Special Collections and University Archives
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Dean Albertson Papers, 1966-1968

11 boxes (16.5 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 114

A long-time faculty member at UMass Amherst, Dean Albertson was a twentieth century U.S. historian with a specialty in oral history. A veteran of the Second World War, Albertson received his BA from University of California Berkeley (1942) and doctorate from Columbia (1955), joining the Department of History at UMass in 1965 after several years at Brooklyn College. Interested throughout his career in new methods in research and teaching history, he was author of books on Dwight Eisenhower, Claude Wickard (Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture), and the student movements of the 1960s. Albertson died at his home in Longmeadow, Mass., on March 31, 1989, at the age of 68.

The Albertson Papers consist of the records of three summer institutes in history at UMass run during the summer 1966-1968, and funded by the National Defence Education Act (NDEA). Aimed at high school teachers of social sciences and history in western Massachusetts, the institutes were designed to provide in-service training and to expose teachers to newer material and techniques in teaching U.S. history. See also Dean Albertson’s collection of oral histories.

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
  • Albertson, Dean, 1920-

Vincent Brann Papers, ca.1917-2005

(7.5 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 094

Vincent Clinton Brann was a Professor of Dramaturgy and Directing at UMass Amherst. Born Feb. 19, 1927 in Knoxville, Iowa, Brann served in the United States Army during WWII. After completing his B.A. at the University of Iowa in 1950 he was again called to serve in the Army during the Korean Conflict (1950-1951). Brann held faculty positions at Carnegie Institute of Technology, University of Maryland Overseas Program Europe, and Smith College before joining the faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Speech Department in 1964. Brann remained in the Speech Department until 1972 when it became the Department of Theater; he continued to teach in the Department of Theater until his retirement in 1988. Brann was well-known for his oral interpretation and performance classes as well as his productions and original scripts. At the time of his death in 2007 he was Professor Emeritus of Dramaturgy and Directing.

The Brann Papers are a collection of genealogical materials dating to the early 20th century, correspondence, family and travel photographs (particularly of Spain and France), play scripts with director’s notes, musical theater scores, and Brann’s college yearbooks.

  • Brann family
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Speech
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Theater
  • Brann, Vincent

Miriam Chrisman Papers, 1937-2007

13 boxes (9 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 128
Miriam Chrisman Papers image
Miriam U. Chrisman, 1964

A noted scholar of the social impact of the German Reformation, Miriam Usher Chrisman was born in Ithaca, New York, on May 20, 1920. With degrees from Smith College, American University, and Yale, she served for over thirty years on the faculty of the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, becoming a well-loved professor and treasured mentor to a generation of students.

A faithful and colorful correspondent, the bulk of Miriam Chrisman’s papers consist of letters written to family and friends stretching from her college days at Smith through the year before her death. The bulk of the correspondence is with her husband, Donald Chrisman, an orthopedic surgeon who was enrolled at Harvard Medical School during their courtship. Soon after the Chrismans married in November 1943, Donald left for active duty in the Navy on the U.S.S. Baldwin. The couple’s war correspondence is unusually rich, offering insight on everything from the social responsibilities of married couples to their opinions on the progression of the war. Of particular note is a lengthy letter written by Donald during and immediately after D-Day in which he provides Miriam a real-time description of the events and his reactions as they unfold. Later letters document Miriam’s extensive travels including a trip around the world. .

  • Smith College--Students
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Chrisman, Miriam Usher
Types of material
  • Letters (Correspondence)

Henry James Clark Papers, 1865-1872

1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 048
Henry James Clark Papers image
Trichodina pediculus

The first professor of Natural History at the Massachusetts Agricultural College, Henry James Clark, had one of the briefest and most tragic tenures of any member of the faculty during the nineteenth century. Having studied under Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz at Harvard, Clark became an expert microscopist and student of the structure and development of flagellate protozoans and sponges. Barely a year after joining the faculty at Massachusetts Agricultural College at its first professor of Natural History, Clark died of tuberculosis on July 1, 1873.

A small remnant of a brief, but important career in the natural sciences, the Henry James Clark Papers consist largely of obituary notices and a fraction of his published works. The three manuscript items include two letters from Clark’s widow to his obituarist and fellow naturalist, Alpheus Hyatt (one including some minor personal memories), and a contract to build a house on Pleasant Street in Amherst.

  • Developmental biology
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College. Department of Veterinary Science
  • Protozoans
  • Clark, Henry James, 1826-1873
  • Clark, Mary Young Holbrook
  • Hyatt, Alpheus, 1838-1902
Types of material
  • Contracts
  • Letters (Correspondence)

Walther R. Volbach Papers, 1897-1996

2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 087
Walther R. Volbach Papers image
Walther R. Volbach

Born in Mainz, Germany on December 24, 1897, the theater historian and stage director Walther R. Volbach began directing operas and plays at the age of 17. After his immigration to the United States in 1936, he worked for several colleges, coming to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for five years as a visiting professor following his retirement in 1965. Noted as a director of operas and plays and for his set design, Volbach was author of three books: The Problems of Opera Production (1953), Adolphe Appia : The Prophet of The Modern Theatre (1968), and Memoirs of Max Reinhardt’s Theaters (1972).

The Volbach collection includes personal and professional correspondence in English and German, mostly from Volbach’s later years, regarding family, publishing, lectures, and employment. The collection also includes photographs of set designs, an image of Volbach teaching a class, publications, and lecture and research notes on theater history.

  • Appia, Adolphe, 1862-1928
  • Drama--Study and teaching
  • Set designers
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Theater
  • Volbach, Walther R. (Walther Richard), 1897-

Double Edge Theatre Records, 1970-2002

28 boxes (15.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 455
Double Edge Theatre Records image
Bold Stroke for a Wife

Since its founding, Double Edge Theatre has embraced a two-fold mission: to develop and promote the highest quality of original theatre performance, and to create a permanent center of performance, practice, training research, and cultural exchange.

The collection documents the Theatre’s focus on research, international collaboration, and the elevation of artistic performance above and beyond stage work into the realm of cultural exchange.

  • Experimental theater
  • Theater and society
  • Theatrical companies--Massachusetts
  • Arnoult, Philip
  • Double Edge Theatre
  • Durand, Carroll
  • Klein, Stacy
  • Odin teatret
  • Staniewski, Wlodzimierz
  • Stowarzyszenie Teatralne "Gardzienice"
Types of material
  • Photographs
  • Posters
  • Programs


Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery and advances scholarship through astute curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry, the production of knowledge, and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

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. As the official record of the activities of the university’s administrators and faculty and a reflection of 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.

Goodell’s initiative to assemble the College archives coincided roughly with the Library’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. Although the College had no separate library until 1885, its administrators nevertheless accepted several significant gifts of books, beginning with the 1868 donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist and state Adjutant General Henry K. Oliver. By the time the library published its first catalog in 1875, rare books formed a small, but notable part of the collections, focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. 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 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.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collections of rare books and manuscripts have evolved in concert with the evolution of the university and its academic programs. 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, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. 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.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, but by 2007, evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, thanks to generous support from the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. The papers of W.E.B. Du Bois led SCUA’s way into the digital realm, followed by the papers of Horace Mann Bond, and then dozens of of other collections.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

Learn more:

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910
Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

SCUA is dedicated to documenting New England history, including primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.

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. Of particular note are two exceptionally large and rich collections: the records of the Hampshire Council of Governments, which contains over 325 years of county-level governance in western Massachusetts, and the records of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, which contains 350 years of Quaker history.

The recent political history of the region is documented through the papers of congressmen Silvio O. Conte and his successor John Olver, Governor Jane Swift, state Senator Stanley Rosenberg, state representatives John G. Clark, Maurice Donahue, Whiting Griswold, and John Haigis, and other figures involved in the political life of the Commonwealth.

In addition to holding material relating to many individual towns and communities in western Massachusetts, SCUA maintains a special interest in the history of the towns of the Quabbin watershed.

Significant collections

  • 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
    • Although SCUA has scattered holdings relating to earlier wars, the department houses interesting materials relating to World War II and the War in Vietnam, with the latter concentrated on the antiwar movement.
  • 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

Learn more:

New WORLD Theater Records, 1979-2010

41 boxes (61.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 025/F2/N4
New WORLD Theater Records image
Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002

New WORLD Theater was founded at UMass Amherst in 1979 by Roberta Uno with the mission of presenting innovative works of theater by contemporary artists of color, with the goal of fostering creative communities, promoting cultural equity, and embracing diverse cultural backgrounds, social engagement, and a commitment to justice. For more than thirty years New WORLD Theater produced many dozens of plays and other dramatic works representing new voices in the theater, as well as plays from the traditional multicultural repertory, and they have supported the arts through performance residencies, conferences and colloquia, and a variety of initiatives aimed at the diverse communities they serve, youth, and theater professionals. New WORLD Theater has contributed significantly to national conversations on cultural equity. After more than three decades of acclaim and recognition, New WORLD Theater was closed by UMass Amherst in summer 2010.

The bulk of the New WORLD Theater collection consists of administrative records documenting the day-to-day activities of the theater, however, it also contains an extensive and exceptionally rich archive of taped interviews, conferences, and theatrical productions. Taken together, the audiovisual material traces the history of New WORLD through the words and performances of artists who both contributed to and benefited from the theater.

  • African Americans--Drama
  • American drama--Minority authors
  • Asian Americans--Drama
  • Ethnic groups--United States--Drama
  • Hispanic Americans--Drama
  • Minorities--United States--Drama
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • New WORLD Theater
  • Page, Priscilla
  • Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
  • Audiovisual materials
  • Sound recordings
Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse
Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse

Marking the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the University of Massachusetts, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is conducting an oral history project to capture the many voices and diverse experiences that make up our campus community. The anniversary presents an opportunity to reflect on the real achievements — and real challenges — of public higher education over the past century and a half, and a chance to consider where we would like to be in the future.

Over the course of eighteen months, the staff of SCUA and our associates will conduct one hundred and fifty interviews with an array of administrators, faculty, students, alumni, and university employees, as well as selected members of the local community. As they are completed, the interviews will be made available to the public through this website and Credo, SCUA’s digital repository.

If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact the SCUA staff.

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