As one of the main repositories documenting the history of western Massachusetts and New England, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.
Concentrated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, 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. Among the more valuable collections for the political history of the region is the papers of Silvio O. Conte, Republican congressman from the First District of Massachusetts from 1959-1991. A member of the House Appropriations Committee (and its ranking minority member from 1979-1991), Conte is particularly remembered for his work in Health and Human Services, education, and the environment. SCUA also holds collections for state representatives John Haigis and Maurice Donahue, as well as other figures involved in political life in the Commonwealth.
Although the Department holds materials relating to individual communities in western Massachusetts, the history of the Quabbin watershed is a particular focal point. SCUA collects books printed in the Quabbin region and more generally, in rural New England prior to 1900, as well as manuscript, printed, and photographic collections relating to Quabbin towns.
- 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
- 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
Polish Jubilee Catalogs and Souvenirs, 1906-1988.
Call no.: MS 057
Includes booklets containing parish and community histories, photographs, and local advertisements celebrating Jubilee, other anniversaries, and events in over twenty Massachusetts Polish American parishes; booklets furnishing histories and names associated with Polish American groups (such as the Brotherly Aid Society and Polish American Veterans); an historical paper on the Chicopee Polish Community; a pamphlet including songs and recipes; photographs; a booklet; and two books.
- Chicopee (Mass.)--History
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts
Polish Women's Club of Three Rivers Records, 1924-1994.
Call no.: MS 391
Polish-American women’s club located near Palmer, Massachusetts, that aims to encourage Polish women to become United States citizens and provide them with classes in the English language; to take an active part in local, state and federal politics; to support local Polish-owned businesses; to preserve and integrate Polish culture with those of other ethnicities present in the United States; to encourage higher education in the Polish-American community.
Includes meeting minutes (primarily in Polish), histories, anniversary programs, town and state citations, and government publications, documenting the activities, membership, and national recognition of the club over a period of seventy years.
- Americanization--History--20th century
- Palmer (Mass.)--Ethnic relations--20th century
- Palmer (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Poles--Cultural assimilation--Massachusetts--History--20th century
- Polish American friendly societies--Massachusetts--Palmer--History
- Polish Americans--Ethnic identity--History--20th century
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Palmer
- Polish Americans--Political activity--History--20th century
- Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women's Clubs
- Polish American Women Citizens Political Club of Three Rivers and Thorndike (Palmer, Mass.)
- Polish Women's Club of Three Rivers (Palmer, Mass.)
Types of material
Judi Chamberlin Papers, ca.1970-2010.
Call no.: MS 768
A pioneer in the psychiatric survivors’ movement, Judi Chamberlin spent four decades as an activist for the civil rights of mental patients. After several voluntary hospitalizations for depression as a young woman, Chamberlin was involuntarily committed for the only time in 1971, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her experiences in the mental health system galvanized her to take action on patients’ rights, and after attending a meeting of the newly formed Mental Patients’ Liberation Project in New York, she helped found the Mental Patients’ Liberation Front in Cambridge, Mass. Explicitly modeled on civil rights organizations of the time, she became a tireless advocate for the patient’s perspective and for choice in treatment. Her book, On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System (1978), is considered a key text in the intellectual development of the movement. Working internationally, she became an important figure in several other organizations, including the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilition at Boston University, the Ruby Rogers Advocacy Center, the National Disability Rights Network, and the National Empowerment Center. In recognition of her advocacy, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities in 1992, the David J. Vail National Advocacy Award, and the 1995 Pike Prize, which honors those who have given outstanding service to people with disabilities. Chamberlin died of pulmonary disease at home in Arlington, Mass., in January 2010.
An important record of the development of the psychiatric survivors’ movement from its earliest days, the Chamberlin Papers include rich correspondence between Chamberlin, fellow activists, survivors, and medical professionals; records of her work with the MPLF and other rights organizations, conferences and meetings, and her efforts to build the movement internationally.
- Ex-mental patients
- People with disabilities--Civil rights
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Mental Patients Liberation Front
- Mental Patients Liberation Project
- National Empowerment Center
Types of material
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 Community
- 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)
Polish American Collection, 1940s-2000.
Call no.: MS 464
Collection documenting Polish American culture, language, and history consisting of newspapers and news clippings, programs for Polish religious and cultural events, newsletters of Polish American organizations, and Polish publications including religious works and language textbooks.
- Polish Americans
John W. Bennett Labor Collection, ca. 1880-2000.
Call no.: MS 443
Labor historian John W. Bennett has researched the history of the labor movement since his days as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts (Class of 1952). A born collector, he began accumulating memorabilia associated with unions, drawn to their potential as a visual record of labor iconography and self-representation.
Extending back to the 1880s, the Bennett Collection includes examples from around the country, but with a particularly strong representation of New England unions between the mid-1930s and mid-1970s.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Bennett, John W
Types of material
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
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