Two new initiatives are designed to digitally preserve the history of people of French heritage in Maine.

The initiatives include a partnership with the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, providing a book scanner and software to digitize historical collections and make the materials available online. 

Gov. Janet Mills also announced a plan to scan about 100,000 pages of historic French language newspapers produced throughout the state.

“People of Franco-American, including Acadian, ancestry are at the heart of Maine," Mills said on Monday, announcing the intiatives with the Maine State Library in Fort Kent. "I am proud to join the Maine State Library in announcing these projects, which will preserve their history for future generations,” Mills said. “Going forward, anyone will be able to easily access these historical records online, protecting the original documents and supporting public education at the same time.”

The National Digital Newspaper Program will fund the newspaper digitization project. The program, run by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, has already digitized more than 300,000 pages of historical newspapers from Maine.

According to the university’s website, migration of French-speaking Canadians into the St. John River Valley area dates back to the late 18th century.

According to the Library of Congress, much of the history of Acadian culture and life is passed down directly from generation to generation, prompting efforts starting in 1991 to document and preserve this history.

“When historical materials are scanned and made available online, they can easily be viewed by anyone with access to the internet and searched by keyword.  By making the information available in digital form, it also spares the print originals from some of the wear that comes from repeated use,” said Adam Fisher, director of collections development and digital initiatives at the Maine State Library.