To spark researchers’ 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, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the varied histories of the people 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 providing free and unfettered access to our holdings for all who wish to use them, using the highest professional standards and practices and the best technologies available.
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.
North Bridgewater (Mass.) Treasurer Account Book, 1858-1881.
Call no.: MS 223 bd
Nearly two thirds of this town treasurer’s account book from Bridgewater (later Brockton), Massachusetts, is devoted to a monthly accounting of money paid to the families of Civil War volunteers, beginning in April 1861 and carrying through 1881, made mostly by town treasurer R.P. Kingman; accounts of school district expenses and revenues for the years 1858 to 1869, for the 14 school districts in North Bridgewater (teacher salaries, supplies, and accounts with textbook publishers such as Harper & Bros. and Heath & Co.); and listings of salaries paid town officers, including the Superintendent of Streets, Overseer of the Poor, city clerk, city treasurer, and the Police Department.
- Schools--Massachusetts--North Bridgewater
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
- North Bridgewater (Mass.). Treasurer
Types of material
- Account books
North Center School District Records, 1818-1833.
Call no.: MS 442
The North Center School District in Hatfield, Massachusetts, was established in 1812, when the town divided into three school districts.
The collection consists of seventeen handwritten documents including financial records, a report and recipes relating to the North Center School District in Hatfield, Massachusetts, representing the period from 1818 to 1833. While not a comprehensive collection, the items nonetheless offer insight into education at the turn of the century, especially the sorts of expenses accrued in maintaining a small town schoolhouse.
- Hatfield (Mass.)--History
- School records--Massachusetts
- Schools--Records and Correspondence
- Allis, Dexter
- Bardwell, Elijah
- Bardwell, Remembrance
- Dickinson, Solomon
- Morton, Chester
- Morton, Jeremy
- North Center School District (Hatfield, Mass.)
- Porter, Theodore
- Waite, Daniel
- Waite, Justin
Planning Services Group Records, 1956-1986.
Call no.: MS 335
An urban planning firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that assisted New England cities and towns with initiating and managing urban development projects. The firm had two main types of contracts, urban renewal and comprehensive community planning, and many of their projects were supported with funds designated by the Federal Housing Act of 1949.
Includes organizational histories, memoranda, correspondence, proposal guidelines, materials for citizen participation, job inventories and reports, brochures that document urban growth management and the problems of suburbanization in New England, background studies, planning reports, growth management policies, zoning bylaws and amendments, and the files of Katharine Kumala.
- Urban planning--Massachusetts
- Planning Services Group (Cambridge, Mass.)
Prescott (Mass.) Collection, 1822-1952.
Call no.: MS 021
Rural and sparsely populated, Prescott, Massachusetts, was founded in 1822 along the ridge separating the West and Middle branches of the Swift River. Its three villages (North Prescott, Atkinson Hollow, and Prescott Hill) never amounted to more than a few houses each, and the town’s total population never exceeded 500. Prescott became the first of four towns to vacate after the Swift River Valley was ordered cleared and dammed to create the Quabbin Reservoir, ceding its administration to the state in 1928 before formally disincorporating in 1938.
The records of Prescott, Mass., document the history of the smallest of the four towns inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Held by the Swift River Valley Historical Society, the materials in this collection consist of records of town meetings and of the activities of the town Selectmen, 1822-1938, as well as sparser records of the School Committee, the Treasurer, and Overseers of the Poor.
- Prescott (Mass.)--Appropriations and expenditures
- Prescott (Mass.)--History
- Prescott (Mass.)--Politics and governmen
- Prescott (Mass.)--Social conditions
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Prescott (Mass. : Town)
- Prescott (Mass. : Town). Overseers of the Poor
Types of material
- Account books
- School records
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
Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook, 1842-1846.
Call no.: MS 016 bd
Club that met weekly or bi-weekly in Storrsville, Massachusetts, to debate questions of local, national, and international interest including religion, abolition and slavery, human nature, penal reform, the lure of the West, intemperance, and war and peace. Single minutebook includes two versions of the constitution, proposed and debated questions, the teams, the outcome, and notations of any additional activities that took place during the formal meetings.
- Ciceronean Debating Club (Dana, Mass.)
- Dana (Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
- Debates and debating--Massachusetts--Dana (Town)--History
- Storrsville (Dana, Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
- Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society (Dana, Mass.)--Archives
Types of material
- Minute books
Valley Peace Center Records, 1965-1973.
Call no.: MS 301
In the summer of 1967, members of University of Massachusetts Amherst campus groups, such as the Faculty Group on War and Peace and the Students for Political Action, joined with individuals from other area colleges and from the community at large to form the Valley Peace Center of Amherst for the purposes of opposing the Vietnam War, providing draft counseling, eliciting pledges from the government to avoid first use of nuclear and biological weapons, and reduction of the power of the “military-industrial complex”. The Center was active for more than five and a half years, drawing its financial support largely from the community and its human resources from student and community volunteers.
Correspondence, minutes, volunteer and membership lists, financial records, newsletters, questionnaires, notes, petitions, clippings, posters, circulars, pamphlets, periodicals, other printed matter, and memorabilia. Includes material relating to alternative service, boycotts, war tax resistance, prison reform, environmental quality, and political candidates.
- Amherst (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Draft--United States--History
- Peace movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Social movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Westover Air Force Base (Mass.)--History--20th century
- Valley Peace Center (Amherst, Mass.)
Types of material
Dana F. Ward Diaries, 1897-1982 (Bulk: 1904-1951).
Call no.: MS 577
Born in Chelsea, Mass., in 1874, and a long-time resident of Somerville, Dana F. Ward enjoyed a prominent career in the fisheries industry in Massachusetts. Entering the wholesale fish business in 1900 when he organized the firm of Whitman, Ward, and Lee, Ward became Director and Advertising Manager of the Boston Fish Market Corporation (builder and operator of the Fish Pier) and an investor. Before the U.S. entry into the First World War, Ward was employed by the state to lecture on the benefits of frozen fish as a food source. An active member in both the Congregational Church and local Masonic lodge, he married Katherine B. Symonds (d. 1948) in Leominster in October 1899.
Personal in nature, the Ward diaries provide a chronicle of the daily life of a relatively well to do fish wholesaler from 1897 through 1951, with some gaps. Generally small in size, the diaries are densely written and are laid in with letters, various sorts of documents, stamps, newsclippings, and other ephemera that help define the contours of Ward’s life. The collection is particularly rich for the years during the Second World War and it includes three diaries (1967, 1977, 1982) from later family members.
- Somerville (Mass.)--History
- Ward, Dana F
Types of material
Watchmaker's Account Book, 1882-1883.
Call no.: MS 623 bd
The mid-century success of the Waltham Watch Company set the stage for a period of innovation and corporate ferment in the manufacture and distribution of watches in the United States. As watchmakers and technologies spread and new companies sprouted and split at a rapid pace, Springfield emerged as a center for the production of high quality, mass produced watches. Perhaps best known among the large local corporations, the Hampden Watch Company was established in 1877 from the New York Watch Company and was bought out in turn by the Dueber Watch Company and relocated a decade later.
The unidentified owner of this slender account book maintained itemized records of income and expenses for a relatively small watchmaking concern in Springfield between May 1882 and September 1883. Most of the trade consisted of sales of accoutrements and repair work.
- Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
Types of material
- Account books