University of Massachusetts Boston

Ensure local history includes all communities

Yvette Wilks at the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition, May 2018
Yvette Wilks at the “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” Mass. Memories Road Show: The Hip-Hop Edition, May 2018

"In this day and age of social media and remote interaction, we are creating a forum for people to come together and meet one another face to face across a community and to understand that they have a shared history."

Carolyn Goldstein
Public History and Community Archives Program Manager

Established in 2004, the Mass. Memories Road Show was initially designed to meet two goals. First, to collect digital surrogates and personal annotations of locally held primary sources that document people, places, and events in Massachusetts. And second, to develop a searchable online repository of photographs and stories that can be used for educational purposes at all levels.

As the program grew, the Mass. Memories Road Show’s images, videos, and metadata found a home in an archival digital repository managed by the University Archives and Special Collections in the Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “In 2012, we started to use CONTENTdm®,” explained Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections Andrew Elder. “We really needed a platform that could host a growing collection for the Mass. Memories Road Show in an easy, straightforward way. And we landed on CONTENTdm.”

“The Mass. Memories Road Show is both a community history program and a collection,” explained Carolyn Goldstein, Public History and Community Archives Program Manager. “As a public research university, we provide a technical apparatus to allow communities to document themselves and collect materials that are important to them.” The library staff collaborates closely with towns and cities throughout Massachusetts to arrange in-person events where people bring photos and stories to share. “We bring our technical support and coordinate the logistics. They do all the outreach and host the event. It’s a true partnership,” she added. “The best Mass. Memories Road Show events are the ones that are controlled chaos,” Andrew said. “These people have told their family a story over and over again for decades, and then they have an opportunity to share it with someone new. So there's sort of a buzz in the air.”

"CONTENTdm is our primary access point for the Mass. Memories Road Show collection. The actual data entry process and upload to CONTENTdm, which we do as a batch, is incredibly quick and easy."

Andrew Elder, Interim University Archivist and Curator of Special Collections

Participants bring photos that the UMass Boston team scans onsite, and they fill out a form for each photo. “We don’t tell them they’re creating our metadata, but that’s what they’re doing,” Andrew said. Each item’s description is a single quote. “It’s in the voice of the contributor, not ours,” Carolyn explained. “We want to allow contributors’ voices to be primary in the record.” As library staff digitize the photos, they project them onto screens. “It's not uncommon that somebody across the room will see a photograph that has just been digitized and recognize somebody that they knew, or they’ll run into someone they haven’t seen in a long time,” Andrew added. “The event brings people together.”

The library is working to expand the Mass. Memories Road Show by developing resources to help communities manage their own events. “We’re interested in helping libraries throughout the country find the necessary partners to connect with to organize events and preserve the history of their communities,” Carolyn said. With a grant from the LYRASIS Catalyst Fund, she and her colleagues produced a short video explaining what to expect at the events and developed instructional modules to train partners and volunteers. These materials are featured on a new website linking to the CONTENTdm collection to gain more visibility.

Additional funding through a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services is allowing the team to collaborate with colleagues across the country to build an online roadmap guiding libraries in all the steps involved in “participatory archiving.” These efforts will help the Mass. Memories Road Show events and collection continue to grow and will allow cultural institutions to learn from the team’s 15 years of experience. “We’re excited to help libraries bring people together around shared histories,” Carolyn said. “And to help them gather materials documenting people and stories that might not otherwise be collected.”


  • Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Library at a glance

  • Supports 16,000 students from nearly 150 countries as part of Boston’s public research university
  • Each year, offers hundreds of instructional sessions that reach thousands of students as well as online Research Guides that are accessed hundreds of thousands of times
  • Has collected more than 11,000 photographs, stories, and videos from people throughout Massachusetts to highlight diverse and active communities
"A Phi Ki in the house" from the Mass. Memories Road Show
A Phi Ki in the house, contributed by Troy Ellerbee on 19 May 2018
"Inside 116 Hudson Street circa 1954" from the Mass. Memories Road Show
Inside 116 Hudson Street circa 1954, contributed by Cynthia Yee on 2 June 2018

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