Riley received award during Massachusetts History Conference
The Massachusetts History Alliance honored Interim Dean of University Libraries Joanne Riley with the 2019 Bay State Legacy Award at its conference in Worcester on Monday. The award honors individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the interpretation and presentation of Massachusetts history.
Riley joined the Massachusetts Studies Project, which empowered educators to help their students situate themselves within their local communities in 1998, and in 2007, she developed the Massachusetts Studies Network, which provided an “online social network specifically for those who are involved in local studies in Massachusetts.” Riley was ahead of her time: this was several years before platforms like Facebook were commonplace.
Riley is perhaps most associated with the Mass. Memories Road Show, the public history project she launched at UMass Boston in 2004. At Road Show events, “roadies” digitize family photos and record the stories behind the photos, to be preserved in an online archive accessible to all. The Road Show, which has been recognized as a trailblazer in community archiving, has preserved 11,000 photographs and stories from more than 75 Massachusetts communities and has engaged hundreds of volunteers and contributors across the commonwealth. The goal is to have road shows in all 351 Massachusetts communities.
“Working alongside so many amazing people throughout Massachusetts on preserving and sharing their own and their communities’ histories is a huge honor and a great joy. ’Doing history’ is a collaborative activity, and the Massachusetts History Alliance plays an important role in supporting and encouraging this work throughout the commonwealth!” Riley said.
Riley served as university archivist and curator of special collections between 2011 and 2017, when she took on her current role as interim dean. Currently, Riley leads the 1919 Boston Police Strike Project. Working with the Boston Police Department Archives, UMass Boston colleagues and community volunteers are researching the more than 1,100 policemen who participated in that historic event. She is training volunteers to research the strikers’ lives and is developing a publicly-accessible database to store and share the researched data. She also co-developed a free, online course on how to conduct accurate biographical research using open resources, and for the strike’s centennial this year, she is spearheading the coordination of a community celebration honoring the strikers, their descendants, and the project volunteers.