On March 14, 2012, the Joseph P. Healey Library at the University of Massachusetts Boston presented the first annual Joseph P. Healey Library Community Archives Award to The Irish Ancestral Research Association, or TIARA, for their work rescuing and preserving the historic records of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters. On the significance of these records, Joanne Riley, University Archivist for UMass Boston, notes that “for many genealogists, history buffs, and Irish families, the Foresters records are a treasure trove of ancestral information.”
Several members of TIARA and the Catholic Association of Foresters were in attendance, as were members of the general public and representatives from programs at UMass Boston. The Award was presented at a reception featuring music and storytelling by Nora Dooley and Susan Miron, and a presentation by TIARA member Susan Steele on what the Foresters records reveal about Massachusetts and U.S. history. In one example, Steele discussed the 1919 death of Foresters member James Lennon who, according to his death certificate, died as a result of the “bursting of molasses tank” in the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, an event that resulted in the deaths of 21 people and injured 150.
The evening also featured the opening of an exhibition by Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston. “Calling the Heart Back Home: Irish-American Stories from the Archives” features images and information about the history of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters (now called the Catholic Association of Foresters) and the genealogically and historically significant information contained within the Foresters records, as well as a range of Irish-American stories as seen through archival images and documents from Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston.
In 2011, TIARA donated the records of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters to Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston and with the acquisition of these records, the department formally launched their Community Archives initiative, with the intention of, said University Archivist Riley, “creating a space where community-based history and archives groups can engage with, learn from, and preserve materials of historical value to their own organizational missions and objectives.”
Archives & Special Collections at UMass Boston collects materials that reflect the University’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities, including the Boston Harbor Islands.