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
Western Massachusetts Library Club Records, 1898-2006.
Call no.: MS 492
Situated in a region known for its progressive spirit, the Western Massachusetts Library Club was established in 1898 to respond to the unique needs of librarians overseeing small or rural libraries, and to foster camaraderie among local colleagues. Almost immediately, however, the club expanded its focus, taking positions on issues ranging from modern library practices to national legislation and leading the way in the expansion of services for public libraries, all while maintaining its identity as an advocate for local libraries and librarians.
The collection is richest in records that document the early history of the club including detailed meeting minutes, news clippings, programs, and circulars. Beginning in the late 1960s, the club’s activities are captured primarily through membership lists and meeting notices and programs. Taken together, the records trace the growth of the WMLC for more than a century from its establishment to the present.
- Cutter, Charles A. (Charles Ammi), 1937-1903
- Western Massachusetts Library Club
Franco-American Oral History Collection, 1980-1984.
Call no.: MS 123
With a population of nearly a million French Americans, Massachusetts bears witness to the largest continental migration experienced in the Northeast. Under a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, 44 interviews of Franco Americans in the region were conducted from August 8, 1982 to January 18, 1983.
These interviews document the lives of those individuals, covering a period beginning in the late nineteenth century through 1984.
- French Americans--Massachusetts
Types of material
- Oral histories
Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection, ca.1970-2004.
Call no.: PH 050
A long-time member of the English Department at the University of Albany, Barbara Rotundo was a 1942 graduate in economics at Mount Holyoke College. After the death of her husband, Joseph in 1953, Rotundo became one of the first female faculty members at Union College, and after earning a master’s degree in English at Cornell University and a doctorate in American Literature from Syracuse University, she served as an associate professor of English at the University of Albany, where she founded one of the first university writing programs in the United States. Avocationally, she was a stalwart member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, helping to broaden its scope beyond its the Colonial period to include the Victorian era. Her research included the rural cemetery movement, Mount Auburn Cemetery, white bronze (zinc) markers, and ethnic folk gravestones. Her research in these fields was presented on dozens of occasions to annual meetings of AGS, the American Culture Association, and The Pioneer America Society. In 1989, after residing in Schenectady for forty-six years, she retired to Belmont, NH, where she died in December 2004.
Consisting primarily of thousands of color slides (most digitized) and related research notebooks, the Rotundo collection is a major visual record of Victorian grave markers in the United States. The notebooks and slides are arranged by state, with an emphasis on the eastern states, and white bronze (zinc) markers also are represented in photographs and a separate research notebook. The collection also includes several rare or privately published books.
- Cemeteries--New York (State)
- Sepulchral monuments--New Jersey
- Sepulchral monuments--New York (State)
- Sepulchral monuments--Pennsylvania
- Rotundo, Barbara
Types of material
Ebenezer Akin Account Book, 1842-1869.
Call no.: MS 220 bd
Businessman, town clerk, owner or part-owner of many ships, merchant, lawyer, and involved citizen in the town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Includes activities as town clerk, accounts for ships he may have owned, entries made as the executor of several estates, accounts of expenditures for clothing and incidentals, and accounts of lot purchases and loans. Also contains genealogical information about the Blossom family of Bridgewater and the family of Benjamin and Eunice Akin.
- Akin, Benjamin, 1715-1802
- Akin, Eunice
- Blossom family
- Clothing and dress--Prices--Massachusetts--Fairhaven
- Fairhaven (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Fairhaven (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Hesper (Bark)
- Napoleon (Ship)
- William Rotch (Ship)
- Winthrop (Bark)
- Akin, Ebenezer, 1816-
Types of material
- Account books
- Inventories of decedents estates
Burt V. Brooks Photograph Collection, 1889-1934.
Call no.: PH 060
The artist Burt Vernon Brooks was one of the outstanding chroniclers of daily life in the Swift River Valley before it was inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Born in Brimfield, Mass., in 1849 and raised in Monson, Brooks moved to Greenwich with his family in the 1870s, where he worked on the family farm. At some unclear point before he turned 40, Brooks became active as an artist, painting local homes and scenery and taking photographs of the landscape, residents, and daily life in the Quabbin region. A prolific photographer, he was, in the words of historian Donald W. Howe, “hardly ever seen without his camera strapped to his back,” remaining active for decades. Three years after following his second wife to the west, Brooks died in Los Angeles in 1934.
The great majority of the 92 photographs in this collection are 5×7″ dry plate glass negatives taken by Brooks in the earliest years of the twentieth century, documenting the houses and people of Greenwich. Brooks’ work includes landscapes, houses, and a significant series of images of the Hillside School, but some of his best works are studio portraits, images of people at home or with their carriages, and posed scenes of children at play or at work. The collection also includes eight images by Brooks at Enfield, Greenwich, and Dana that are the property of the Swift River Valley Historical Society, and six images taken by Chetwynd and Pike in the Quabbin region to document properties slated for removal.
- Carriages and carts--Massachusetts--Greenwich--Photographs
- Dana (Mass.)--Photographs
- Enfield (Mass.)--Photographs
- Greenwich (Mass.)--Photographs
- Hillside School (Marlborough, Mass.)
- New Salem (Mass.)--Photographs
- Prescott (Mass.)--Photographs
Types of material
- Dry plate gelatin negatives
- Gelatin silver negatives
William Colman Account Book, 1802-1822.
Call no.: MS 212 bd
Merchant and shoemaker from the Byfield Parish of Newbury, Massachusetts and Boscawen, New Hampshire. Includes accounts of the prices paid for shoemaking and agricultural labor, accounts of the men and women who worked for his father’s shoe store and factory, notes of who lived in the younger Colman’s home, a page mentioning his move to New Hampshire, and accounts of agricultural produce sales and exchange of farm labor.
- Agricultural wages--New Hampshire--History--19th century
- Boscawen (N.H.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Boscawen (N.H.)--Rural conditions--19th century
- Households--Massachusetts--Newbury--History--19th century
- Merchants--Massachusetts--Newbury--History--19th century
- Newbury (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Shoemakers--Massachusetts--Newbury--History--19th century
- Shoes--Prices--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- Colman, William, 1768-1820
Types of material
- Account books
W.A. Currier Daybooks, 1865-1869.
Call no.: MS 213
Hardware store merchant, stove dealer, and tinsmith from Haverhill, Massachusetts. Daybooks include documentation of customers, items purchased, prices paid, and transactions relating to Currier’s rag trade.
- Adams, George
- Bradford (Haverhill, Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Contractors--Massachusetts--Haverhill--History--19th century
- Daniels, W. F
- Gildea, Peter
- Griffin, Samuel
- Hardware stores--Massachusetts--Haverhill--Finance--History--19th century
- Haverhill (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Kimball, O
- O'Brine, J. W
- Rags--Prices--Massachusetts--Haverhill--History--19th century
- Stacy, W. P
- Stove industry and trade--Massachusetts--Haverhill--History--19th century
- Stoves--Repairing--Massachusetts--Haverhill--History--19th century
- Tinsmiths--Massachusetts--Haverhill--History--19th century
- Currier, W. A
Types of material
- Account books
Dall Family Correspondence, 1810-1843.
Call no.: MS 282
Chiefly correspondence from various Dall family members in Boston, Massachusetts, particularly father William Dall, Revolutionary War veteran, merchant, businessman and former Yale College writing master, to sons William and James Dall in Baltimore, Maryland. Letters of son James Dall, then a student at Harvard University, provide accounts of Boston political and cultural activities of the time.
The correspondence documents the daily changes in the life of a merchant’s family in the early 19th century, reflecting anxiety over trade restrictions, embargoes, and other economic disruptions resulting from the War of 1812. The elder Dall (William 3rd) and much of his family lived in Boston, but two sons lived in Baltimore. The bulk of the correspondence consists of letters to the younger son, William 4th, who was then apprenticed to a Baltimore merchant. The letters of son James Dall, then a student at Harvard University, provide accounts of Boston political and cultural activities.
- Baltimore (Md.)--Biography
- Baltimore (Md.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Boston (Mass.)--Biography
- Boston (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Boston (Mass.)--Intellectual life--19th century
- Boston (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Dall family
- Family--United States--History--19th century
- Harvard University--Students
- Dall, James, 1781-1863
- Dall, John Robert, 1798-1851
- Dall, John, 1791-1852
- Dall, Joseph, 1801-1840
- Dall, Maria, 1783-1836
- Dall, Rebecca Keen
- Dall, Sarah Keen, 1798-1878
- Dall, William, 1753-1829
- Dall, William, 1794 or 5-1875
Enfield (Mass.) Collection, 1800-1939.
Call no.: MS 010
Situated at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Swift River in western Massachusetts, Enfield was the largest and southernmost of the four towns inundated in 1939 to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Incorporated as a town in 1816, Enfield was relatively prosperous in the nineteenth century on an economy based on agriculture and small-scale manufacturing, reaching a population of just over 1,000 by 1837. After thirty years of seeking a suitably large and reliable water supply for Boston, the state designated the Swift River Valley as the site for a new reservoir and with its population relocated, Enfield was officially disincorporated on April 28, 1938.
The records of the town of Enfield, Mass., document nearly the entire history of the largest of four towns inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The core of the collection consists of records of town meetings and of the activities of the town Selectmen, 1804-1938, but there are substantial records for the Enfield Congregational Church. The School Committee, Overseers of the Poor, the town Library Association, and groups such as the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Bethel Masonic Lodge.
- Enfield (Mass.)--History
- Enfield (Mass.)--Politics and government
- Enfield (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- Enfield (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History
- Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Women--Societies and clubs
- Daughters of the American Revolution. Captain Joseph Hooker Chapter (Enfield, Mass.)
- Enfield (Mass. : Town)
- Enfield (Mass. : Town). Overseers of the Poor
- Enfield (Mass. : Town). Prudential Committee
- Enfield (Mass. : Town). School Committee
- Enfield Congregational Church (Enfield, Mass.)
- Enfield Congregational Church (Enfield, Mass.). Women's Auxiliary
- Enfield Congregational Church (Enfield, Mass.). Women's Missionary Society
Types of material
- Account books
- Church records