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Evangeline: The Exhibition

Spirit of Evangeline

Evangeline is the touching story of young lovers separated during the deportation of Acadians from their homeland in 1755. It is, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, "...the best illustration of faithfulness and the constancy of women..." as Evangeline spends her life searching for Gabriel who has remained faithful to her. Her travels take her from her beloved home in Grand Pré to New England, Louisiana, the West, and finally Philadelphia where she gives up her search and devotes her life to serving others as a Sister of Mercy. It is there she and Gabriel are reunited in a poorhouse where they share a glorious moment of healing - a moment of spiritual transcendence - before he dies in her arms.

Evangeline is a story of survival - the survival of a people who, after being exiled from their homeland, faced rejection, homelessness, and other adversities wherever they were disembarked along the Eastern seaboard of the United States, England, and France. Over many generations, the Acadians' effort to live in harmony with their environment and each other was carried forward to their new American and Canadian lands. Some tried to assimilate with the English and other ethnic groups so they could become a part of the community. Others formed their own separate Acadian communities and retained their French language.

Evangeline was a mirror for Acadians to recognize themselves. The poem became the gateway for the displaced Acadians to reunite as a nation. The poem's success put it in the hands of readers all over the world, and soon the story of Evangeline and the historical facts of the Acadian Diaspora were known all over the world. The Acadians could no longer hide. Grand Pré became the symbol of the deportation and a pilgrimage site for Acadians. Evangeline became the symbol of the innocence, loyalty, and endurance of the Acadian people. Many endearing words have been used to describe her character: "pure, innocent, sweet, demure, kind, selfless, saintly, loyal, faithful, patient, courageous, constant, steadfast…" These are the same words that have been used to describe the Acadians of the 17th and 18th century.

Evangeline has been immortalized not only by the poem, but by the works of other writers, artists, playwrights, composers, businesses, newspapers, schools, and others. One can find the name, Evangeline, or her image, on company logos; community organizations; a 1939 postage stamp commemorating the 175 year anniversary of the deportation; various products such as soda pop, vinegar, chocolate, coffee, apples, yams, sardines, silk stockings, pottery, silverware, shoe shine; and various souvenirs throughout Canada, Louisiana, and New England, where the largest enclaves of Acadians settled.

The Spirit of Evangeline exhibition is a compilation of images, memorabilia, and other products that show the depth and breadth of her spirit as it has been incarnated in the Acadian culture. The images are from various editions of Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; postcards; photographs; product labels; and memorabilia. The Spirit of Evangeline that was born in Longfellow's poem lives in the hearts of the Acadian people, their culture, and their communities in spite of efforts to dethrone her from the position of national icon to be replaced by more realistic Acadian characters. It is not only her character traits, but more importantly her spirit, that has prevailed as a guiding light for Acadians to come home. She is the metaphor for the Acadians' quest to rebirth themselves and the immortal symbol of a nation reborn without boundaries. Evangeline brought hope, a sense of identity, and purpose to the renaissance of the Acadian nation nearly a century after its demise, and her spirit has continued to inspire Acadians young and old.

The Spirit of Evangeline is said to roam the dikes in Grand Pré at night and has been witnessed as a women dressed in a flowing white dress searching for her lover. It is also said to inhabit Acadian country in Louisiana where there is the second largest settlement of Acadians. The Acadians of Louisiana, better known as Cajuns, have their own legend of Evangeline with its own spirit.

Spirit of Evangeline is a mirror for today's Acadians to recognize themselves in their own quest for personal identity and spiritual transcendence. Evangeline's journey is what Joseph Campbell called "the hero's journey," or the quest for inner truth and spiritual evolution. Universally, the story of Evangeline is a metaphor for our own lives as we search for pieces of our fragmented souls in our quest for wholeness. It is when we end the search, as did Evangeline, that we find inner peace.

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Illustrators

In 1845, as he was starting to write Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow handpicked Hammett Billings, a popular contemporary artist, to illustrate his epic poem. Billings procrastinated and ultimately lost the job. Billings found his success years later with his highly sentimental illustrations for Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. And Evangeline was published without illustrations on November 2, 1847. After its tremendous success, Longfellow imagined illustrated editions of Evangeline's story. In 1850, the first illustrated edition of Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie was published in Boston by Ticknor, Reed, and Fields. It included forty-five engravings on wood from designs by Jane E. Benham, Birket Foster, and John Gilbert. As Evangeline became an icon that represented the tragic story of Acadians, over 160 successful and popular artists, illustrators, sculptors, photographers, and printmakers have given us their rendition of the characters, places, and events to add to our understanding of the poem and the odyssey of the Acadian people over the past 250 years since their deportation from L'Acadie, their beloved homeland.

This exhibition includes original works and reproductions of images from various editions of Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie; a sampling of old and recent memorabilia; product labels; and Company logos that have carried the Spirit of Evangeline forward and continue to make her an integral part of the Acadian culture.

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Stories About Evangeline

This poem inspired other authors to write stories about Evangeline and her beloved homeland, Acadie. Included in the exhibition are novels; an anthology; and two versions of the poem that have been published in prose form.

Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin, Evangeline: A Romance of Acadia by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. With Introduction and Prose Version by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey. Illustrated with scenes from the Moving Picture produced by William Fox. Springfield, MA.: Milton Bradley Company, 1922.

Edward, Clayton, The Story of Evangeline, illustrated by M. L. Kirk. New York: The Hampton Publishing Co., MCMXIII (1913). A narrative of the poem "…to give a direct prose rendering of Longfellow's poem, Evangeline, to awaken interest in the poem itself, and to preserve, as far as possible, the spirit of the original poetry for those who prefer their romances in prose…."

Raymond, Evelyn, Little Miss Evangeline: A Story for Girls. Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Co., 1908.

Roberts, Charles G.D., A Sister of Evangeline: The Story of Yvonne de Lamourie. Being the Story of Yvonne de Lamourie and how she went into Exile with the Villagers of Grand Pré. New Edition with Illustrations. New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers. Copyright in 1898 by Lamson, Wolffe and Company, and in 1900 by Silver, Burdett and Company.

Rogers, Grace McLeod, Stories of the Land of Evangeline, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1923.

Tallant, Robert, Evangeline and the Acadians, Illustrated by Corinne Boyd Dillon, New York: Random House, 1957.

Voorhies, Felix, Acadian Reminiscences: The True Story of Evangeline, Printed and Distributed by E.P. Rivas, Inc., New Orleans, LA, 1960. [Original Copyright, 1907 by Felix Voorhies]

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Exhibit Rental

The Spirit of Evangeline exhibit consists of:

  • over 80 16"x22" mounted and laminated images of Evangeline taken from antique editions of the poem, postcards, and product labels
  • four large canvas hangings
  • a life-size garden sculpture
  • information boards
  • prints and information boards of the deportation of Acadians
  • the Queen's proclamation of 2003
  • two portraits and memorabilia of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Evangeline memorabilia that would fill a large exhibit case
  • sheet music; comic books; post cards; lps, cds; vhs documentaries
  • books: antique editions of Evangeline, related stories, and historical references to Acadian history and the deportation.

The purpose of the exhibit is to show how the spirit of Evangeline that was conceived by Longfellow has thrived not only in the hearts of Acadians but in the mainstream culture. It shows how Evangeline was interpreted by various artists and artisans, and how she was used for tourism and commercial gain. Evangeline became the symbol of the Acadian journey and the icon of their nation building.

Spirit of Evangeline is a traveling exhibit compiled and curated by Françoise Paradis. It was launched at Dyer Library in January 2005. It is available to libraries, museums, and historical societies at a fee of $1,000 for one month and $500 each additional month to cover transportation charges, insurance, and set-up costs. If the exhibition is shipped via mail or UPS, the cost is the responsibility of the loanee.

Please contact:

Françoise Paradis, Ed.D.
Hidden Springs, Inc.
P.O. Box 1325
Saco, ME 04072

Tel: (207) 282-6730
Fax: (207) 282-6731
Email: FEParadis@HiddenSprings.info

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Exhibit Schedule

Schedule for 2007 Schedule for 2006
  • January 30 to March 30
    The Spirit of Evangeline Exhibition
    Franco-American Heritage Center, Lewiston, ME
  • February 11 to March 3
    An exhibit of Evangeline memorabilia in the Morrell Room, Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, ME
  • June 1 to September 30
    Spirit of Evangeline Exhibition at the Musée Culturel du Mont-Carmel in Lille Maine. An exhibition of illustrations from the poem, postcards, and event posters.
  • August 25 to September 30
    Spirit of Evangeline Exhibition at Acadian Archives, University of Maine at Fort Kent, Fort Kent, Maine. An exhibition of illustrations from the poem, memorabilia, products, sheet music, and souvenirs. [more]

Schedule for 2005

  • January - Dyer Library, Saco, Maine
  • February - March Acadian Memorial, St. Martinville, LA
  • April 12 - May 10 University of Maine, Presque Isle, ME
  • June 15- Sept 30 Village Acadien, Van Buren, ME
    St. Agathe Historical Society
  • October - November University of Maine at Orono

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Copyright © 2005-2007 - Françoise Paradis and HappyWebCreations
Last updated: May 26, 2007