Our collection reflects the life of a proud people who spent 30, 40, or even 50 years working everyday in the paragon of the textile industry, Pepperell Manufacturing.
To properly tell the story of this Mill's past is an ominous task. It takes people: many different kinds of thinkers, as well as many different kinds of doers. Both doers and thinkers join in on the creation of a living, breathing active museum. The general overriding philosophy of the Biddeford Mills Museum is simple: We need to create the medium and environment to let the great history of these mills to be told. The environment created will be highly interactive with its community. Mill veterans, townspeople and students need to be integrally involved with the ongoing programs and operations of the museum.
The idea for the Biddeford Mills Museum commenced on the day in 2010 when the developer purchased the approximate 1.1 million square foot former Westpoint Stevens mill complex. As the new owner toured the complex, he realized that there existed a treasure trove of artifacts worthy of preservation. They also noted stairways and hallways heavily worn from foot traffic: the sign that thousands of people once populated the complex.
From there spawned the museum: artifacts were gathered, a nonprofit corporation was formed, and a Board of Directors built. Over the last several years, the organizing of the museum has taken many different shapes. The tasks are many: exhibits, planning and delivering tours, archiving, public relations, website development, facilities planning, fundraising, corporate organizing, fiscal planning... all tasks that are concurrently happening now, in an effort to open an exhibit space to the Community in 2016.
The museum will have the moving parts of exhibits, tours, lectures and educational curriculum. It is our quest to make this museum truly unique in the museum industry.
To tell the story in a unique and intriguing way is to capture the interest of the museum world.
Recognized for its raw power, the Saco River became the focus of industry from the earliest European settlements along its Biddeford banks. The footprints of these earlier industries, such as lumber harvesting, grist mills and ship-building, were filled by entrepreneurs with grander visions. Biddeford’s emergence as a culturally vibrant textile hub is, at its core, the story of the individual men and women who toiled within the mills.
Over the years, the process of developing sheets and blankets underwent a number of innovations. From the use of river water and coal-fired boilers to power machinery, to the advent of electricity and oil-fired boilers, to the invention of devices and methods to increase the production and quality of textiles, individuals creatively addressed issues to ensure the success of manufacturing in this region.
To explore images depicting Biddeford’s rich heritage, both mill related and more, visit the Maine Memory Network’s Biddeford Mills Museum page.
To explore the textile history digital exhibits done by McArthur Library, visit Mills and Changing Cities, Making Cloth and The Murder of Mary Bean on their Biddeford, Saco and the Textile Industry page.
To explore more of the Biddeford Mills Museum digital collections, visit Archive.org.
To examine the holdings at Biddeford’s McArthur Library, visit their location at 270 Main Street or their website.
To learn more about the history of the Biddeford and Saco area, visit the website for the Saco Museum.
To read the West-Point Pepperell, Inc. Company History from Funding Universe, visit their webpage.