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Journal chronicles Massachusetts' rich history

Date: 12/8/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Massachusetts carries with its name a rich history and a prosperous contemporary culture. Professors, students and volunteers at Westfield State College (WSC) have spent the past 38 years laboring to keep the state's past alive through the bi-annual Historical Journal of Massachusetts (HJM).

WSC professor Dr. Mara Dodge recently took over as the journal's editor and publisher. She swiftly created a team that has fashioned a redesigned, improved publication, doubling subscriptions in the past year.

"We're recording the rich past of this extraordinary commonwealth with an eye on the future," Dodge said. "That's why, 'preserving the state's cultural heritage for future generations' is our motto."

Dodge explained the journal helps teachers provide their students an engaging, historically accurate portrait of the past. She added each article is put through a peer review process and then verified by two experts, within or outside of the college.

"We believe in a 'living history' that connects the past with the present and strives to create a truly representative 'people's history' of Massachusetts," Dodge said. "We strive to include the history of the state's many racial, ethnic and minority groups, including both past and recent immigrant communities."

Dodge noted future publications will document lesser known immigrant populations such as those from South America and Southeast Asia. Last semester's edition included articles on black and Irish relations in 19th century Boston; the scholars of Harvard University's history department from 1920 to 1950; and 19th century baseball.

"You thumb through a book like this, you get a sense for how much work goes into a publication ... of this caliber," Christopher Shannon, a senior at WSC and intern at HJM, said. "This is in depth, accurate material and it's interesting to boot.

"It's a great publication and the intern program is a great way for students to [gain] professional development of job skills," he continued.

WSC President Evan Dobelle agreed. "This journal not only provides a valuable service in documenting our state's past, but also offers important hands-on publishing experience for our highly-motivated history and English majors," he said.

Nicholas Aieta, HJM advisory board member and assistant professor in WSC's history department, noted the journal is one of the few unaffiliated with a historical society or historical association; rather, WSC and subscribers' $12 annual dues finance the journal.

Dodge called HJM's shoestring operation "a labor of love," which requires staff to work well beyond their allotted hours without pay.

"It's really something I think about 24 hours per day," she said, adding the staff is already hard at work on next year's editions.

For more information about the HJM or to become a subscriber, visit their Web site,, or contact Dodge at 572-5620 or e-mail