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Students to Excavate Irish Settlement


Archeological Dig Expected to Uncover Clues of Immigrants’ Lives During 1800s

LOWELL, Mass. ߝ Six UMass Lowell students will get their hands dirty ߝ and learn about Irish American history in Lowell ߝ as they investigate the site of an early 19th century Irish settlement at St. Patrick’s Church beginning Aug. 16.

This is just one of the many outcomes resulting from the university’s initiative to develop international partnerships to expand global learning experiences for students and enrich the research portfolios of the faculty.

UMass Lowell has established nine international centers ߝ African, Asian, European, Franco-American, Hellenic, Irish, Latin and South American, Middle East and Turkish ߝ that are working with other universities to provide student exchange opportunities, joint degree programs and cooperative research projects.

“Our priority with these centers is to provide our graduates with a global perspective, one that will contribute to their career success. The opportunities the centers provide will deepen their understanding of multiple cultures, which in today’s shrinking world, is no longer optional, but required,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan. “This archeological dig is one of many concrete ways that students are already benefiting from our agreements with notable universities around the world.”

The archeological dig is the result of a collaborative agreement between the Center for Irish Partnerships and Queen’s University in Northern Ireland.

Led by visiting archeologists from Queen’s University, the students will excavate and catalog artifacts at the St. Patrick’s Church site. Irish canal workers built the church in 1831 and lived on the land. The excavation team expects to find items such as clay pipes, dishware and hearth remnants that will provide clues about the lives of the Irish who emigrated to Lowell looking for work during the Great Famine, a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852.

The students ߝ Dimitrios Booras, an undergraduate English major from Lowell; Jonathan Brown, a work environment graduate student from Dracut; Eunice Delice, an undergraduate political science major from Methuen; Alaina Puleo, a biology graduate student from Tyngsboro; Kimberly Scarfo, an undergraduate history major from Chelmsford; and Amanda Veiga, a Regional Economic and Social Development graduate student from Lowell ߝ applied to the program by writing essays as to why this project is important to them.

Veiga, who teaches seventh-graders about ancient civilizations and is of Irish descent, was interested in the archeological dig because of its close relationship to her ancestral background and career.

“I feel that by being part of this excavation project, I will gain more insight into the study of archeology and I can use those strategies to teach my students,” she said. “I am hopeful that we will discover clues to Lowell’s past and to the Irish-American community. I am equally excited about applying these skills to my work.”

In August 1822, about 30 Irish laborers walked to Lowell from Charlestown with Hugh Cummiskey, who would become their foreman. They dug the canals that powered the new mills. The Great Famine in Ireland brought another large wave of immigrants to Lowell.

“These early Irish people established a community that survived discrimination and socio-economic limitations to become an integral part of Lowell’s development in the 19th century,” said Frank Talty, director of academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences and co-director of the Center for Irish Partnerships.

As part of the exchange program, the students will also excavate an abandoned rural settlement in County Fermanagh, Ireland next summer.

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. .

For more information, contact or 978-934-3224