University of Massachusetts Amherst
Special Collections and University Archives
UMass Amherst Libraries
SCUA

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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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Communist Party of Massachusetts

Communist Party of Massachusetts Collection, 1932-1957
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 538

A branch of the Communist Party of the United States of America, the Communist Party of Massachusetts enjoyed strong popularity during the 1930s and 1940s, organizing the textile and other manufacturing industries.

This small collection is comprised of a miscellaneous assemblage of fliers, broadsides, and ephemera issued by the Communist Party of Massachusetts and its affiliates from the mid-1930s through the repression of the McCarthy era. Originating mostly from Boston, the items in the collection center on significant themes in Communist thought, including opposition to Fascism and militarism, labor solidarity against capital, and elections. A small number of items relate to Party-approved cultural productions, including plays and gatherings to celebrate Lenin or the Russian Revolution. Many items are associated with Otis A. Hood, a perpetual candidate for public office on the Communist Party ticket who became a target for McCarthy-era repression in the mid-1950s.

Acquired from Eugene Povirk, 2008
Subjects
  • Antiwar movements--Massachusetts
  • Communists--Massachusetts
  • Elections--Massachusetts
  • World War, 1939-1945
Contributors
  • Communist Party of Massachusetts
Types of material
  • Broadsides
  • Fliers

Massachusetts Review

Massachusetts Review Records, 1959-2013
49 boxes (73 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 555

The Massachusetts Review is an independent quarterly of literature, the arts, and public affairs. Co-founded by Jules Chametzky and Sidney Kaplan in 1959 to promote eclectic, nontraditional, and underrepresented literary and intellectual talent, the Review has been an important venue for African American, Native American, and feminist writers and poets, mixing new and established authors.

The records of the Massachusetts Review document the history and operations of the magazine from its founding to the present, including general correspondence and nearly complete editorial files for published works. The collection also includes a small number of audio recordings of MR2, a radio show hosted by Review editor David Lenson with interviews of writers, artists, and cultural critics.

Subjects
  • Criticism--20th century--Periodicals
  • Literature--20th century--Periodicals
  • Poetry--20th century--Periodicals
Contributors
  • Abramson, Doris E
  • Chametzky, Jules
  • Massachusetts Review

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Massachusetts State Council

UBCJA Massachusetts State Council Records, 1892-1980
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 015

One of the largest building trade unions in the U.S., the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America was established in 1881 by a convention of carpenters’ unions. An early member of the American Federation of Labor, the Brotherhood began as a radical organization, but beginning in the 1930s, were typically aligned with the conservative wing of the labor movement.

The records of the Massachusetts State Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America contain reports and other information generated during the union’s annual conventions as well as copies of the constitution and by-laws, handbooks, and histories of the union.

Subjects
  • Carpenters--Labor unions
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst Records, 1863-2011
(ca.7,500 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 001-190
University of Massachusetts Amherst Records image
MAC postcard

Established in western Massachusetts in 1863 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a national research university and the flagship campus of the state’s five-campus University system. UMass, one of the founding members of the Five College Consortium established in 1965, offers reciprocal student access among the University and Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges. The University currently enrolls approximately 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and offers 87 bachelors degree programs, 6 associates, 73 masters, and 51 doctoral programs in 10 schools and colleges.

The Archives of the University of Massachusetts Amherst document the institutional memory of the campus and serve as the largest and most comprehensive source of information on the history and cultural heritage of the University. As the collective memory of the university, the repository contains official records and items having historical value such as records of governance, policy, operation of administrative offices, departments, research, programs, and publications. Unpublished materials in the Archives include photographs, films, memorabilia, administrative records of major university offices, and the papers of presidents, trustees, administrative officers, and members of the faculty.

Please note that collections for individual faculty members, administrators, and students, as well as selected groups and administrative units at the University are listed separately in UMarmot. The Concordance to the Archives is an alphabetical listing of University departments, centers, groups, and other units, providing call numbers, when appropriate. Researchers may also wish to consult the online guide to UMass Amherst collections. Digital UMass includes a growing number of oral histories and digitized collections of papers and organizational records. YouMass is a wiki devoted to the history of the University and its predecessors, the Massachusetts Agricultural College and Massachusetts State College.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
  • Massachusetts State College
  • Massachusetts State College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts State College--Students
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
Types of material
  • Photographs

University of Massachusetts Amherst. Students

University of Massachusetts Amherst. Student Body, 1867-2007
(155 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 045

Since the arrival of the first class of students at Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1867, the student body at UMass has grown to over 20,500 undergraduates and nearly 6,000 graduate students.

Record Group 45 includes the collected records of student activities at UMass Amherst, from student publications and organizations (fraternities and sororities, unions, and honorary societies) to records of student government, student protests, and religious and social groups. Also included are class notes and correspondence of some individual students while enrolled in the University.

Connect to another siteA number of student publications have been digitized and are indexed in YouMass.
Subjects
  • Aggie Life
  • Bay State Ruralist
  • College Signal
  • College students--Massachusetts
  • Greek letter societies--Massachusetts
  • Student newspapers and periodicals--Massachusetts
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students

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

Vietnamese Students Association (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Vietnamese Students Association New Year's Day Celebration Collection, 1985
1 envelope (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 106 bd

The Vietnamese Students Association hosted a Vietnamese New Year celebration at the Campus Center of the University of Massachusetts Amherst on February 20, 1985. Collection contains twelve photographs and a program listing sponsors, speakers, performers, the sequence of events, descriptions of ancestor worship, the legend of the earth and the sky cakes, the menu, and some song lyrics.

Gift of Lucy Nguyen, 1985
Subjects
  • Amherst (Mass.)--Social life and customs
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students--Social life and customs
  • Vietnamese New Year--Massachusetts--Photographs
  • Vietnamese Students Association (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
  • Vietnamese students--Massachusetts--Folklore
  • Vietnamese students--Massachusetts--Social life and customs
Types of material
  • Photographs
  • Songs
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