Founded under the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, UMass Amherst has long been dedicated to the study and teaching of agriculture and the natural sciences. One of two land grant institutions in the Commonwealth (along with MIT), the university has played an important role in the development of scientific agriculture in New England and has been a major factor in agricultural instruction through its classes and extension service.
SCUA’s collections contain a wealth of information on the history of agriculture and related fields, including horticulture, botany, entomology, animal husbandry, gardening, and landscape design. The strength of the collection lies in documenting the development of American agricultural sciences with an emphasis upon the northeastern states, but it is supplemented with numerous works on British, French, and German agriculture. Adding additional depth are the records of the several departments at UMass Amherst charged with instruction in the agricultural sciences and the papers of individual agricultural educators.
Currently, SCUA is particularly interested in documenting the growth of organic agriculture, heritage breeds, and the practices of sustainable living.
Significant Manuscript collections (view all)
- Agricultural education
- Papers of faculty members at Massachusetts Agricultural College and UMass Amherst, as well as educational organizations dedicated to instruction in the agricultural sciences. Among the individuals represented are the agricultural educator, Kenyon Butterfield; Levi Stockbridge, the first farm manager and long-time instructor at MAC; and William Smith Clark, William Penn Brooks, and William Wheeler, who were instrumental in the 1870s in establishing the agricultural college in Hokkaido, Japan.
- Farming and rural life
- Correspondence, farm accounts, and other records of farming and rural life, primarily in New England, as well as materials relating to the sociology of rural life.
- Botany and horticulture
- Collections relating to the scientific study of botany, horticulture, forestry, and related sciences.
- Landscape and gardening
- The papers and photographs of the landscape designer Frank Waugh, and other collections.
- Other natural sciences
- Including entomology and geology.
Printed works: Collecting areas
- Early works through the late nineteenth century on agriculture in America, Britain, and Europe, including those by John Fitzherbert, Thomas Hale, Arthur Young, “Columella,” John Smith, Gervase Markham, et al.
- Animal husbandry
- Works on sheep culture in the United States (Robert R. Livingston, Samuel Bard) and England (Lord Somerville, John Lawrence); dairy and beef cattle, horses, poultry science.
- Beekeeping and entomology
- Among the earliest rare books acquired by the Massachusetts Agricultural Library were a collections of rare books in beekeeping, including key works by Thomas Hill, John Keys, Daniel Wildman, Henry Eddy, from the late 17th through late 19th centuries. Works by Maria Sibylla Merian, John Curtis, Dru Drury, Johann Jakob Romer, Jacob l’Admiral
- Botany and Silviculture
- Important works on American botany by Frederick Pursh, Thomas Nuttall, Humphry Marshall’s Arbustrum Americanum, François André Michaux, early editions of Linnaeus
- Gardening and landscape design
- Three editions of Bernard M’Mahon’s American Gardener’s Calendar, William Cobbett, Alexander Jackson Davis, Humphry Repton, and others.
- Genetics, eugenics, animal breeding
- Essentially compete runs of Eugenics Quarterly, and key works in eugenics.
- Pomology, viticulture, and fruit culture
- William Prince, William Coxe, William Chorlton, et al.
To spark imaginations and to celebrate the legacy of innovation and the activist spirit, SCUA pursues an ambitious program of collecting materials of enduring historical value and offers strong support for research and learning. Through its collections, programs, public events, and exhibitions, SCUA promotes meaningful engagement with the broad record of social change in America and innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the varied histories of the peoples of New England and the UMass Amherst community. We embrace the university’s historic role as a center of knowledge for the people of the Commonwealth and are committed to using the highest professional standards and practices and the best technologies available to provide free and unfettered access to our holdings for all who wish to use them.
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. Documenting the activities of the administration and faculty and the life of its students, this 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.
The timing of Goodell’s proposal to preserve the College archives coincided roughly with the Library’s first efforts to assemble a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. Although the campus had no separate library building until 1885, the College accepted several significant gifts of books, beginning as early as 1868, when the apiarist and state Adjutant General Henry K. Oliver donated twenty scarce volumes on bee culture, followed by other donations of important works in agriculture, history, and science. By the time the library published its first catalogue in 1875, rare books were a small, but distinctive part of the collections. 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 two 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. All remain part of the collections today.
From its initial focus on agriculture, horticulture, and the natural sciences, the Library soon extended its collections to encompass the history and culture of New England. With the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski in 1973, the Library began to acquire collections of personal papers and organizational records of historical significance. The rare book and manuscript collections were combined administratively with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Today, SCUA oversees a growing research collection of primary materials that includes rare books and manuscripts, historic maps, photographs, prints, and the official records of the campus at UMass Amherst.
Linguistic Atlas of New England Records, 1931-1972.
Call no.: MS 330
The Linguistic Atlas of New England project, begun in 1889 and published 1939-1943, documented two major dialect areas of New England, which are related to the history of the settling and dispersal of European settlers in New England with successive waves of immigration.
The collection contains handwritten transcription sheets (carbon copies) in the International Phonetic Alphabet, with some explanatory comments in longhand. Drawn from over 400 interviews conducted by linguists in communities throughout New England in the 1930s, these records document the geographic distribution of variant pronunciations and usages of spoken English. The material, taken from fieldworkers’ notebooks (1931-1933), is arranged by community, then by informant, and also includes audiotapes of follow-up interviews (1934); phonological analyses of informants’ speech; character sketches of informants by fieldworkers; fieldworkers’ blank notebook; and mimeograph word index to the atlas (1948).
- English language--Dialects--New England
- Linguistic Atlas of New England
New England Historical Association Records, 1965-1999.
Call no.: MS 352
Records of the New England Historical Association including an organizational history, constitution and meeting minutes, correspondence, financial records, membership lists, committee reports, meeting programs, and newsletters.
- History--Study and teaching
- New England Historical Association
New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League Records, 1893-1977.
Call no.: MS 331
When Charles Marsters founded the Boston Lacrosse Club in 1913, the club was the only one in New England to play teams from outside of the region. Under Marsters’s leadership, however, participation in the sport rose steadily at both the high school and collegiate level, helping establish New England as one of the centers of the American game. In 1935, he and Tom Dent founded the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League (NEILL) to continue to build the sport.
The NEILL records document the growth of lacrosse from informal club team play to a more regulated, interscholastic and intercollegiate varsity sport. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, minutes, and agendas kept by co-founder Charles Marsters and a handful of other NEILL officers, but with material documenting the growth of the sport at UMass Amherst from the 1950s onward and the addition of women’s lacrosse as a collegiate sport. The collection also includes some printed material (including rulebooks), news clippings, and photographs.
- College sports--New England
- Lacrosse for women--United States
- Lacrosse guide
- Lacrosse--New England--History
- School sports--New England
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Sports
- Boyden, Frank L. (Frank Learoyd), 1879-1972
- Marsters, Charles E
- New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League
New England Labor and Community Newsletters, 1979-1984.
Call no.: MS 202
Includes eleven of the thirteen newsletters published by the Labor and Community Network, a group of academics and trade unionists interested in labor issues in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
- Labor--New England--Periodicals
- New England--Social conditions--Periodicals
- Working class--New England--Periodicals
Types of material
Western Massachusetts Ice Storm Photograph Collection, 1942.
Call no.: MS 354
Approximately every twenty years, western New England suffers from devastating ice storms, leaving heavy ice coating on trees and buildings and hazardous conditions. Major storms struck in 1921, 1942, 1961, 1983, 1998, and 2008, with the storm of December 29-30, 1942, disrupting power and closing roads throughout a broad swath of the northeast. In northern New York state, ice depths reached six inches.
The collection includes twenty six of an original thirty eight photographs depicting ice storm damage to power lines in the Pittsfield District (Windsor, Middlefield, Washington Mountain to Becket) resulting from the storm in December 1942. The collection also includes a cover letter pertaining to photos (not included) documenting a similar situation in Northampton, affecting the New England Power Service Co.
- Electric lines--Massachusetts--Photographs
- Electric power systems--Natural disaster effects --Massachusetts--Photographs
- Ice storms--Massachusetts--Photographs
- New England Power Service Company
Types of material
Western New England Poetry Collection, 1977-2008.
Call no.: MS 561
Since 2004, the Florence Poets Society has been a hub of the poetry communities in Western Massachusetts, promoting the sharing, reading, and publication of works by its members. The group has sponsored outdoor poetry festivals, poetry slams, and readings and it has encouraged publication of poetry through its annual review,
Established in partnership with Rich Puchalsky and the Florence Poets Society, the Western New England Poetry Collection constitutes an effort to document the vibrant poetry communities in Western New England. The collection includes all forms of poetry, from the written to the spoken word, in all formats, but with a particular emphasis upon locally produced and often difficult to find chapbooks, small press books, unpublished works, and limited run periodicals. The collection is not limited to members of the Florence Poets Society, and additions from poets in Western New England are eagerly welcomed.
- Poetry--New England
- Florence Poets Society
- Puchalsky, Rich
Farmers’ Produce Market Report Collection, 1935-1939.
Call no.: MS 588 bd
Established by the Department of Agriculture, the Division of Markets was responsible for determining the demand of agricultural products, encouraging their growth in Massachusetts, and informing purchasers and distributors of the condition of the markets. The division’s daily—except Saturday and Sunday—report provided vital information about the supply and demand of produce in the state.
The Farmers’ Produce Market Report Collection consists of the division’s report for the years 1935-1939. Details recorded include the activity of the market, prices for specific produce, agricultural products shipped within the U.S., and weather forecasts.
- Agricultural economics--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts. Department of Agriculture
New England Agricultural Economics Council Records, 1955-1966.
Call no.: MS 031
NEAEC was formed in 1955 after the dissolution of the New England Research Council on Marketing and Food Supply, in order to promote education and research on economics and the social problems relating to the production, marketing, and consumption of agricultural products.
The NEAEC Records include correspondence, minutes and proceedings, organizational and financial records, and newsletters.
- Agricultural economics--New England
- Dairy products--Marketing--New England
- Food industry and trade--New England
- Food--Marketing--New England
- New England Agricultural Economics Council