Visitors to the Franco Center are greeted inside our main entrance by a photo mural encapsulating in many ways the experience of these Franco newcomers
Pierre Nadeau immigrated here from St. Georges, in the region of la Beauce, Quebec, Canada, circa 1930. He is seen in this mural with his wife Marie (Olivier) and their 11 children, Alice, Louis, Roland, Carmen, Georgette, Gracia, Jeanette, Irene, Onesime, Antonio, and Rose. Flanking the family portrait are photos of the Oxford Street houses opposite the entrance of the Franco Center as they looked during the same time period.
The Franco Center’s Working Museum
The Franco Center, filled not only with historical artifacts but with the activities of education, art, and participation, is a living museum. Our current work as an organization is a testament to all who worked to build this structure, and build its name and renown across the region.
With their emigration here, the French newcomers from the north and from across the Atlantic brought a wealth of customs and ideas that were indelibly transferred to this new location. We are honored to be the keepers and curators of these remembrances of people, events, passages, and progression from strangers to residents.
Our facility houses an archive of objects that help older residents remember and younger residents understand the ways of life that dominated this area of Lewiston known as “Little Canada.” The museum was started in 2005 after the major construction and renovation had finished in our Performance Hall. Our collection includes roughly 1000 artifacts, and the Musee displays are changed once or twice annually. All of the items on display have been generously donated by the community, and many of the photos adorning our walls are on loan from the Franco-American Collection, housed at the University of Southern Maine / Lewiston-Auburn College. Many of the artifacts have come from the younger generations of legacy Franco-families, established in the Lewiston-Auburn area for over 100 years.
Items range from household items to vintage clothing to handmade crafts to furniture and much more. Religious items and uniforms from years gone by of many snowshoe clubs and other organizations popular in the early 1900’s to 1950’s are also represented in our displays. Photo albums, individual photos, newspaper clippings, old editions of “Le Messager”, trophies, plaques, and numerous miscellaneous items can be found in our collection. The theme that emerges from the collection is the life of a typical Franco-American family after they settled in the United States. Through these artifacts, photos, clothing, etc. one can envision what a typical family in those days might have been like.
The museum is open during the operating hours of the Center, from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday thruogh Friday, and by appointment . Everyone is invited to come and tour the display during those hours. Concert attendees can also enjoy touring the displays, especially during intermission, at all of our events. Our staff is always on hand to offer a tour of our phenomenal facility, talk about the history, and walk our guests through the museum displays.
If a school is interested in viewing the displays, hearing a talk about the history of the Franco-American community and the thousands of French-Canadian immigrants that settled in Maine, Franco Center Executive Director Mitch Thomas can schedule a tour for you or your group anytime.