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.
Jose A. Soler Papers, 1972-2014.
Call no.: MS 864
A scholar of labor studies and activist, José Soler was born in New York City to a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father and has been an activist in the cause of Puerto Rican independence and human rights since the 1970s. While a student at the University of New Mexico (BA 1972), Soler emerged as a leader in the Chicano rights organization, the Brown Berets, and while living in Puerto Rico in the late 1970s, he joined the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Soler has subsequently worked in the labor movement as a shop steward, union organizer with UAW District 65, and labor journalist. As a committed Marxist and prolific writer and editor, he has taken part in causes ranging from anti-imperialist work in the Caribbean and Central America to the anti-apartheid struggle, and he has served on the Executive Board of the US Peace Council. From 1993 until his retirement in 2015, Soler worked as Director of the Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center at UMass Dartmouth where he has continued to work on behalf of public education and human rights and national self-determination.
The Soler Papers chronicle over forty years of a life-long activist’s interests and participation in left-wing political, labor, and social justice movements. There is a particular focus on topics relating to socialism and the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico, anti-imperialist movements in South and Central America and Africa, and issues affecting Puerto Rican and Hispanic workers in the United States, New England, and the New York City area. Published and promotional materials such as periodicals, magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets make up the bulk of the collection, with extensive coverage of the concerns of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño, PSP), the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), as well as New Jersey chapters of the unions Communications Workers of America (CWA) and District 65, which eventually joined the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW).
- Communications Workers of America
- Labor unions--New York (State)--New York
- Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño
- United Automobile, Aircraft, and Vehicle Workers of America. District 65
Types of material
Collection growth is the heart of any archive, and as an active, growing archive, SCUA welcomes donations of personal papers, organizational records, photographs, diaries and journals, books and pamphlets, and other materials relating to our major collecting interests. With the support of our friends and colleagues, SCUA has built substantial depth in documenting:
- The history and experience of social change in America
- Innovation and entrepreneurship
- The social, cultural, intellectual, and political history of New England
- The University of Massachusetts Amherst, its faculty, staff, students, and alumni
SCUA offers secure, permanent housing for collections, excellent access for researchers, and a stimulating intellectual environment. Please help us preserve our history for the future.
For further information, please contact the Head of Special Collections.
Donate to the University Archives
The University Archives welcomes assistance in preserving the memory of UMass Amherst, our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. We document all aspects of the University and its unique intellectual climate and history, with a particular interest in:
- Personal, professional, or family papers
- Correspondence from students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni
- Diaries, journals, or reminiscences
- Memorabilia from UMass Amherst, Mass. Agricultural College, and Mass. State College
- Histories of departments, centers, institutes, and programs
- Syllabi, selected lectures, and lecture notes
- Records of committees, university organizations, or events
- Unique research materials, such as field notes
- Photographs and artwork.
To discuss archiving your papers with the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, please contact the Head of Special Collections.
Roscoe Wilfrid Thatcher Papers, 1900-1934.
Call no.: RG 003/1 T43
The agronomist Roscoe Thatcher served as the last president of Massachusetts Agricultural College and the first when the institution changed its name to Massachusetts State College in 1931. Before coming to Amherst, Thatcher had extensive experience in both agricultural research and administration, having served as director of the agricultural station for the state of Washington, as professor of plant chemistry at the University of Minnesota (1913-1917), and as dean of the School of Agriculture and director of the Minnesota Experiment Station (1917-1921), and as director of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. Selected as President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1927, he helped expand the two year program in practical agriculture to become the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and oversaw curricular reform, orienting vocational training toward citizenship education. The student health service also started during his tenure. Thatcher resigned due to ill health in 1933. Although he returned to research in agricultural chemistry at the College in April 1933, he died in his laboratory on December 6, 1933.
Official and administrative correspondence, memos, and other papers, relating to Thatcher’s service as president of Massachusetts State College together with writing and biographical material.
- Massachusetts State College. President
- Thatcher, Roscoe Wilfrid, 1872-1933
Ray Ethan Torrey Papers, 1832-1983.
Call no.: FS 121
A plant morphologist and member of the Botany Department at Massachusetts Agricultural College, Ray Ethan Torrey was among the college’s most charismatic faculty members during the early twentieth century. Born in Leverett, Mass., and educated in the local public schools, Torrey graduated from MAC with the class of 1912, earning his PhD at Harvard six years later. After serving on the faculty of Grove City College and Wesleyan, he returned to his alma mater in 1919, where he remained for more than 36 years. A specialist in plant morphology and author or two widely used textbooks and numerous articles, Torrey’s introductory course in botany was among the most popular in the college. He was best known, however, for taking a broader, philosophical approach to science that encouraged students to explore the connections between philosophy, science, religion, and the humanities. Torrey died of leukemia in Boston on Jan. 16, 1956.
Correspondence, chiefly with former students and colleagues at other institutions; lecture notes and outlines; 27 pen and ink drawings; published writings and drawings; biographical material; class and laboratory notes taken by students; family and educational records (1832-1956); photographs, and other papers.
- Botany--Study and teaching
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Botany Department
- Torrey, Ray Ethan, 1887-
Types of material
- Pen and ink drawings
Ralph Van Meter Papers, 1919-1958.
Call no.: RG 003/1 V36
Ralph Van Meter, the first president of the University of Massachusetts after it changed its name from Massachusetts State College in 1947, spent nearly 40 years learning, teaching, and leading on the Amherst campus. A graduate of Ohio State University (B.S., 1917), he came to the Massachusetts Agricultural College as a specialist in Food Conservation in 1917, serving in the Pomology Department first as a professor, and then as the head from 1936 to 1948. The Board of Trustees appointed Van Meter as Acting President in 1947 and President in 1948. He was responsible for a number of innovations, including the creation of the position of Provost (first held by John Paul Mather) and the establishment of new schools of business administration and engineering.
Correspondence, memos, reports, clippings, and other papers, relating to matters at issue during Van Meter’s presidency of University of Massachusetts including the building program, World War II veterans, accreditation, and the university seal; together with published writings, biographical material, military records, and material from Van Meter’s inauguration as university president.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. President
- Van Meter, Ralph Albert, 1893-
Frank A. Waugh Papers, 1896-1983.
Call no.: FS 088
Born in Wisconsin but raised and educated in Kansas, Frank Waugh got his first teaching job at Oklahoma State University. He went on to teach at the University of Vermont and finally settled down in Amherst, as a professor at Massachusetts Agricultural College. While at Mass Aggie, he became well know for establishing the second landscape gardening department in the country, later the department of landscape architecture. At a time when the field of landscape architecture was still taking root, Waugh’s influence was significant in shaping the profession. His contributions include numerous articles and books, the designs he planned and implemented, and the many students he taught and mentored. A natural offshoot of his work as a landscape architect, Waugh pursued other artistic avenues as well, most notably photography and etching. He served at MAC, later Massachusetts State College, for nearly forty years before retiring in 1939.
The collection includes an extensive representation of Waugh’s published articles along with biographical materials. The centerpiece, however, is the large number of photographs, lantern slides, and etchings. While his publications reveal the mind of a pioneer in his field, together these images portray the heart and soul of Waugh as an artist.
- Landscape architecture--United States--History
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Horticulture
- Waugh, Frank A. (Frank Albert), 1869-1943
Types of material
- Lantern slides
Frederick V. Waugh Collection, 1917-1919.
Call no.: PH 026
In July 1917, prior to the American entry in the First World War, Frederick Vail Waugh joined a group of about fifty residents of Amherst, Mass., who enlisted for duty in the Ambulance Service of the French Army. From August 1917 through April 1919, SSU 39 (Service Sanitaire Unis) — redesignated SSU 539 and transferred to the American Expeditionary Service in January 1918 — served among the trenches of northern France and Belgium. Known as the Black Cat squadron, they took part in three major offensives with the AEF, the Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, and Ypres-Lys. Waugh was among three members of the unit awarded the French Croix de Guerre for courage and energy during the last month of the war. After returning to the states, Waugh earned a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Agricultural College (1922), where his father Frank A. Waugh was a Professor of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, followed by an MA from Rutgers (1926) and PhD from Columbia (1929). He enjoyed a distinguished fifty year career as an agricultural economist with the US Department of Agriculture.
A snapshot of life in the First World War, the Waugh collection includes Frederick Waugh’s army jacket (with Croix de Guerre), helmet, and puttees, and a remarkable history of the unit and photo album, Being the Book of S.S.U. 539. A second book, I Was There with the Yanks in France (1919) has been transferred for shelving to the Rare Books stacks.
- Ambulance drivers--United States
- United States. Army Ambulance Service. Section 539
- World War, 1914-1918--Medical care
- Waugh, Frederick V. (Frederick Vail), 1898-1974
William Wheeler Papers, 1876-1930.
Call no.: RG 002/3 W54
The civil engineer William Wheeler was a member of the first graduating class of Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1871, and was one of its most prominent alumni of the nineteenth century. In 1876, Wheeler joined MAC President William Smith Clark and two other alumni of the college in helping to found the Sapporo Agricultural College in Japan (now Hokkaido University), succeeding Clark as president of SAP from 1877 to 1879. In later life, he was a successful hydraulic engineer and long-time trustee of MAC (1887-1929).
A small, tightly focused collection, the Wheeler Papers consist largely of letters written home by Wheeler while working at the Sapporo Agricultural College, 1876-1880. Typically long and descriptive, the letters include excellent accounts of travel in Japan and Wheeler’s impressions of Japanese culture, but they provide detailed insight as well into the work involved in establishing Sapporo Agricultural College.
- Clark, William Smith, 1826-1886
- Hokkaido (Japan)--Description and travel--19th century
- Hokkaido Daigaku
- Japan--Description and travel--19th century
- Massachusetts Agricultural College
- Penhallow, D. P. (David Pearce), 1854-1910
- Sapporo (Japan)--Description and travel--19th century
- Hudson, Woodward
- Wheeler, William, 1851-1932
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
University of Massachusetts Amherst. College of Arts and Sciences, 1944-2007.
Call no.: RG 011
The records of the College of Arts and Sciences document the history of its various offices and programs. Notable series within the record group are those from the office of the Dean, the Curriculum Advisory Council, the University Internship Program, English as a Second Language, and the Fine Arts Council.
- English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. College of Arts and Sciences
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Fine Arts Council