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
New Approaches to History Collection, 1967-1985.
Call no.: MS 182
The collection documents the creation and content of a course entitled New Approaches to History, which relied almost exclusively on the use of primary sources in teaching undergraduates history at UMass.
The collection includes the course proposal, correspondence, syllabi, course assignments, and resources for three units: Salem witchcraft, Shay’s Rebellion, and Lizzie Borden.
- History--Study and teaching
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
Association for Gravestone Studies Collection
Association for Gravestone Studies Book Collection, 1812-2005.
Call no.: Rare Book Collections
Founded in 1977, the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) is an international organization dedicated to furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. Based in Greenfield, Mass., the Association promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives. To raise public awareness about the significance of historic gravemarkers and the issues surrounding their preservation, the AGS sponsors conferences and workshops, publishes both a quarterly newsletter and annual journal, Markers, and has built an archive of collections documenting gravestones and the memorial industry.
The AGS Books Collection contains scarce, out of print, and rare printed works on cemeteries and graveyards, epitaphs and inscriptions, and gravemarkers, with an emphasis on North America. The collection is divided into two series: Series 1 (Monographs and Offprints) and Series 2 (Theses and Dissertations).
- Sepulchral monuments
- Association for Gravestone Studies
John W. Bennett Labor Collection, ca. 1880-2000.
Call no.: MS 443
Labor historian John W. Bennett has researched the history of the labor movement since his days as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts (Class of 1952). A born collector, he began accumulating memorabilia associated with unions, drawn to their potential as a visual record of labor iconography and self-representation.
Extending back to the 1880s, the Bennett Collection includes examples from around the country, but with a particularly strong representation of New England unions between the mid-1930s and mid-1970s.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Bennett, John W
Types of material
Charles Bestor Papers, 1971-2002.
Call no.: FS 035
Composer and presently the Professor of Composition and Director of the Electronic and Computer Music Studios of the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has taught at Juilliard School of Music and numerous other universities, won international awards for his music, and collaborated with contemporary installation artists. Includes scores and sound recordings for two of his compositions, Suite for Alto Saxophone and Percussion and In the Shell of the Ear, as well as correspondence, concert programs, and reviews all relating to the publication and performance of the works.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Music and Dance
- Bestor, Charles
Lea K. Bleyman Papers, 1958-2004.
Call no.: MS 548
The protistologist Lea Bleyman has conducted research into the genetics, mating systems, and life cycles of ciliates. A former student of Tracy Sonneborn, Bleyman has served as past Secretary and President (2001-2002) of the Society of Protozoologists, and spent many years on the faculty of the Department of Natural Sciences at Baruch College.
The Bleyman Papers contain lab and research notes, abstracts of talks and conference materials, along with some correspondence and annual progress reports from Baruch College. The earliest materials in the collection relate to her years as a student in Sonneborn’s lab.
- Baruch College--Faculty
- Society of Protozoologists
- Bleyman, Lea K
- Nanney, David Ledbetter, 1925-
- Sonneborn, Tracy Morton, 1905-1981
Types of material
- Laboratory notes
Burgett-Irey Family Papers, 1832-2010 (Bulk: 1929-2008).
Call no.: MS 605
Born in 1908 to Louis and Sarah Kessel Burgett, Katherine grew up on the family farm outside of Oquawka, Illinois. In 1924 her parents purchased their own farm in Monmouth, which they later lost due to the devastating impact of the Depression on agriculture, and it was there that she first met her future husband, Kenneth Monroe Irey, a student at Monmouth College. The newlyweds moved to New Jersey in 1931 where Kenneth was transferred for work. As a chemical engineer, Kenneth enjoyed a successful career and comfortably supported his wife and two children. Retiring in 1970, he and Katherine spent their later years pursuing two passions: traveling and bird-watching. Kenneth and Katherine’s eldest daughter, June Irey Guild, spent most of her adult life in Massachusetts where she has married twice, raised six children, and operated her own business. During her retirement years, June focused on preserving her family’s history by collecting letters and recoding family narratives.
The Burgett-Irey Family Papers chronicle the changes that many twentieth-century American families experienced as the nation descended into an economic depression, entered into a world war, and emerged as one of the most powerful countries in the world. The collection, which will continue to grow, includes approximately 65 letters between Katherine Burgett Irey and her family. Most of the letters exchange family updates, particularly precious after Katherine relocated to New Jersey. Among the earliest letters is an account of Katherine and Kenneth’s first meeting described as “fast work,” since he asked her out on the spot. Also included are autobiographical writings by Kenneth describing his cross-country trip to California in 1927 and a brief history of his life and career.
- Bird watching
- Burgett family
- Irey family
- Marriage--United States
- Motherhood--United States--History--20th century
- Mothers--United States--History--20th century
- Women--United States--History--20th century
- Guild, June Irey
- Irey, Katherine Burgett
- Irey, Kenneth Monroe, 1905-1994
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Anthony Campano Papers, 1956-2007.
Call no.: MS 617
Anthony “Tony” Campano and Shizuko Shirai met by chance in January 1955 as Tony was passing through Yokohama en route to his new post in Akiya. Recently transferred to Japan, Tony enlisted in the U.S. Army a little over a year earlier, serving first in Korea. As their relationship blossomed, Tony and Shizuko set up housekeeping until his enlistment ended and he returned home to Boston. Determined to get back to Japan quickly and marry Shizuko, the two continued their courtship by mail, sending letters through Conrad Totman and Albert Braggs, both stationed in Japan. By the summer of 1956, Tony re-enlisted in the Army, this time stationed in the Medical Battalion of the 24th Division located in Seoul, Korea. There he remained until August 1957 when he was finally able to secure official authorization to marry Shizuko. Cutting their honeymoon short to deal with her medical emergency, Tony returned to his post in Korea. The couple reunited in November of that year after Tony secured a new assignment in Yokohama.
The letters of Tony Campano to Shizuko Shirai during the year or more they were separated document their unlikely romance. Soon after Tony returned home when his first enlistment ended, friends and family tried to discourage him from pursuing a relationship with Shizuko. Despite their age difference–Shizuko was eleven years older– and the language barrier, the two ultimately married. In addition to the couple’s long-distance courtship letters, the collection also contains about 100 letters exchanged between Campano and Conrad Totman, dating from their early days in the U.S. Army to the present; taken together they document a friendship of more than fifty years.
- Japan--Social life and customs--1945-
- United States. Army--Non-commissioned officers--Correspondence
- Campano, Anthony
- Campano, Shizuko Shirai
- Totman, Conrad D
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Judi Chamberlin Papers, ca.1970-2010.
Call no.: MS 768
A pioneer in the psychiatric survivors’ movement, Judi Chamberlin spent four decades as an activist for the civil rights of mental patients. After several voluntary hospitalizations for depression as a young woman, Chamberlin was involuntarily committed for the only time in 1971, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her experiences in the mental health system galvanized her to take action on patients’ rights, and after attending a meeting of the newly formed Mental Patients’ Liberation Project in New York, she helped found the Mental Patients’ Liberation Front in Cambridge, Mass. Explicitly modeled on civil rights organizations of the time, she became a tireless advocate for the patient’s perspective and for choice in treatment. Her book, On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System (1978), is considered a key text in the intellectual development of the movement. Working internationally, she became an important figure in several other organizations, including the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilition at Boston University, the Ruby Rogers Advocacy Center, the National Disability Rights Network, and the National Empowerment Center. In recognition of her advocacy, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities in 1992, the David J. Vail National Advocacy Award, and the 1995 Pike Prize, which honors those who have given outstanding service to people with disabilities. Chamberlin died of pulmonary disease at home in Arlington, Mass., in January 2010.
An important record of the development of the psychiatric survivors’ movement from its earliest days, the Chamberlin Papers include rich correspondence between Chamberlin, fellow activists, survivors, and medical professionals; records of her work with the MPLF and other rights organizations, conferences and meetings, and her efforts to build the movement internationally.
- Ex-mental patients
- People with disabilities--Civil rights
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Mental Patients Liberation Front
- Mental Patients Liberation Project
- National Empowerment Center
Types of material