Memories Road Show captures communities’ past and present

Jacob Aguiar, Special to the Reporter
May. 8, 2014

“This a photo me standing on the stairs in front of my house on Brinsley street in Dorchester, in 1951,” explained Barbara Gerber, holding up a fading image in her hands. “This me standing in front of my elementary school, the Christopher Gibson elementary school, which has since burned down, This photo is from 1946, taken in front of my house on Brinsley street holding my dog Petey.”

Gerber, Savin Hill resident, was describing the photos she brought to the UMass Memories Roadshow, part of the campus’ 50th anniversary celebration. UMass Memories is a public history project housed in the UMass Boston Archives and Special Collections Department.

Archives staff work with communities all over the state, 25 so far, to provide the residents an opportunity to submit artifacts like family photographs to the State Archive.

Gerber, who is also a student in UMass Boston’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, talked about her connection to the city.
“I grew up in Dorchester, lived here until I was 20. Then I was married and moved to Framingham. I lived in suburb for about 22 years. When I became single again I wanted to go back to Dorchester because I am really a city person. I love the energy, the culture and the sense of community.”

The Mass Memories Road Show was started with that purpose in mind.
“Our guiding philosophy is that every community is what it is because of every single person that has been a part of it . Those that lived there, worked there, went to school there, they are what makes a community what it is,” said Joanne Riley, the university’s archivist and founder of Mass Memories. “I started it in 2004. It is a community history project based on people’s identity, cultural heritage and contributions to place that they live in.

At the May 2 event at UMass Boston, the focus was on Dorchester and the university itself, past and present. Alumni students, staff and faculty as well as Dorchester residents were invited to the Columbia Point campus to share their memories and photographs.

Tim Sieber, an Anthropology professor has been working on the Dorchester campus since 1974. He has been a Dorchester resident since 2002.

“When I came here it was very different from what it is today. It was before the harbor was recognized as a valuable environmental resource. The place was a dump. People used to come here to shoot rats,” Sieber said describing the early days of the campus. “But the people who came to UMass understood that this was an undiscovered gem. Sieber brought photos of his friends and colleague on trips to the Harbor Islands.

All photo submissions are scanned and digitized. They can be accessed on the Mass Memories Road Show website: