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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

However 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.

Learn more:

New Approaches to History

New Approaches to History Collection
1967-1985
23 boxes (10.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 182

During the late 1960s, the Department of History at UMass Amherst created a new undergraduate course entitled New Approaches to History, relying almost exclusively on primary sources. The theme of the course varied from the Salem witch trials to Daniel Shay’s Rebellion to the Lizzie Borden murders.

The collection includes the course proposal, correspondence, syllabi, course assignments, and resources for three units: Salem witchcraft, Shay’s Rebellion, and Lizzie Borden.

Subjects
  • History--Study and teaching
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History

Exhibits

Tulip poplar leaves
Tulip poplar leaf Arthur Mange Collection

Drawing upon the unique materials under their care, the staff of the Department of Special Collections and University Archives organize two to three exhibits a year in their reading room and work regularly with their colleagues in the general library to prepare other exhibits for display on the Lower Level of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.

Current Exhibit

Brother David Steindl-Rast Papers

August 2017-January 31, 2018
Location: SCUA and Learning Commons, Du Bois Library

Brother David is one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, leaving Mount Savior in the mid-1960s to study Zen Buddhism with Hakuun Yajutami, Shunayu Suzuki, and Soen Nakagawa. He was the first Benedictine to learn directly from Buddhist teachers and received Vatican support for his bridge-building work in 1967. When not in seclusion, Brother David has served as a teacher of contemplative prayer, the intersection of Zen and Catholicism, and gratefulness as a spiritual practice. Through many books and articles, lectures, and residencies in spiritual centers like Tassajara and the Esalen Institute, Brother David has developed an influential philosophy and much of the current popularity of mindfulness and Zen-influenced living and activism owes a debt to his teachings.

The Brother David Steindl-Rast Papers include Brother David’s extensive published and unpublished writings, sermons, memoirs, personal journals, correspondence, photographs, recordings, and videos of his teachings. His papers extend back to his youth in Vienna, documenting his childhood and experience during the war, including a complete run of Die Goldene Wagen, the children’s magazine published by Brother David’s mother Elisabeth Rast.

Future exhibits

W.E.B Du Bois at 150

Feb 1, 2018 – August 2018
Location: SCUA and Learning Commons, Du Bois Library

Scholar, writer, editor of The Crisis and other journals, co-founder of the Niagara Movement, the NAACP, and the Pan African Congresses, international spokesperson for peace and for the rights of oppressed minorities, W.E.B. Du Bois was a son of Massachusetts who articulated the strivings of African Americans and developed a trenchant analysis of the problem of the color line in the twentieth century.

Drawing from the rich and vast Du Bois Papers, containing the personal and professional papers of a remarkable social activist and intellectual, “W.E.B. Du Bois at 150” touches on all aspects of his long life from his childhood during Reconstruction through the end of his life in 1963. The exhibit reflects the extraordinary breadth of his social and academic commitments from research in sociology to poetry and plays, from organizing for social change to organizing for Black consciousness.

1968: Past, Present, Future

August 2018 – January 2019
Location: SCUA and Learning Commons, Du Bois Library

 

Exhibits online
100 photos: Arthur Mange

Arthur Mange

Photographs from the collection of Arthur Mange.

Through the Photographer's Eyes

Photographs taken by Henry along with a rich array of related materials—speeches, press releases, brochures, and her personal notes—collected over the years, which document the political and cultural scene of the second half of the twentieth century

Photographer: Diana Mara Henry

Diana Mara Henry Photographs

Photographs from the collection of Diana Mara Henry. An exhibit by Chuck Abel.

E.D. Hudson

An examination of social reform and antislavery in Antebellum New England. An exhibit by Charles Weisenberger.

Rhetoric or Research

Rhetoric or research

interprets student protests against CIA recruitment at UMass Amherst during the 1980s through a selection of images taken by student photojournalists.
By Tom Hohenstein (ETHIR recipient, 2011).

Gordon Heath

A digital curriculum for teaching U.S. history using archival resources. An exhibit by Emily Oswald (ETHIR recipient, 2011).

Behold And See As You Pass By

I see dead people

An online exhibit on gravestones and mortuary art in Early New England drawn from the Association for Gravestones Studies Collections. By Molly Campbell (ETHIR recipient, 2011)

Robot reader

Science fiction readership in the Cold War and beyond. An exhibit by Morgan Hubbard.

Fifteen letters

Letters home

Conrad D. Totman’s letters home from Korea, 1954-1955. An exhibit by Alex McKenzie.

Du Bois photographs

An online exhibit on the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois based on his papers.

Herbals and Insects

A scarab beetle

A selection of rare botanical and entomological books from the SCUA collections.

A bee

Books on bees and beekeeping. An exhibit by Richard A. Steinmetz.

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Goessmann, Charles A. (Charles Anthony), 1827-1910

Charles A. Goessmann Papers
1850-1917
(5.5 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 063
Image of Charles A. Goessmann, ca.1890
Charles A. Goessmann, ca.1890

German-born agricultural chemist, professor of Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst when it was known as Massachusetts Agricultural College, and President of the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists and the American Chemical Society who made several important contributions in nineteenth century chemistry and held at least four patents.

The Goessman collection includes correspondence (mostly professional), some with presidents of Massachusetts Agricultural College, William Smith Clark (1826-1886) and Henry Hill Goodell (1839-1905). Also contains handwritten drafts of addresses and articles, his dissertation, printed versions of published writings, handwritten lecture notes, class records, proposed college curricula, notes taken by students, handwritten research notes, newsclippings and offprints utilized in research, and biographical materials.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College. Department of Chemistry
Contributors
  • Goessmann, Charles A. (Charles Anthony), 1827-1910

Lederer, Regina Berger, 1895-1988

Regina Lederer Oral History
1984
1 envelope (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 358 bd

Regina Berger Lederer was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1895 into the family of a successful manufacturing chemist. Her singing career was promising, but never fully realized. With the rise of the Nazi Party and increase in oppression of Jews, she and her husband escaped by leaving for Italy and the United States in 1939. Settling in New York, she worked as a skilled sweater repairer for many years. She died in Maryland in 1988, where she had gone to live near her son Paul.

Transcript of an oral history of Lederer.

Subjects
  • Jewish women--United States--Interviews
  • Jews, Austrian--United States--Interviews
  • Jews--Austria--History--20th century--Sources
  • Knit goods--Repairing--New York (State)--New York
  • Refugees, Jewish--United States--Interviews
  • Sweater industry--New York (State)--New York--Employees--Interviews
Contributors
  • Lederer, Regina Berger, 1895-1988
Types of material
  • Oral histories

Maki, John M. (John McGilvrey), 1909-

John M. Maki Papers
1887-2005 (Bulk: 1940-1990)
14 boxes (21 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 120
Image of Jack Maki, ca.1983
Jack Maki, ca.1983

Born to Japanese parents in Tacoma, Washington, in 1909, John Maki was adopted as an infant by a white couple and raised on their farm. After receiving both his bachelors (1932) and masters (1936) in English literature at the University of Washington, Maki was persuaded to switch fields to the study of Japan. Following a fellowship from the Japanese government to study in Tokyo in the late 1930s, the war interrupted his plans. After being ordered to internment, he served with the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service of the Federal Communications Commission and in psychological warfare planning with the Office of War Information, and after the war, he took a position with the occupation authority, assisting in the drafting of the Japanese Constitution. Returning stateside, he resumed his academic career, earning his doctorate in political science at Harvard in 1948. After eighteen years on the faculty at the University of Washington, Maki moved to UMass in 1966, where he served as chair of the Asian Studies Program and in administrative posts, including as vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In recognition of his efforts to promote relations between the U.S. and Japan, he was awarded the Third Class Order of the Sacred Treasure by the emperor of Japan in 1983. Although he retired from the faculty in 1980, Maki remained active as a scholar until the time of his death in Amherst in December 2006.

The Maki Papers reflect a long career in the study of contemporary Japanese politics and culture. Beginning with his earliest academic work on Japan in the 1930s, the collection documents the range of Maki’s interests, from the origins of Japanese militarism and nationalism to the development of the post-war Constitution and his later studies of William Smith Clark and the long history of Japanese-American relations. The collection includes valuable documents from the early period of the Allied Occupation, including the extensive correspondence with his wife Mary (1946).

Subjects
  • Clark, William Smith, 1826-1886
  • Constitutional law--Japan
  • Japan--History--Allied occupation, 1945-1952
  • Japan--Politics and government--20th century
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Political Science
Contributors
  • Maki, John M. (John McGilvrey), 1909-

Sanders, Paul Samuel

Paul Samuel Sanders Papers
1937-1972
(9 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 084

Methodist Clergyman; literary and religious scholar.

Correspondence, drafts of writings, notes for lectures and sermons, book reviews, course materials, class notes taken as a student, biographical material, and other papers, relating chiefly to Sander’s studies of English and religious literature, his teaching career at several colleges (including the University of Massachusetts) and church-related activities. Includes draft of an unpublished book on the Bible as literature; correspondence and organized material from his participation in Laymen’s Academy for Oecumenical Studies, Amherst Massachusetts (LAOS); and notebook of funeral records (1940-1957).

Subjects
  • Layman's Academy for Oecumenical Studies
  • Methodist Church--Clergy
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of English
Contributors
  • Sanders, Paul Samuel
Types of material
  • Sermons

Shapiro, Leon

Leon Shapiro Papers
1939-1985
15 boxes (8.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 127

Historian, author, Professor of Russian and Soviet Jewish History at Rutgers University, who helped arrange the escape of Jews from Europe during World War II and was active in several organizations concerned with the emigration of Soviet and Eastern European Jews to Palestine. Papers include biographical materials, correspondence, legal documents, writings, lecture and research materials, statistical data in the world Jewish population before and after World War II, oral history transcripts, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and four photographs.

Subjects
  • Europe, Eastern--Ethnic relations--History--20th century
  • Israel--Emigration and immigration--History
  • Israel--History--1948-1967
  • Jews, Soviet--History--Sources
  • Jews--Europe, Eastern--History--Sources
  • Jews--Migration--History
  • Jews--Population--History
  • Jews--Soviet Union--History--Sources
  • Occupational training for Jews--History--Sources
  • Palestine--History--1929-1948
  • Romania--Emigration and immigration--History
  • Rutgers University--Curricula
  • Rutgers University--Faculty
  • Soviet Union--Ethnic relations--History
  • World ORT Union--History
Contributors
  • Shapiro, Leon
Types of material
  • Oral histories
  • Photographs

Uno, Roberta

Roberta Uno Collection of Asian American Women Playwrights' Scripts
1924-2005
25 boxes (9 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 345
Image of Coconut masquerade postcard
Coconut masquerade postcard

Roberta Uno was the founder and long time artistic director of the New WORLD Theater at UMass Amherst, a theater in residence dedicated to the production of works by playwrights of color.

Established by Uno in 1993, the Asian American Women Playwrights Scripts Collection contains manuscripts of plays, but also production histories, reviews, and articles, along with biographies and audio and videotaped interviews with playwrights. Among the individuals represented are Brenda Wong Aoki, Jeannie Barroga, Marina Feleo Gonzales, Jessica Hagedorn, Velina Hasu Houston, Genny Lim, le thi diem thuy, Ling-Ai Li, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Nobuko Miyamoto, Bina Sharif, and Diana Son.

Subjects
  • Asian American women authors
  • New WORLD Theater
  • Playwrights
Contributors
  • Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
  • Scripts (Documents)

Wallace, Karl Richards, 1905-1973

Karl Richards Wallace Papers
1898-1976
(14.5 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 086

Educator, rhetorician, author, President of the Speech Association of America in 1954, and Professor of Speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1968-1973.

Includes the accumulated research notes and materials written and used by Wallace in his career as a teacher and author; drafts, reprints, and proofs of his speeches, papers, articles, and books, both published and unpublished, often with accompanying correspondence, research notes, and/or contracts; lecture notes and classroom materials dating from his years as a student through those as a teacher; drafts and reprints of papers and articles by students and colleagues; correspondence; the reports, memoranda, correspondence, resolutions, agenda, notes on meetings, minutes, committee recommendations, position papers, newsletters, audit reports, budget recommendations, membership lists, itineraries, and programs indicative of his leadership and active participation in the Speech Association of America and other professional organizations, conferences, and university committees.

Acquired from Dorothy Wallace, 1974, and Jane Blankenship, 1974-1982
Subjects
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of English
Contributors
  • Wallace, Karl Richards, 1905-1973
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