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.
Ray Family Papers, 1898-1953 (Bulk: 1911-1944).
Call no.: MS 432
Herman Edgar Ray, son of Fred Jackson Ray and Mabel Cosella Merriam Ray, was born in Westminster, Massachusetts on May 28, 1911. Herman Edgar married Anita Crabtree on May 4, 1934 in Gardner, Massachusetts. The family remained in the area throughout the 1950s as indicated by their correspondence.
The collection consists primarily of family photographs spanning three identifiable generations of the Ray family, and contains photograph albums, formal portraits, and miscellaneous photographs. Additional material includes postcards, correspondence, and hand-made greeting cards. The materials document the childhood of Herman Edgar Ray. His extended family includes: Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Ray, Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Ray, Ray Fenno, Mary Emergene Fenno, Mr.and Mrs. Charles A. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Davis, Helen Gates, Mary Russell, and Eleanor Howe.
- Massachusetts--Description and travel
- Portraits--History--20th century
- Westwinster (Mass.)--History
- Ray, Herman Edgar
Types of material
- Photograph albums
Laura M. Ross Papers, 1945-2003 (Bulk: 1967-1990).
Call no.: MS 515
Born in the coal mining town of Blossburg, Pa., in 1913, Laura Ross (nee Kaplowitz) grew up in poverty as one of seven children of Lithuanian immigrants. In about 1932, Ross married Harry Naddell, a wine merchant, and settled into a comfortable life Brooklyn, N.Y., raising a son and daughter. During the Second World War, however, she became intensely politicized through her work with Russian War Relief, joining the Communist Party and eventually divorcing her les radical husband. Moving to the Boston area, she married Max Ross in 1963, an attorney for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and became a noted presence in a wide range of political activities, working for civil rights, the antiwar movement, and for many years, helping to run the Center for Marxist Education in Central Square , Cambridge. Perhaps most notably, between 1974 and 1984, Ross ran for Congress three times on the Communist Party ticket, taking on the powerful incumbent Tip O’Neill and winning almost a quarter of the vote. An activist to the end, Ross died in Cambridge on August 5, 2007.
The Ross papers are the legacy of a highly visible activist, organizer, educator, and member of the Communist Party USA. Heavily concentrated in the period 1967-1990, the collection includes material relating to her affiliation with CPUSA and her work with the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Mass., including information on party membership, platforms, and conventions, minutes from various district committee meetings, material relating to the People’s Daily World, and course information and syllabi. Scattered throughout the collection are materials pertaining to contemporary political issues and elections, particularly the policies associated with Ronald Reagan. Ross was a vocal and persistent opponent of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race that Reagan accelerated.
- Center for Marxist Education (Cambridge, Mass.)
- Communist Party of the United States of America
- Peace movements--Massachusetts
- People’s Daily World
- United States--Politics and government--1981-1989
- Ross, Laura
Stephen Siteman Papers, 1942-1998.
Call no.: MS 503
A member of the Post War World Council, an ardent pacifist, and anti-imperialist, Stephen Siteman was a long-time member of the Socialist Party of America, serving for seventeen years as secretary to the party’s leader Norman Thomas. In his late teens, Siteman was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War II. Although he was later pardoned, his time as a prisoner led him into active involvement in prison reform and the peace movement.
During his long involvement in the Socialist Party, Siteman collected a large quantity of material relating to important socialist issues, including Socialist Reform, the peace movement, conscientious objection, and prison reform. The collection also includes a small selection of Siteman’s personal correspondence with Frank Zeidler, former Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, and the novelist Mark Harris.
- Conscientious objectors
- Democratic Socialists of America
- Pacifists--United States
- Peace movements--United States
- Prison reformers
- Prisons--United States
- Socialists--United States
- Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968
- War Resisters League of America
- World War, 1939-1945
- Harris, Mark, 1922-2007
- Siteman, Stephen
- Zeidler, Frank P
Arvo A. Solander Papers, 1930-1958.
Call no.: MS 587
Graduating from Harvard in the thick of the Great Depression, Arvo A. Solander worked as a civil and sanitary engineer for a variety of state and federal agencies, including the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the 1930s, as opportunity arose, he filled positions as a road engineer, in the design and construction of water and sewage plants, in pollution control, as a safety engineer in the shellfish industry, and in mosquito control, taking jobs throughout Massachusetts and as far away as Tennessee. After using his talents as an officer in the Sanitary Corps during the Second World War, based primarily in Arkansas, Solander returned home to Massachusetts and opened a private engineering office in South Hadley. He worked as a civil engineer and surveyor until his death in January 1976.
The Arvo Solander Papers consists of twenty-four bound volumes documenting thirty years of varied work as an engineer, including his contributions to the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Within the bound volumes are a wide range of reports, typescripts, sketches and diagrams, graphs, contracts and design specifications, photographs, and postcards.
- Civil engineers
- Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
- Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)
- Roads--Design and construction
- Sanitary engineers
- Sewage disposal plants--Design and construction
- United States. Federal Civil Works Administration
- Westfield State Sanatorium
- World War, 1939-1945
- Wrentham State School
- Solander, Arvo A
Types of material
St. Kazimier Society Records, 1904-1984.
Call no.: MS 253 bd
The St. Kazimier Society was an early mutual aid society formed in the Polish community in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Established in 1904, the Society preceded the founding of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church by five years.
Records of the St. Kazimier Society of Turners Falls include administrative files, financial records, educational materials, and photographs. Account books generally reflect members’ premium payments and benefits, the income and expenses of the society itself, and of the club.
- Mutual aid societies--Massachusetts
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Turners Falls
- Turners Falls (Mass.)--History
- St. Kazimier Society (Turners Falls, Mass.)
Types of material
- Account books
Daniel M. J. and Joyce Stokes Papers, 1984-1996.
Call no.: MS 661
From 1987 through early 1988, Daniel and Joyce Stokes published Into the Night, “a newsletter for freedom for political prisoners held in the United States.” Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., this simply-produced publication offered updates and commentary on Americans imprisoned for politically-motivated acts. Reflecting both the legacy of 1960s radicalism and the resurgent activism associated with U.S. imperialism in Central America, Into the Night offered news on the Ohio 7 sedition trial, the MOVE organization, and the fate of Plowshares war resisters.
The Stokes collection contains correspondence from subscribers and supporters of Into the Night, fleshing out their political philosophy and the conditions of imprisonment. Drawn from groups including the MOVE organization, the United Freedom Front, Black Liberation Army, and Plowshares, the correspondents include Ramona Africa, Alberto Aranda, Philip Berrigan, Marilyn Buck, Carl Kabat, Ray Luc Levasseur, Ruchell Cinque Magee, and Carol Manning. The collection also includes copies of other radical publications and a complete run of Into the Night itself.
- African American prisoners
- African American radicals
- Anti-imperialist movements
- Into the Night
- MOVE (Group)
- Ohio 7
- Political prisoners
- United Freedom Front
- Africa, Ramona
- Aranda, Alberto
- Berrigan, Philip
- Buck, Marilyn
- Gelabert, Ana Lucia
- Hernandez, Alvaro L
- Kabat, Carl
- Levasseur, Ray Luc
- Magee, Ruchell Cinque
- Stokes, Daniel M. J.
- Stokes, Joyce
Types of material
Stonewall Center Records, 1962-2005.
Call no.: RG 030/2/6
Following a series of homophobic incidents on the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1985, the Program for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns was established as an administrative center in the Office of Student Affairs. Later renamed after the notorious riots in New York, the Stonewall Center has provided the campus and surrounding community with cultural and educational programming through speakers, films, video and book library, Speakers Bureau on LGBTQ issues, referrals and support, advocacy and community outreach.
The records of the Stonewall Center include documentation of day to day operations, including phone logs, memos, and budget information, as well as posters and press releases for events, publications, campus and external reports, training manuals, surveys, newspaper clippings, and ephemera such as banners, tee-shirts, and buttons.
- Gay college students--Massachusetts
- Gays--Services for
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns
- Stonewall Center
- Yeskel, Felice
Ruth J. Totman Papers, ca. 1914-1999.
Call no.: FS 097
Trained as a teacher of physical education at the Sargent School in Boston, Ruth J. Totman enjoyed a career at state normal schools and teachers colleges in New York and Pennsylvania before joining the faculty at Massachusetts State College in 1943, building the program in women’s physical education almost from scratch and culminating in 1958 with the opening of a new Women’s Physical Education Building, which was one of the largest and finest of its kind in the nation. Totman retired at the mandatory age of 70 in 1964, and twenty years later, the women’s PE building was rededicated in her honor. Totman died in November 1989, three days after her 95th birthday.
The Totman Papers are composed mostly of personal materials pertaining to her residence in Amherst, correspondence, and Totman family materials. The sparse material in this collection relating to Totman’s professional career touches lightly on her retirement in 1964 and the dedication of the Ruth J. Totman Physical Education Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Supplementing the documents is a sizeable quantity of photographs and 8mm films, with the former spanning nearly her entire 95 years. The 8mm films, though fragile, provide an interesting, though soundless view into Totman’s activities from the 1940s through the 1960s, including a cross-country trip with Gertrude “Jean” Lewis, women’s Physical Education events at the New Jersey College for Women, and trips to Japan to visit her nephew, Conrad Totman..
- College buildings--Massachusetts--Amherst--History--Sources
- Conway (Mass.)--Genealogy
- Dairy farms--Massachusetts
- Family farms--United States
- Farm life--United States
- Physical Education for women
- Totman family
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--History
- Women physical education teachers
- Drew, Raymond Totman, 1923-1981
- Lewis, Gertrude Minnie, 1896-
- Totman, Conrad D
- Totman, Ruth J
Types of material
Trent Family Papers, 1850-1996.
Call no.: MS 373
Five generations of an African-American family that achieved commercial success and wealth through the restaurant and catering business as well as extensive real estate investments at the turn of the 20th century in New York City, Brooklyn, and Sea Cliff, Long Island, New York. Includes letters, public and church records, news clippings, ephemera, a videotape, and 87 photographs.
- African American capitalists and financiers--New York (State)--Biography
- African American families--New York (State)--History
- African Americans--Genealogy--Handbooks, manuals, etc
- African Americans--New York (State)--Biography
- African Americans--New York (State)--Social life and customs
- Burleigh, H. T. (Harry Thacker), 1866-1949
- Capitalists and financiers--New York (State)--Biography
- Fuller, Meta Warrick, 1877-1968
- Landowners--New York (State)--Biography
- Restauranteurs--New York (State)--Biography
- Smith family
- Smith, William H. (William Henry), 1836-1923
- Trent family
Types of material
- Baptismal certificates
- Vital statistics records