University of Massachusetts Amherst
Special Collections and University Archives
UMass Amherst Libraries
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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College

Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers

African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History Collection grew steadily until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965

David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

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New England history

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

SCUA is dedicated to documenting New England history, including primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.

The collections in SCUA touch on many aspects of the history of the region with developing depth in immigration, labor, work, and industry, social change and movements for social change, and literature and the arts. Of particular note are two exceptionally large and rich collections: the records of the Hampshire Council of Governments, which contains over 325 years of county-level governance in western Massachusetts, and the records of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, which contains 350 years of Quaker history.

The recent political history of the region is documented through the papers of congressmen Silvio O. Conte and his successor John Olver, Governor Jane Swift, state Senator Stanley Rosenberg, state representatives John G. Clark, Maurice Donahue, Whiting Griswold, and John Haigis, and other figures involved in the political life of the Commonwealth.

In addition to holding material relating to many individual towns and communities in western Massachusetts, SCUA maintains a special interest in the history of the towns of the Quabbin watershed.

Significant collections

  • Business and industry
    • In addition to collections relating to organized labor and the labor movement, SCUA attempts to document the experience of work and the business community to provide a rounded understanding of work life in New England. For a more complete listing, see our guide for Labor, Work, and Industry.
  • Civic organizations and charities
    • Collections ranging from the records of charitable organizations that provide social services to groups that foster civic engagement and social justice, benevolent and ethnic self-help societies, to organizations that support social and professional communities.
  • Family history
    • SCUA has a strong interest in “family collections,” typically collections that include correspondence, photograph albums, family and farm accounts, and other materials that reveal the every day lives of New Englanders. Researchers on family life and genealogy should note that many collections indexed under other subjects contain personal and family information of some importance. Our printed materials collections include many local and county histories, genealogies, and other resources which may be useful for understanding family life.
  • Immigration, demography, and ethnicity
  • Medical history
    • Collections include daybooks and medical accounts of physicians, primarily from the nineteenth century, personal papers of physicians, and some materials on public health policy.
  • Military history
    • Although SCUA has scattered holdings relating to earlier wars, the department houses interesting materials relating to World War II and the War in Vietnam, with the latter concentrated on the antiwar movement.
  • Political life and culture
    • The distinctive political culture of Massachusetts and formal and informal political activity in the Commonwealth. Although the collections extend back into the nineteenth century, our focus is primarily on the post-World War II period.
  • Printing in rural Massachusetts
    • SCUA collects books, broadsides, and other materials printed in rural New England prior to 1900. The collections include a growing collection for the printers in the Quabbin region, Solomon and John Howes, but also includes works printed in small towns throughout Berkshire, Hampshire, Hamden, and Franklin Counties.
  • Quabbin Regional collections
    • Collections relating to all aspects of life and the legacy of the four towns inundated by the Quabbin Reservoir: Dana, Greenwich, Enfield, and Prescott, as well as surrounding communities such as New Salem, Petersham, and Wendell. In our rare books holdings, we have a number of works printed in Enfield or Greenwich, mostly by Solomon and John Howe.
  • Religious life
    • Our efforts to document the spiritual lives and religious commitments of New Englanders has resulted in a number of manuscript and archival collections. Our social change holdings include a number of collections on spiritually-motivated social reform, and our rare book holdings include hundreds of published sermons and other printed materials relating to religious life in the region.
  • New England regional history

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Oral history

Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse

Oral historian at the First National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, 1977. Photo by Diana Mara Henry

No matter how rich our archival collections may be, there are always parts of the historical record that never make it onto the page. Memories, emotions, and attitudes are notoriously difficult to document, and there a variety of all-too human reasons that people choose not to write down every detail of their lives. As a result, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has been actively engaged in recording oral histories as a way of capturing a more complete record of the many voices and diverse experiences that comprise .

SCUA first ventured into oral historical work in the mid-1970s with efforts to document the history of the university prior to the massive expansion of the previous decade, and the department has subsequently engaged in oral historical projects to document the university’s 125th and 150th anniversaries. In the past decade, SCUA has extended its work to documenting the histories of persons represented in its collections and to a broader array of projects documenting the history and experience of social change and the people and cultures on New England. Furthermore, SCUA is the repository for hundreds of oral histories recorded by other people, ranging in scope from interviews with Franco-Americans in the 1980s, 20th century Argentine political figures, and former residents of the Quabbin towns in Western Massachusetts.

Many of SCUA’s oral histories are available online through our digital repository Credo. These include audio and video recordings and, in a few cases, they may be fully transcribed.

Supporting material

For donors of oral histories:

SCUA is happy to accept donations of oral histories that fit within its collection policy.

SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — but in every case, we prefer to receive the interview in the format in which it was recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer digital files that are uncompressed, however we appreciate receiving a compressed derivative (e.g., mp3 for audio, mp4 for video). When available, transcripts in print and electronic form are a very valuable addition.

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Nineteenth Century Theatre

Nineteenth Century Theatre Records, 1987-1996
4 boxes (6 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 469

Established in 1983 and published twice a year at UMass Amherst with the support of Five Colleges, Inc., Nineteenth Century Theatre offered scholarly, critical, and documentary coverage of a broad range of subjects. Issues of the journal contained essays, documents, book reviews, bibliographical studies, and analyses of archival holdings.

The records of the journal include essays and reviews submitted for publication, correspondence, and published issues.

Subjects
  • Theater--History and criticism
  • Theater--History--19th century
  • Theater--Periodicals

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP)

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Records, 1992-2016
4 boxes (4.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 868
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Records image

Originating in 1991, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) was established “to create a global network for book historians working in a broad range of scholarly disciplines.” With more than 1,000 members, research interests include the composition and reception of books as well as their survival and transformation over time.

Records cover the earliest days of the organization’s development, including founding documents, and document a variety of their activities from hosting conferences and publishing a newsletter to promoting scholarship.

Subjects
  • Authors and readers
  • Authorship
  • Books--History
  • Publishers and publishing

Valley Women’s History Collaborative

Valley Women's History Collaborative Records, 1971-2008
15 boxes (10 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 531

During the early phases of second wave feminism (1968-1978), the Pioneer Valley served as a center for lesbian and feminist activity in western Massachusetts, and was home to over 400 hundred, often ad hoc, groups, such as the Abortion and Birth Control (ABC) Committee, ISIS Women’s Center, the Mudpie Childcare Cooperative, and the Springfield Women’s Center.

The records of the Valley Women’s History Collaborative document the activities of these groups as well as the efforts of the founders of the Women Studies program and department at UMass Amherst to preserve this history. Of particular value are the many oral histories conducted by the collaborative that record the history of women’s activism in the Pioneer Valley, especially as it relates to reproductive rights.

Gift of Susan Tracy, 2006, 2009
Subjects
  • Abortion--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Birth control--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Feminism--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History
  • Feminists--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
  • Mary Vazquez Women's Softball League
  • Women--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
Contributors
  • Valley Women's History Collaborative
Types of material
  • Oral histories

Agriculture

Founded under the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, UMass Amherst has long been dedicated to the study and teaching of agriculture and the natural sciences. One of two land grant institutions in the Commonwealth (along with MIT), the university has played an important role in the development of scientific agriculture in New England and has been a major factor in agricultural instruction through its classes and extension service.

SCUA’s collections contain a wealth of information on the history of agriculture and related fields, including horticulture, botany, entomology, animal husbandry, gardening, and landscape design. The strength of the collection lies in documenting the development of American agricultural sciences with an emphasis upon the northeastern states, but it is supplemented with numerous works on British, French, and German agriculture. Adding additional depth are the records of the several departments at UMass Amherst charged with instruction in the agricultural sciences and the papers of individual agricultural educators.

Currently, SCUA is particularly interested in documenting the growth of organic agriculture, heritage breeds, and the practices of sustainable living.

Notable collecting areas (view all)

  • Agricultural education
    • Papers of faculty members at Massachusetts Agricultural College and UMass Amherst, as well as educational organizations dedicated to instruction in the agricultural sciences. Among the individuals represented are the agricultural educator, Kenyon Butterfield; Levi Stockbridge, the first farm manager and long-time instructor at MAC; and William Smith Clark, William Penn Brooks, and William Wheeler, who were instrumental in the 1870s in establishing the agricultural college in Hokkaido, Japan.
    • Also printed works through the late nineteenth century on agriculture in America, Britain, and Europe, including those by John Fitzherbert, Thomas Hale, Arthur Young, “Columella,” John Smith, Gervase Markham, et al.
  • Animal husbandry
    • Books on sheep culture in the United States (Robert R. Livingston, Samuel Bard) and England (Lord Somerville, John Lawrence); dairy and beef cattle, horses, poultry science.
  • Farming and rural life
    • Correspondence, farm accounts, and other records of farming and rural life, primarily in New England, as well as materials relating to the sociology of rural life.
  • Beekeeping and entomology
    • Among the earliest rare books acquired by the Massachusetts Agricultural Library were a collections of rare books in beekeeping, including key works by Thomas Hill, John Keys, Daniel Wildman, Henry Eddy, from the late 17th through late 19th centuries. Works by Maria Sibylla Merian, John Curtis, Dru Drury, Johann Jakob Romer, Jacob l’Admiral
  • Botany, horticulture, pomology, etc.
    • Collections relating to the scientific study of botany, horticulture, forestry, and related sciences.
    • Important printed works on American botany by Frederick Pursh, Thomas Nuttall, Humphry Marshall’s Arbustrum Americanum, François André Michaux, early editions of Linnaeus, William Prince, William Coxe, William Chorlton, et al.
  • Landscape and gardening
    • The papers and photographs of the landscape designer Frank Waugh, Julius Fabos, Erwin Zube, and other collections.
    • Among many printed works on gardens and landscapes are three editions of Bernard M’Mahon’s seminal American Gardener’s Calendar, William Cobbett, Alexander Jackson Davis, Humphry Repton, and others.
  • Organic and sustainable agriculture
    • Records of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association and others involved in organic agriculture, alternate energy, and sustainability.
  • Other natural sciences
    • Including entomology and geology.

Learn more:

Akin, Ebenezer, Jr. (Fairhaven, Mass.)

Ebenezer Akin Account Book, 1842-1869
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 220 bd

Businessman, town clerk, owner or part-owner of many ships, merchant, lawyer, and involved citizen in the town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Includes activities as town clerk, accounts for ships he may have owned, entries made as the executor of several estates, accounts of expenditures for clothing and incidentals, and accounts of lot purchases and loans. Also contains genealogical information about the Blossom family of Bridgewater and the family of Benjamin and Eunice Akin.

Acquired from Charles Apfelbaum, 1987
Subjects
  • Akin, Benjamin, 1715-1802
  • Akin, Eunice
  • Blossom family
  • Clothing and dress--Prices--Massachusetts--Fairhaven
  • Fairhaven (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Fairhaven (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
  • Hesper (Bark)
  • Merchants--Massachusetts--Fairhaven
  • Napoleon (Ship)
  • Shipowners--Massachusetts--Fairhaven
  • Shipping--Massachusetts--Fairhaven
  • William Rotch (Ship)
  • Winthrop (Bark)
Contributors
  • Akin, Ebenezer, 1816-
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Genealogies
  • Inventories of decedents estates

American Morgan Horse Association

American Morgan Horse Association Registry Records, 1911-1981
119 boxes (150 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 781
American Morgan Horse Association Registry Records image
Morgan horses at MAC

In 1789, Vermont native Justin Morgan acquired a bay colt in Springfield, Mass., that became the progenitor of a distinctly American breed of general purpose horse. Noted for its stamina, strength, disposition, and beauty, the Morgan became widely popular in western Massachusetts and Vermont, eventually spreading nationally and internationally. To support the breed, the Morgan Horse Club (later the American Morgan Horse Association) was founded in 1909 and today maintains the breed registry, publishes The Morgan Horse magazine, and offers a wide range of public information and educational services.

The Registry records of the AMHA are a product of concern during the late 19th century for documenting and preserving the integrity of the Morgan breed and a means for breeders to certify pedigrees for their stock. In 1894, Joseph Battell published the first volume of the Morgan Horse and Register containing nearly 1,000 pages of pedigrees for “any meritorious stallion, mare, or gelding tracing in direct male line to Justin Morgan and having at least 1/64 of his blood,” and although standards have been modified since, the registry remains the primary source for documenting the history of the breed. The records in this collection include approved applications for the AMHA registry, including pedigrees and supporting materials.

Subjects
  • Horses--Breeding
  • Morgan horse

Association for Gravestone Studies

Association for Gravestone Studies Book Collection, 1812-2005
269 items (14 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 004

Founded in 1977, the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) is an international organization dedicated to furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. Based in Greenfield, Mass., the Association promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives. To raise public awareness about the significance of historic gravemarkers and the issues surrounding their preservation, the AGS sponsors conferences and workshops, publishes both a quarterly newsletter and annual journal, Markers, and has built an archive of collections documenting gravestones and the memorial industry.

The AGS Books Collection contains scarce, out of print, and rare printed works on cemeteries and graveyards, epitaphs and inscriptions, and gravemarkers, with an emphasis on North America. The AGS Books Collection also includes the AGS publication, Markers. The collection is divided into three series: Series 1 (Monographs and Offprints), Series 2 (Theses and Dissertations), and Series 3 (Markers).

Subjects
  • Cemeteries
  • Epitaphs
  • Gravestones
Contributors
  • Association for Gravestone Studies
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