Kris Boelitz holding a photograph of her family members.
Kris Boelitz at the Dorchester (Codman Square) Mass. Memories Road Show in 2006. This candid photograph of Boelitz was the inspiration for what we now call a “Keepsake Photo.”

The Mass. Memories Road Show (MMRS) grew out of the place-based education initiatives of UMass Boston’s “Massachusetts Studies Project” (MSP), which provided resources for Massachusetts teachers and students in the areas of local history, culture and environmental studies. A series of conversations with librarians, MSP board members, teachers, and local historians coalesced in a vision of a public history project inspired by elements of PBS’s Antiques Roadshow (people bringing their personal treasures to a local event for professional perusal) and the Library of Congress’ American Memory Project (a library organizing digitized images from a common heritage to be shared on the internet).

Established in 2004, the MMRS was initially designed to meet two goals: collecting digital surrogates and personal annotations of locally held primary sources that document people, places and events in Massachusetts; and developing a searchable online repository of sources that could be used for educational purposes at all levels. As the project developed, the team discovered that it met another important need that has been incorporated as a key goal of the project: community building. Mass. Memories Road Show events have turned out to be deeply engaging community events that connect people within the community to each other and to others throughout the state, and have proven to be meaningful in lasting ways to the people who contribute and to those who volunteer.

Volunteers and staff at the Dorchester Mass. Memories Road Show, 2006

The first Mass. Memories Road Shows were small, experimental collaborations held in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Massachusetts in collaboration with the Youth Council of local organization Social Capital, Inc. The 2006 event held at the Dorchester Historical Society was the culmination of these early efforts, incorporating most of the elements, spirit, and logistics found at Mass. Memories Road Shows today. Within a few years, as the MMRS gained momentum and visibility, team members aligned the project to the goal of visiting each of the 351 communities in Massachusetts.

In 2010, the Mass. Memories Road Show found a home in University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston. Currently, the UASC team welcomes two types of applications: events documenting a Massachusetts town or a Boston neighborhood and events documenting a theme that is relevant to the history of the Commonwealth such as World War II, Irish immigration, or hip-hop culture.