The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses over 35,000 volumes reflecting an evolving history of collecting at UMass Amherst. Beginning in the late 1860s with a focus on agriculture and the natural sciences, SCUA has developed into a resource for the study of regional and local history in New England, emphasizing our varied cultural, social, religious, and political histories.
Beyond New England, SCUA has built strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the history of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to the culture of the Cold War: a growing collection of books printed in East Germany and one of the largest collections of materials in the United States from the Solidarity movement in Poland.
All books and periodicals held by SCUA are cataloged in the Library’s online catalog and summary descriptions of most major book collections, but not individual titles, are included in SCUA’s own online catalog, UMarmot.
Selected areas of collecting interest:
Agriculture, horticulture, natural history
The library holds key works in apiculture, entomology, gardening, landscape design, organic agriculture, pomology, sustainability, and viticulture, with numerous works in animal husbandry. Materials date back to the 16th century, however the strength of the collections lies in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Cookery in New England
The collections of Beatrice A. McIntosh, Athena Savas, and Lynette Foucher, among others, include books, pamphlets, and ephemera relating to the culinary history of New England, including many thousands of cookbooks published by church and community organizations.
European history and culture
Diverse collections ranging from materials on Revolutionary-era Europe, 1789-1848 (the Binet and Brabançonne Collections); Anglo-American Political Economy; twentieth century German history (the Harold Gordon Collection on the Interwar period and the Hans Joachim Ring Collection on East German cinema); and Communist-era Poland (Basia Jakubowska Schlatner Solidarity Collection).
Gay and Lesbian Literature
The centerpiece extensive of our holdings is the collection of gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings and her partner, Kay Tobin Lahusen, which includes books on the history of homosexuality in America, works by and about gay writers, gay activism, and related topics.
Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press, among others, as well as the poetry libraries of Francis, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Halley. Although the literary collections focus largely on New England writers, SCUA houses fine collections of the works of William Morris and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers.
New England history and culture
Local and regional histories, novels, and other writing about Massachusetts from the eighteenth century to the present. These include an array of election, ordination, installation, dedication, fast-day, mission, farewell, and funeral sermons; Fourth of July orations; and addresses to or by benevolent, cultural, and civic organizations in the Commonwealth. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Valuable collections for the history of antislavery in New England and politics of the left. The John P. Roche and Steven Siteman Collections focus on the American left from the late 19th century through the 1950s, with some European materials and materials from the political right.
The acquisition of the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois in 1972 established SCUA as a center for research in African American history. In subsequent years, UMass has supported publication of three volumes of Du Bois’ correspondence and SCUA has digitized the papers and made them freely available on the internet while serving as a resource for many dozens of scholarly articles and books. SCUA continues in its efforts to build around the Du Bois collection, adding other important printed and manuscript materials both in African American history and in the history of efforts to promote social change.
Every February, SCUA and the Du Bois Department of Afro-Americans Studies at UMass Amherst commemorate Du Bois’s birthday by co-sponsoring a public colloquium on Du Bois and his legacy. Our lecturers have included distinguished scholars such as Herbert and Bethina Aptheker, Randolph Bromery, Clayborne Carson, Arnold Rampersad, and David Levering Lewis.
Significant collections (view all)
- Africa American Institute. Records, 1953-2014
- Antislavery Pamphlet Collection
- Several hundred pamphlets relating to political antislavery in the United States, with an emphasis opn New England.
- See our Antislavery pamphlets digital archive
- Aronson, James. Collection, 1946-1983
- Editor of the National Guardian
- Banks, Katherine Bell. Papers, 1926-1960.
- Letters from W.E.B. Du Bois to Banks, a family friend
- Bond, Horace Mann. Papers, 1830-1979
- Educator, President of Lincoln University
- Brown, John. Papers (microfilm), 1826-1942 (bulk: 1856-1859)
- Du Bois, W. E. B. Papers, 1868-1963
- Heath, Gordon. Papers, 1940-1991
- Expatriate writer, actor, director, and musician
- Hudson Family. Papers, 1780-1955
- Family papers of the antislavery activist Erasmus D. Hudson
- International Oil Working Group. Records, 1981-1986
- Lewis, David Levering. Papers, ca.1955-2012
- Massachusetts. Special Commission on Unequal Education Opportunities. Records, 1974-1978
- Obrebski, Joseph and Tamara. Papers, 1923-1974
- Anthropological field work in Jamaica, 1947-1948
- Urban League of Springfield (Mass.). Records, 1970s
- Trent, Lloyd A. Family Papers, 1850-1996
Edward H. Abbe Papers, 1828-2004.
Call no.: MS 736
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915 and raised largely in Hampton, Va., Edward Abbe seemed destined to be an engineer. The great nephew of Elihu Thomson, an inventor and founding partner in General Electric, and grandson of Edward Folger Peck, an early employee of a precursor of that firm, Abbe came from a family with a deep involvement in electrification and the development of street railways. After prepping at the Rectory and Kent Schools, Abbe studied engineering at the Sheffield School at Yale, and after graduation in 1938, accepted a position with GE. For 36 years, he worked in the Industrial Control Division in New York and Virginia, spending summers at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. After retirement in 1975, he and his wife Gladys traveled frequently, cruising both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Ranging from an extensive correspondence from his high school and college days to materials relating to his family’s involvement in engineering, the Abbe collection offers an in depth perspective on an educated family. An avid traveler and inveterate keeper, Ed Abbe gathered a diverse assemblage of letters, diaries, and memorabilia relating to the history of the Abbe, Peck, Booth, Gifford, and Boardman families. The collection is particularly rich in visual materials, including albums and photographs, depicting homes, travel, and family life over nearly a century.
- Abbe family
- Boardman family
- Booth family
- Electrical engineers
- General Electric
- Gifford family
- Kent School--Students
- Peck family
- Rectory School--Students
- Yale University--Students
- Abbe, Edward H
- Abbe, Gladys Howard
- Abbe, William Parker
- Peck, Edward F
- Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Brinley Family Papers, 1643-1950.
Call no.: MS 161
A prosperous family of merchants and landowners, the Brinleys were well ensconced among the social and political elite of colonial New England. Connected by marriage to other elite families in Rhode Island and Massachusetts — the Auchmutys, Craddocks, and Tyngs among them — the Brinleys were refined, highly educated, public spirited, and most often business-minded. Although many members of the family remained loyal to the British cause during the Revolution, the family retained their high social standing in the years following.
The Brinley collection includes business letters, legal and business records, wills, a fragment of a diary, documents relating to slaves, newspaper clippings, and a small number of paintings and artifacts. A descendent, Nancy Brinley, contributed a quantity of genealogical research notes and photocopies of Brinley family documents from other repositories. Of particular note in the collection is a fine nineteenth century copy of a John Smibert portrait of Deborah Brinley (1719), an elegant silver tray passed through the generations, and is a 1713 list of the library of Francis Brinley, which offers a foreshadowing of the remarkable book collection put together in the later nineteenth century by his descendant George Brinley.
- American loyalists--Massachusetts
- Book collectors--United States--History--19th century
- Brinley family
- Brinley, George, 1817-1875--Library
- Businessmen--Rhode Island--History
- Craddock family
- Landowners--Rhode Island--History
- Libraries--Rhode Island--18th century
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions--18th century
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--19th century
- Rhode Island--Economic conditions--18th century
- Rhode Island--Genealogy
- Rhode Island--Politics and government--19th century
- Slavery--United States--History
- Tyng family
- United Empire Loyalists
Types of material
Burt V. Brooks Photograph Collection, 1889-1934.
Call no.: PH 060
The artist Burt Vernon Brooks was one of the outstanding chroniclers of daily life in the Swift River Valley before it was inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Born in Brimfield, Mass., in 1849 and raised in Monson, Brooks moved to Greenwich with his family in the 1870s, where he worked on the family farm. At some unclear point before he turned 40, Brooks became active as an artist, painting local homes and scenery and taking photographs of the landscape, residents, and daily life in the Quabbin region. A prolific photographer, he was, in the words of historian Donald W. Howe, “hardly ever seen without his camera strapped to his back,” remaining active for decades. Three years after following his second wife to the west, Brooks died in Los Angeles in 1934.
The great majority of the 92 photographs in this collection are 5×7″ dry plate glass negatives taken by Brooks in the earliest years of the twentieth century, documenting the houses and people of Greenwich. Brooks’ work includes landscapes, houses, and a significant series of images of the Hillside School, but some of his best works are studio portraits, images of people at home or with their carriages, and posed scenes of children at play or at work. The collection also includes eight images by Brooks at Enfield, Greenwich, and Dana that are the property of the Swift River Valley Historical Society, and six images taken by Chetwynd and Pike in the Quabbin region to document properties slated for removal.
- Carriages and carts--Massachusetts--Greenwich--Photographs
- Dana (Mass.)--Photographs
- Enfield (Mass.)--Photographs
- Greenwich (Mass.)--Photographs
- Hillside School (Marlborough, Mass.)
- New Salem (Mass.)--Photographs
- Prescott (Mass.)--Photographs
Types of material
- Dry plate gelatin negatives
- Gelatin silver negatives
Dall Family Correspondence, 1810-1843.
Call no.: MS 282
Chiefly correspondence from various Dall family members in Boston, Massachusetts, particularly father William Dall, Revolutionary War veteran, merchant, businessman and former Yale College writing master, to sons William and James Dall in Baltimore, Maryland. Letters of son James Dall, then a student at Harvard University, provide accounts of Boston political and cultural activities of the time.
The correspondence documents the daily changes in the life of a merchant’s family in the early 19th century, reflecting anxiety over trade restrictions, embargoes, and other economic disruptions resulting from the War of 1812. The elder Dall (William 3rd) and much of his family lived in Boston, but two sons lived in Baltimore. The bulk of the correspondence consists of letters to the younger son, William 4th, who was then apprenticed to a Baltimore merchant. The letters of son James Dall, then a student at Harvard University, provide accounts of Boston political and cultural activities.
- Baltimore (Md.)--Biography
- Baltimore (Md.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Boston (Mass.)--Biography
- Boston (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Boston (Mass.)--Intellectual life--19th century
- Boston (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Dall family
- Family--United States--History--19th century
- Harvard University--Students
- Dall, James, 1781-1863
- Dall, John Robert, 1798-1851
- Dall, John, 1791-1852
- Dall, Joseph, 1801-1840
- Dall, Maria, 1783-1836
- Dall, Rebecca Keen
- Dall, Sarah Keen, 1798-1878
- Dall, William, 1753-1829
- Dall, William, 1794 or 5-1875
Beth Hapgood Papers, 1789-2005.
Call no.: MS 434
Daughter of a writer and diplomat, and graduate of Wellesley College, Beth Hapgood has been a spiritual seeker for much of her life. Her interests have led her to become an expert in graphology, a student in the Arcane School, an instructor at Greenfield Community College, and a lecturer on a variety of topics in spiritual growth. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Hapgood befriended Michael Metelica, the central figure in the Brotherhood of the Spirit (the largest commune in the eastern states during the early 1970s) as well as Elwood Babbitt, a trance medium, and remained close to both until their deaths.
The Hapgood Papers contain a wealth of material relating to the Brotherhood of the Spirit and the Renaissance Community, Metelica, Babbitt, and other of Hapgood’s varied interests, as well as 4.25 linear feet of material relating to the Hapgood family.
- Brotherhood of the Spirit
- Channeling (Spiritualism)
- Communal living--Massachusetts
- Hapgood family--Correspondence
- Massachusetts--Social life and customs--20th century
- Nineteen sixties--Social aspects
- Occultism--Social aspects
- Popular culture--History--20th century
- Renaissance Community
- Rock music--1971-1980
- Warwick (Mass.)--History
- Babbitt, Elwood, 1922-
- Boyce, Neith, 1872-1951
- Hapgood, Beth--Correspondence
- Hapgood, Charles H
- Hapgood, Elizabeth Reynolds
- Hapgood, Hutchins, 1869-1944
- Hapgood, Norman, 1868-1937
- Metelica, Michael
William F. Field Papers, 1948-1986.
Call no.: RG 030/2 F5
The University’s first Dean of Students, William F. Field held the post from 1961 until his retirement in 1988. The 27 years Field was Dean of Students was a critical time of growth and unrest, as the University’s student population more than tripled in size and the nation-wide movements for civil rights and against the Vietnam War were reflected through student activism and protest on the University’s campus. Responsible for ending student curfews and overseeing all dorms becoming co-ed, Field also worked with minority students and faculty to support the Black Arts Movement on campus and the founding of the W.E.B Du Bois Afro-American Studies Department.
The William F. Field Papers document Field’s career as an administrator at the University of Massachusetts and specifically his role as Dean of Students from 1961-1988. The correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes, and other official printed and manuscript documents are a rich resource for one of the most important and volatile eras in the University’s history. Of particular interest are extensive files on student protests and activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the growing diversity of the campus student population, flourishing of the Black Arts Movement on campus and the founding of the W.E.B. Du Bois Afro-American Studies Department.
- African American college students--Massachusetts
- Field, William Franklin, 1922-
- Race relations--United States
- Universities and colleges--United States--Administration
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dean of Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Afro-American Studies
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--United States
Types of material
League of Women Voters of Amherst Records, 1939-2001.
Call no.: MS 296
Non-partisan political organization based in Amherst, Massachusetts that influences public policy through education and advocacy by registering voters, organizing candidate forums, publishing voting guides, and disseminating general information on the legislative process and the functioning of government on the local, state, and federal levels.
Includes minutes, annual reports, financial records, publications, extensive files on specific programs, photographs, video- and audio-tapes, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings. Also contains information on two league members who rose to national prominence: Lucy Wilson Benson (Under Secretary of State in the federal government in 1977) and Jane F. Garvey (Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1997).
- Amherst (Mass.)--Politics and government
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Benson, Lucy Wilson
- Garvey, Jane F
- League of Women Voters of Amherst (Amherst, Mass.)
Types of material
- Oral histories
Blake Slonecker Collection, 2008.
Call no.: MS 795
An historian of twentieth century social movements, Blake Slonecker received his doctorate at the University of North Carolina in 2009 and joined the history faculty at Waldorf College soon thereafter. In a dissertation examining the utopian impulses of the New Left (published in 2012 as A new dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the long sixties), Slonecker explored how the political and cultural activism of the 1960s helped reshape American political culture in the decade following.
In June 2008, Slonecker conducted oral historical interviews with four individuals who were part of the extended community centered on the Montague Farm and Packer Corners communes during the late 1960s: Tom Fels, Charles Light, Sam Lovejoy, and Richard Wizansky. In wide-ranging interviews, the former communards discuss topics ranging from the fraught politics of the era, political and cultural activism, gender roles and sexuality, and daily life on the communes.
- Amherst College
- Babbitt, Elwood, 1922-
- Bloom, Marshall, 1944-1969
- Brotherhood of the Spirit (Commune)
- Clamshell Alliance
- Green Mountain Post Films
- Johnson Pasture Community (Vt.)
- Liberation News Service (Montague, Mass.)
- Montague Farm Community (Mass.)
- Musicians United for Safe Energy
- Packer Corners Community (Vt.)
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Fels, Thomas Weston
- Light, Charles
- Lovejoy, Sam
- Wizansky, Richard
Types of material
- Oral histories (document genres)