Museum L-A's Collections

Corporate and individual donors have contributed significantly to the wide variety of shoe shop artifacts in Museum L-A's collection.  The majority of the items represent the last 50 years of the industry through machinery, tools, shoe lasts, products, and company promotional materials.

The majority of these artifacts were found in the deserted mills surrounding Museum L-A, salvaged on their way to the dump, or donated by former textile workers and their families.

The collection consists of both modern and vintage locally produced textiles, machinery involved in local production, personal items and tools owned by the mill workers, and photographs of mill work and social life.

The current collection of brick-making artifacts represent the long history of brick production in Lewiston and Auburn.  The nature of the work changed little over hundreds of years and used few tools.  Ironically, the industry producing the longest lasting monuments left the least evidence of its existence.
Museum L-A's Oral History Project
It started with an idea from Museum L-A's Executive Director...

In 2004, I decided to hold a Mill Workers Reunion to try and find some workers who could help tell the story of the mills and what they meant to the community.  The response was phenomenal - more than 500 people attended, including 386 mill workers.  They stepped off the elevator and signed, "I'm home".  They touched their machines as if they were made of gold; they proudly showed what they did and why it was important.  And they wondered why there was a reunion because they were "just mill workers".  

As I was visiting with them, the stories I was hearing were unreal.  There was no question that these were special people.  And it is at that moment that I felt we could not let these stories go untold.  Most of the people were in their 80's and 90's already.  That was when the Workers' Oral History Project was created.  That was when the race against time began.

- Rachel Desgrosseilliers, Executive Director
Museum L-A hired professional Oral Historian Andrea L'Hommedieu to conduct 45 oral histories, chosen from the list of 386 mill workers who attended the reunion in 2004.  The project ensured that the Museum collected stories from the person who swept the floors to the President of the company.  Mark Silber, Anthropologist and Documentary Photographer, was hired to do the official portraits of the people who shared their stories.

The work completed by these two people came together to create the Museum's first special exhibit, "Portraits and Voices - Mill Workers of Seven Mills". 

During that time, the partnership between Bates College and Museum L-A was growing.  Inspired by the Exhibit, students from Anthropology, French, and History classes completed another 138 oral histories for the Museum.

There are several photos and quotes from the Oral History Project that are on display in Museum L-A's permanent exhibit.  Call us at 207-333-3881 or email for more information.  Click here to find our regular business hours so that you can stop by to learn more!
Donating to the Collection

       If you are interested in making a donation of an artifact, or helping the Museum acquire a
       rare item to enhance the collection, please click here to visit our Q&A page or contact Emma Sieh, Collections and Exhibits Coordinator, at 207-333-3881 or email

Accessing the Collection

      If you would like to examine objects in the collections or use archival materials for 
      research, please call 207-333-3881 or email  
An appointment can be set up to ensure that you get access to the items you need.

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