future, of an Idea”, lecture by Howard Solomon


November 8, GLBT Academic Spotlight Series Presentation, by Professor Karin Schoenpflug


November 30, “The Radical Faeries”, slide presentation and lecture by Keith Gemerek


February 14, March 14, April 11, GLBT Academic Spotlight Series Presentations


April, “Pre-Stonewall Gay Literature”, lecture by Michael Bronski


June 1, “Southern Maine Pride”, Gay and Lesbian Archives of the University of Southern Maine, booth at festival


Howard Solomon becomes Scholar-in-Residence in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Collection


African American Archives of Maine changes name to African American Collection of Maine (not positive about this date)


Director of the Libraries/Sampson Center Bloom resigns from USM


July, meeting of Head of Special Collections, Provost, Interim Libraries Director about the Sampson Center and work begins on a governance document


Susie Bock appointed Director


February 26, GLBTA student lunch, presentation on Gay and Lesbian Archives by Susie R. Bock


February 28, “Women’s History Resources in Maine” at University of Maine, Orono, presentation by Susie R. Bock on women’s collections in gay and lesbian archives


May, Sampson Board meeting


July 1 through September 9, “Hurricane Fran: Frannie Peabody’s Life of Service”, exhibition, Area Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center


October 22, Presentation to Class: HRD664 Culture, Tradition, Diversity


December 19, “Not in Our Town, Not in Our State” press conference on hate groups in Lewiston


September 20, “Africana Women in Maine”, conference


February, Monthly meetings of Director and Faculty Scholars begin and continue during the academic year.


Gay and Lesbian Archives renamed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Collection


March 1, “Preserving the Pride: Archive Your Records”, workshop by Susie R. Bock, Northeast Regional Pride/Follow ME And Celebrate Diversity


July, meetings with Provost, Libraries Director, Associate Librarian, Director of Sampson Center regarding the Governance Document and the structure of the Sampson Center


July, Franco-American Heritage Collection removed from Sampson Center


August, Southern Maine Pride Event


September, Maureen Elgersman Lee tenured and promoted to Associate Professor of History


September, November meetings of Provost, faculty scholars, Sampson Director, Libraries Director to establish administrative structure for Sampson center


October, David Nutty begins as Libraries Director


November, Sampson Center Governance Document accepted


February 2 through March 29, African American Collection of Maine “Home is Where I Make It: Race and Labor in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine”, reception and exhibit


April, African American Collection of Maine moved from Gorham into the new Special Collections facility. Other Sampson collections also moved into new facility.


April 2-3, “Charlie Howard 20 Years Later: How Far Has Maine Come, Anti-Gay Discrimination and Violence in Maine, 1984-2004”, Charlie Howard Conference & Traveling Exhibition


April 20, Fair Housing in Maine Panel Discussion


May, first meeting of Sampson Center Steering Committee


June 16, Southern Maine Pride Week, Open House & Booth at Deering Oaks Park


June 24, “Program to Honor the Gerald E. Talbot Collection & Recognition of the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Gerald and Anita Talbot”, reception and party


November 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance


November 18, Sumner Bernstein Papers, presentation by Susie R. Bock, for ENG 150 “Reading Other People’s Mail” class


January 25, MLK, Jr. Celebration “A Call to Action: A Community’s Dream”, presenters included Maureen Elgersman Lee


February, “Old Wine in New Wine Skins: Bringing Out the African American Collection”, annual exhibition and reception


March 17, “Women of Color in the Americas” panel discussion with Maureen Elgersman Lee, Eve Raimon, and David Carey


April 14, “STONEWALL: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution”, lecture & reading by David Carter


April 23, Sandra Wachholz’s Criminology Class, presentation by Susie R. Bock


June 15, Open House for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Collection, with Howard Solomon and Susie R. Bock


July 18, GLAD Reception, for Maine community to meet new executive director


July 18, through October 14, “Act Up/Fight Back/Take Pictures: Photographs of Annette Dragon”, exhibition


October 13, 2005, “Equal Rights for ME: the 30 Year Struggle for LGBT Rights in the Maine Legislature,” lecture by Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science and State Legislator Herb Adams


October 27, 2005, “The Ties That Bind: Experiences of Family in Maine, 1900 to Present”, opening reception for Sampson Annual Event


October 27, 2005-January 27, 2006 “The Ties That Bind: Experiences of Family in Maine, 1900 to Present”, exhibition


November 1, "Migration, Mortality, and Maturation: Three African American Families of Bangor and Portland ", lecture by the Faculty Scholar for the African American Collection of Maine, Maureen Elgersman Lee


November 8, “If Not Jerusalem, Then at Least 'The Jerusalem of the North': Continuity and Discontinuity in Three Portland Jewish Families," lecture by Scholar-in-Residence in the Judaica Collection, Abraham J. Peck


November 14, “Engaging Maine’s Diversity: Bringing African American, Jewish, and LGBT Materials into the Classroom”, workshop on using the Sampson Center collections


November 15, "Ozzie and Harriet, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Culture Wars: LGBT Families in Maine, 1960 to the Present," lecture by the Scholar-in-Residence in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Collection, Howard M. Solomon


November 19, Transgender Day of Remembrance


December 1, Creating Portland, by Joe Conforti, reception to celebrate publication


February 1-April 30, Annual African American Collection of Maine, exhibition


February 3, Black Bangor, by Maureen Elgersman Lee, reception for Annual African American Collection of Maine exhibition and book signing


March 21, Engendering Mayan History by David Carey Jr. book signing and reception

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