Farm School Boys on Thompson Island, photograph courtesy of the Healey Library, UMass Boston

Granted I’m pretty sure I couldn’t construct a dollhouse, let alone a single-family home, without at least one trip to the ER, but I do see some similarities between writing about history and building a home. To me, I find that major historical events–and the newspaper accounts and government records associated with them–provide the basic framework to structure a narrative. They are the foundation and walls of the house, if you forgive the analogy.

But just as it’s the personal photographs, family heirlooms, and treasured items that make a house your home, I’ve found that small details unearthed from personal histories–photographs, diaries, etc.–add the necessary finishing touches that really add character to a story.

When I was writing Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands, I felt fortunate that I was able to view the personal photographs and hear the stories of not only present-day Bostonians, but of those of generations past. It reminded me that the history we learn in textbooks engages the mind, but the history we find in scrapbooks can tug at the heart. And both sources have the equal capacity to inspire our spirits.

Farm School Band on Thompson Island, photo courtesy of the Healey Library, UMass Boston

Needless to say I think it’s important that we capture these personal histories, and great work is being done every day in compiling digital histories. And if you happen to have photographs and stories related to the Boston Harbor Islands, I would encourage you to bring them with you to the Massachusetts Archives on Columbia Point in Dorchester this Saturday (September 17) for the Mass. Memories Road Show. This is an initiative of the Massachusetts Studies Project at UMass Boston and co-sponsored by Mass Humanities.

The organizers are encouraging anyone with family photographs of the Boston Harbor Islands (be they yours or your ancestors’) to bring a handful of them to the Road Show where they will be scanned and immediately returned them to you. You will be invited to share a 3-4 minute story about your photographs on camera. All photos and stories scanned at the event will become part of the UMass Boston digital archive, online at www.MassMemories.net.

The hours of the Road Show are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Click here for more information or contact Project Manager Heather Cole at heather.cole@umb.edu or 617-287-5929. Who knows? The memories you share might provide the perfect finishing touches for authors and historians writing about the Islands hundreds of years from now.