It's seldom an arbitrary event that someone seeks out a volunteer spot or a paid position in the PMM photo archives. We are an avid bunch. Everyone who lands here loves photography and loves a good story (as history often makes). Not surprisingly, everyone seems to have an intriguing personal story. Alison Gilchrist is no exception.
When Alison moved to Belfast in summer of 2016, her younger brother had already been settled here with his family for years. Yet the family had an intimate acquaintance with Maine which dated back to Alison's childhood, given their regular summer visits to Deer Isle. As many reading this will understand, the Maine coast is quietly spellbinding. The place began to work its magic on a younger Alison, though the peak experience came for her during a summer break from college when she took a cruise aboard her stepfather's 35' Hinckley around Penobscot Bay (she admits her retirement dream job would involve leisurely sailing in some way). The shifting sea- and landscapes among our local islands, the pristine quality of the light and air just offshore, were enough to capture her for good. As she admitted to us, she's always wanted to live here.
As an undergrad at Smith and at Wesleyan, Alison studied art and architecture; later, she received her MS in Historic Preservation at Columbia. Her later work experience made her a natural for the kind of work she now does here. For several years, she researched and wrote nomination proposals for the National Register of Historic Places. She worked as an archivist at the Taft School in Watertown, CT. She also worked at the Gunn Museum in Washington, CT, near where she spent many of her formative years.
It won't be a surprising to learn that she found it easy to move her life from Connecticut to Maine. Barring the distaste she shares with everyone here for 30° days when freezing rain blows sideways against the windows, Maine is home in every way now. She appreciates the friendly and laid-back demeanor which we're known for. She relishes being near the coast. In retirement, her schedule has opened up time for creative or otherwise enriching pursuits: cooking, dancing, rug hooking, reading, visiting museums, checking out local architecture.
And, of course, she has time to volunteer at the PMM photo archives. Since she loves historic photography and research, she's become a fixture in our cataloging workforce. The word "cataloging" belies the fascination the activity can hold. The process of closely examining the world of a photograph, learning more about its contents and context in order to present the most meaningful description to an audience, Alison finds to be the next best thing to...time travelling.
Thanks, Alison, for contributing your time, your personality, and your story to our nerdy world of wonders.