Martha A. Hall Collection, 1998-2003

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Volume: 6 linear feet

Organization/Arrangement: Organized as a single series.

Biographical Note: Martha Hall was born on June 4, 1949, in Malden, Massachusetts, to Dwight and Gertrude Smith. She attended Deering High School in Portland, Maine, and then Smith College, graduating in 1971 with a degree in English. There she was honored for her poetry, winning the same prize that had previously been awarded to Sylvia Plath. She was married in 1971 to Alan Hall, and they had two daughters, Gabrielle (1976) and Danielle (1978). From 1971 to 1975, Hall taught eighth grade English in South Portland, Maine. In 1972 she earned Art Education certification, and it was then that Hall began weaving.

In 1973, Hall started teaching weaving, and in 1975 she traveled to Finland and Sweden to study weaving techniques and on her return, she taught Finnish weaving at Wittenburg University in Ohio. Martha Hall, Inc., a retail store selling yarn, books, spinning and weaving supplies, was established in 1979 and in 1983 the business was expanded to include a national mail-order catalog. To further improve her marketing and management skills, Martha took business classes at University of Southern Maine and in 1987, she entered the MBA program at Tuck School, Dartmouth College.

A week before she graduated, Martha's long struggle with breast cancer began. Still, she continued to commute from Maine to New York for her job at American Express, and then returned to Maine in 1994 to work as director of customer service at L.L. Bean. She worked there until 2000, when illness forced her to retire.

In 1995 she attended the Paper Arts workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine, which marked the beginning of the creative pursuit that would become her legacy. In 1996 she took her first book arts workshop with Rebecca Goodale and Dennis Gilbert at Haystack and in the same year created her first artist's book, The Raven. She continued creating while attending several more workshops and courses in bookmaking. In 1998 she moved to Orr's Island, Maine, and graduated from the BFA program at Maine College of Art. Martha also became an involved advocate for improved cancer treatment, helped to found the Cancer Community Center in South Portland, and served on the board of the YWCA.

Her books were featured in many special exhibitions across the country, and in 2001 the Maine Women Writers Collection acquired a core collection of her books for student use in the Medicine and Humanities curriculum as well as produced a video about her work entitled I Make Books. She became the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from Dartmouth College. Martha's works are now part of the permanent collections of such institutions as Bates, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Smith and  Wellesley colleges, and Harvard University, among others.

It was Hall's wish that her books not be sold to private collectors but be made available for the public, cancer patients, and medical professionals. Hall said that her books helped her heal, that they were a way for her to explore the importance of living life fully. She died at her home on Orr's Island on December 5, 2003, at age 54.

Description: The Martha Hall Collection consists of twelve artist's books thematically focused around the artist's response to her initial diagnosis of breast cancer and the ongoing effects of later recurrences. The books are works of art and are composed of a variety of materials and sizes, which range from 2.5 centimeters to almost 60 centimeters and vary greatly in shape and presentation. The books are made of a variety of materials: handmade and computer papers, altered books about cancer, paste paper, paste and fabric covers, stamped images, black and white photographic prints and negatives, medical artifacts such as X-rays and appointment cards, stamped images, and ink drawings and acrylic paintings by the author. Some of the books are housed within handmade boxes and all books are either hand bound or of folded or accordian construction. The books' contents, created by Martha Hall, are represented through text and images. There is also a small amount of foldered material including email exchanges with Alison Brown, coauthor of Paper Passages, as well a catalog published by Smith College for a traveling exhibit from 2003 to 2004 along with a list of her works, and a letterpress booklet created by Betsy Shephard for Martha's memorial service in January, 2004.

Access Restrictions: None

Please cite as: Martha A. Hall Collection, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland, Maine

UNE's collection of Hall's artist's books are searchable in the library catalog:

Container List:
001.  Resume, Artist's Statement, Book List
002.  "Holding On, Holding In" Smith College Exhibition Catalog, 2003
003.  Postcard - "Black Box"
004-006.  Publicity Package "Paper Passages" 2001-2002
007.  "Paper Passages" emails, 2001
008.  Directions in Maine Living, exhibition catalog, 1973
009.  "An Appreciation of Martha's Legacy" by Beth Shepard, January 10, 2004
010-011.  Comments to MH from UNE students, Fall 2003
012.  Publicity material
013.  Slides (2)
014.  I Make Books (film) timecode
015.  Copy of article "Welcome to Cancerland" by Barbara Ehrenreich, Harper's Magazine, November 2001
016.  Price List, August 2002
017.  Letter to MH's fmaily from UNE Students
018.  Display cards with poems
019.  Notes to Cally Gurley
020.  I Make Books video recording