New director for the Portuguese-American archives

By Contributing Writer Abigail Field

It is the 10-year anniversary of the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese American archives this year, and while quite a number of exciting events are planned (like a performance by acclaimed pianist Ines Andrade this past Thursday), probably the most exciting happening is the recent hiring of the new faculty director for the archives. Dr. Paula Celeste Gomes Noversa, an esteemed professor of history who has been teaching on our fine campus since 1997, will succeed Dr. M. Gloria de Sa as faculty director. Dr. de Sa, Dr. Noversa explained, was the first faculty director of the archives since it was founded a decade ago.  

Dr. Noversa, who herself studied history and Portuguese literature here as an undergrad when UMass Dartmouth was known as SMU, is very excited to be the new director. “I will be building upon what is her really rather impressive foundation,” Dr. Noversa said of her plans for the archive in coming years. The goal of this year in particular is going to be highly celebratory, however, hosting talks, musical performances, book launches, an end of the year colloquim, and other cultural events. 

Having these archives – which house over 300,000 pages of Portuguese-American news media, 300 hours of audio and visual digital footage of Portuguese-American events and individuals, over 200 oral histories of Portuguese-American folks, as well as other collections which don’t relate to Portuguese-American studies, such as one of the largest archival collections of folk music in the United States – is an incredible feat.  

When Dr. Noversa attended the school as SMU, there was no Portuguese department, certainly no Portuguese-American archives, and while there was a center for Portuguese studies on paper, there was none in practice. Over the years, she has really seen the university become a better reflection of the community that surrounds it. “It’s a state university funded by the taxpayers, it should be a reflection of this,” she added, noting that this region had the largest Portuguese-American community in the United States. 

The position to fill the new opening for faculty director was posted in August, and Dr. Noversa applied. Afterwards, she went on vacation, and when she came back, she was invited to interview for faculty director. A few days later, she was offered the position. “I’m excited because as an historian, I get to write and teach about historical events. The focus of my research is Portuguese-American relations, so it ties into the archive. Most importantly, however, instead of writing or talking about it, I get to work toward preserving the historical evidence of this community on both a local and national level,” Dr. Noversa explained.  

Though she is new to the archive in terms of the position itself, she has had a good relationship as a history professor with Sonia Pacheco, the history liaison to the archives, for years. And of course she herself has utilized the collection.  

Beyond this year’s celebrations, she plans on expanding the archive’s collection by reaching out to Portuguese-American organizations both locally and nationally to convince them to either give the archives their papers, or to let them borrow the papers so that they may digitize them for their own archival purposes. “In this way we’ll be preserving these documents and evidence of Portuguese communities, their presence and effect, for the generations of scholars to come,” said Dr. Noversa 

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