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Irish-American Heritage Archaeological Program at UMass Lowell

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The Irish-American Heritage Archaeological Program is a collaborative agreement between the Center for Irish Partnerships at UMass Lowell and the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork at Queen's University Belfast. The program is currently in its third year and involves archeological research and a two-week excavation program -one week in Lowell and one week in Tyrone, Northern Ireland - crewed by students from UMass Lowell and Queen’s University Belfast. This collaboration enhances the student experience by providing a global perspective to historic preservation, teaching and research, while contributing to community development through international exchange and service.

The Center for Irish Partnerships at UMass Lowell was formed in 2009 by Chancellor Marty Meehan and Provost Ahmed Abdelal to foster collaborations and partnerships with educational institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland and to expand the international role of the University. The Irish Center celebrates the rich heritage of the Irish and reconnects to the Ireland of the 21st century by developing productive relationships with Irish Universities across the island.

In August of 2010, archaeologists from Queen’s University Belfast undertook a first-ever historical archaeological dig on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church in Lowell’s Acre neighborhood, site of the first Irish habitation in the 1820s. A five-day reconnaissance excavation took place led by the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork at Queen’s: Dr. Colm Donnelly, Dr. Harry Welsh, and Ronan McHugh. In collaboration with six UMass Lowell students, the team discovered over 1,300 artifacts from the period. Students were able to unearth evidence of early Irish immigrants who flocked to the city in the early 1800s. Artifacts recovered included: rosary beads, clay pipes, oyster shells, animal bones, nails, pottery shards, bottles, and metal work. Each item provided a clue to the history of the first wave of Irish immigrants who settled in the city’s Acre neighborhood.

From July 16th to July 20th 2012, four archaeologists from Queen's University and three students from UMass Lowell will return to St. Patrick's Church in Lowell to participate in the third year of the project. This year will involve additional research on some artifacts that were found during the second year of digging. In addition, the group will travel back to Co. Tyrone the week of August 20th for an additional week of digging at the Cummiskey Homestead to try and piece together the journey from Co. Tyrone to Lowell and the difference in the way of life experienced by these Irish immigrants.
UMass Lowell, Queen’s University and St. Patrick’s Church have a three year agreement in place to take the project through 2013.

The Irish-American Heritage Archaeological Program enables students to gain a deeper understanding of the life of the Irish before and after the Great Irish Famine and the role played by the Irish in the development of America during the 19th century. It provides students with a unique opportunity to participate in a global program that will increase their understanding of a particular monument, the period in which it belongs, and their knowledge of the archaeology of the region in which it is set. It also provides students with an international experience and perspective needed to succeed as leaders and decision makers in a global society.

There will be a fundraiser to benefit this program on Wednesday July 18th from 6pm to 8pm at The Hurley Residence on 100 Belmont Ave in Lowell, MA. Tickets are $75 per person with $50 being a tax deductible donation to the Irish-American Heritage Archaeological Program. Please RSVP to Victoria_Denoon@uml.edu by July 16.

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