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Tryworks records

Identifier: MC-097

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of scrapbooks, photographs, audio recordings, and memorabilia. Other materials include correspondence, programs, flyers, scheduling notes, administrative information, and financial records along with receipts. Further materials of note include copies of newspaper articles, documentation of the coffeehouse’s history, notes on funding, and church-related materials. The collection also contains information on performers and subscribers ranging from advertisements to volunteer notes.


  • 1967 - 2003


Conditions Governing Access

No known restrictions. Most audiotapes not yet reformatted for digital access.

Conditions Governing Access

Not restricted; however, audiotapes not yet in an accessible format

Biographical / Historical

Tryworks, a New Bedford coffeehouse, first opened its doors to the community in May of 1967. Thirty-five years of weekly performances established Tryworks as the second oldest continuously running coffeehouse in the United States before its final concert in May, 2002. Rev. John DeSousa, minister of the United Pilgrim Church, proposed the idea for a coffeehouse in an attempt to help get neighborhood kids off the streets and into a drug-free environment. Maggi Peirce, one of the co-founders, became the full-time director in 1968 and held the position until 1987. She established and firmly enforced a no drug policy, adhering to the original mission of the coffeehouse. In 1971, Rev. DeSousa left the United Pilgrim Church, and Tryworks needed a new home. Rev. David Rankin proposed the First Unitarian Church hall, and the coffeehouse found its new residence. Jody Heck, following Maggi’s resignation in 1987, took over as director and held the position until the final concert in 2002. Tryworks, over its thirty-five year existence, presented shows ranging from folk music and blues to storytelling and poetry readings. The format of the coffeehouse saw little change over the years. The Saturday evening shows generally featured three performers and ran from 8:00 pm until roughly 10:30 pm. The next hour belonged to audience members who wished to perform. These open mike, or “Open Hoot,” sessions were very popular and occasionally led to the discovery of future performers. Tryworks eventually closed its doors in 2002 resulting from a combination of declining attendance, fewer volunteers, less concerts, and increased competition from other folk music venues.


12 Linear Feet (11 manuscript boxes, 2 oversize boxes, and 10 boxes of audiotape)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired on June 5, 2009 Accession number: 09-13


MC 97, Tryworks records
Mark Procknik
November 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Repository

285 Old Westport Rd.
N. Dartmouth MA 02747 USA