Two Hundred Years of the Academy: Thornton Academy Bicentennial Exhibition | Arts & Culture

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Two Hundred Years of the Academy: Thornton Academy Bicentennial Exhibition
Two Hundred Years of the Academy: Thornton Academy Bicentennial Exhibition

A special exhibition presented simultaneously at the Dyer Library and Saco museum this fall will be presented in conjunction with the bicentennial celebrations of Thornton Academy. Exploring tradition, mission and history, 200 Years of the Academy celebrates Thornton Academy's place in local history and the nation during the school's Bicentennial year. The exhibition will open with a special preview reception (in conjunction with the opening for concurrent Saco Museum exhibitions Drawn from the River and Christy Bergland: Late Seasons of Great Pond) on Wednesday, September 14 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The reception, held at the Saco Museum, is FREE and open to the public; members of Thornton Academy's community are especially welcomed. The exhibition will be on view at both the Dyer Library and the Saco Museum September 15 through November 13, 2011.

Through exhibits in the Saco Museum and the Dyer Library, Thornton's story as Maine's ninth-oldest incorporated institution or business will unfold through documents, artifacts and photos about its academic program, campus and influence and about its representation of the high ideals under which the new nation's first academies were founded. At its founding in 1811, Thornton Academy educated boys and girls from all over Maine and New England, generally the children of the upper middle class and wealthy who could afford both tuition and boarding. Boarding was necessary for many students, since even North Saco was seen as far for twice-daily horse rides.

In 1889, when Thornton reopened on its current campus, it began a new phase of its founding purpose to be a private school serving a public good. It began entering into contracts with local towns which paid the tuition for any child in their community who could meet entrance requirements. Eventually the town contracts grew to include any child who lived in the towns. Today, Thornton Academy's Board of Trustees have contracts with Saco, Dayton, and Arundel, as well as boarding students from around the world.

Along this continuum from parental tuition to town contracts, the values and focus of the Academy tradition have remained consistent. Integral to that tradition have been the principles of "educating students for a changing world" and "it is all about everything." The exhibit traces the way Thornton curriculum changed with the world, and it also demonstrates the breadth of its students' involvement not just in academics but in civic, social, academic and athletic endeavors.

This exhibition is curated by Thornton Academy Historian Cathy Coffman in collaboration with Dyer Library/Saco Museum Collections Manager Marie O'Brien. For more information about Thornton's history and the activities planned throughout the Bicentennial year, please see Thornton's website at www.thorntonacademy.org or contact Cathy Coffman in the TA History Room at 207-602-4441.