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Oral history

Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse
Oral historian at the First National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, 1977. Photo by Diana Mara Henry

No matter how rich our archival collections may be, there are always parts of the historical record that never make it onto the page. Memories, emotions, and attitudes are notoriously difficult to document, and there a variety of all-too human reasons that people choose not to write down every detail of their lives. As a result, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has been actively engaged in recording oral histories as a way of capturing a more complete record of the many voices and diverse experiences that comprise .

SCUA first ventured into oral historical work in the mid-1970s with efforts to document the history of the university prior to the massive expansion of the previous decade, and the department has subsequently engaged in oral historical projects to document the university’s 125th and 150th anniversaries. In the past decade, SCUA has extended its work to documenting the histories of persons represented in its collections and to a broader array of projects documenting the history and experience of social change and the people and cultures on New England. Furthermore, SCUA is the repository for hundreds of oral histories recorded by other people, ranging in scope from interviews with Franco-Americans in the 1980s, 20th century Argentine political figures, and former residents of the Quabbin towns in Western Massachusetts.

Many of SCUA’s oral histories are available online through our digital repository Credo. These include audio and video recordings and, in a few cases, they may be fully transcribed.

Supporting material

For donors of oral histories:

SCUA is happy to accept donations of oral histories that fit within its collection policy.

SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — but in every case, we prefer to receive the interview in the format in which it was recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer digital files that are uncompressed, however we appreciate receiving a compressed derivative (e.g., mp3 for audio, mp4 for video). When available, transcripts in print and electronic form are a very valuable addition.

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Otis Company

Otis Company Records
1846-1847
2 folders (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 310

The Otis Company of Ware, Massachusetts, was founded in 1839 and became a major producer of textiles, including checks, denims, and cotton underwear. At the height of their operations, the company operated three mills with a workforce of over 1,300.

The collection contains correspondence between Otis agent Henry Lyon and the firms of Parks, Wright & Co. (1846-47) and Wright, Whitman & Co. (1847), both of Boston. It includes bills, invoices, letters, and memos, covering orders for such goods as lamp glasses, patent starch, whale oil, gas pipes, bales of cotton, pot and pearl ashes, fish glue, sour flour, fire buckets, potato starch, tar, sheet copper, and indigo.

Gift of John Foster, May 1990
Subjects
  • Mills and milling--Massachusetts--Ware
  • Textile industry--Massachusetts
  • Ware (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • Otis Company

Panus, Mary Lou

Mary Lou Panus Polish American Collection
1895-1997
3 boxes (1.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 378

Mary Lou Panus documented Polish American life in Massachusetts by collecting newspaper clippings, business cards, programs, and Polish language prayer books and prayer cards.

The Panus collection includes photographs of Polish churches in Massachusetts, reflecting the important role religion played in the culture and in various communities. The collection also includes a doll dressed as a nun.

Subjects
  • Polish Americans--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Panus, Mary Lou

Patterson, Charles H.

Charles H. Patterson Papers
1930-1958
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 089
Image of Charles H. Patterson.<br />Photo by Frank A. Waugh, 1926
Charles H. Patterson.
Photo by Frank A. Waugh, 1926

For many years, Charles H. Patterson served as head of the Department of Language and Literature at Massachusetts Agricultural College. Born in Smithsonville, Ont., in 1863, Patterson received both a BA (1887) and MA (1893) from Tufts University before launching his teaching career. He joined the faculty at MAC as an assistant professor of English, in 1916, after 13 years at West Virginia University. A former professional actor, he taught courses in modern literature, with a particular interest in drama, and served as department chair for nearly a decade before his sudden death in 1933.

The Patterson Papers contain a small selection of correspondence and notes on English composition and literature as taught at Massachusetts Agricultural College. Most noteworthy, perhaps, is a draft of Patterson’s unpublished book, The Amazing Boucicault.

Subjects
  • Boucicault, Dion, 1820-1890
  • Drama--Study and teaching
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College. Department of English
Contributors
  • Patterson, Charles H

People

Frank Waugh image of woman standing in a field

General inquiries scua@library.umass.edu 413.545.2780
Cox, Robert (Head of Special Collections) rscox@library.umass.edu 413.545.2780
James, Lorraine (Conservation specialist) ljames@library.umass.edu
Kay, Kirstin (Mark H. McCormack Sport Innovation Archivist) kay@library.umass.edu 413.545.6843
Kovacs, Danielle (Curator of Collections) dkovacs@library.umass.edu 413.545.2784
Moore, Anne L. (Special Collections Librarian) amoore@library.umass.edu 413.545.6888
Robinson, Steve (Special Collections Assistant) stever@library.umass.edu 413.545.0274
Rubinstein, Aaron (University and Digital Archivist) arubinst@library.umass.edu 413.545.7963
Spitz, Blake (Archivist) bspitz@library.umass.edu 413.545.6898
White, Caroline (Archivist) cjwhite@library.umass.edu 413.545.9637

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Perske, Robert

Robert and Martha Perske Papers
1964-2005
13 boxes (19.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 772
Image of Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004
Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004

While serving with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines during World War II, the teenaged Bob Perske became aware of the vulnerable and disabled in society and turned his life toward advocacy on their behalf. Studying for the ministry after returning to civilian life, Perske was appointed chaplain at the Kansas Neurological Institute, serving children with intellectual disabilities for 11 years, after which he became a full-time street, court, and prison worker — a citizen advocate — laboring in the cause of deinstitutionalization and civil rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those caught in the legal system. After Bob married his wife Martha in 1971, the two became partners in work, with Martha often illustrating Bob’s numerous books and articles. In 2002, Perske was recognized by the American Bar Association as the only non-lawyer to ever receive the Paul Hearne Award for Services to Persons with Disabilities.

The Perske Papers contains a fifty year record of published and unpublished writings by Bob Perske on issues surrounding persons with disabilities, along with correspondence, photographs, and other materials relating to the Perskes’ activism. The correspondence includes a particularly rich set of letters with a fellow advocate for persons with disabilities, Robert R. Williams.

Gift of Robert and Martha Perske, 2013
Subjects
  • Mental retardation--Social aspects
  • People with disabilities--Deinstitutionalization
  • People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
Contributors
  • Perske, Martha
  • Williams, Robert R.
Types of material
  • Photographs

Phinney, Edward

Ed Phinney Papers
ca.1957-1996
2 boxes (3 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 102

Classics professor Edward Phinney spent his formative years in Columbia, South America. Although technically a product of America’s Great Depression, Phinney hailed from a middle-class Texan family that placed a high value on education. After receiving his PhD from the University of California Berkeley (1963), he joined the Classics department at UMass in 1969, where he became an important advocate for educational technology and distance learning. At various times, he served as the faculty director of the Foreign Language Resource Center and as chair of the Department of Classics (1981-1992). A popular lecturer who was considered “extraordinarily generous with his time,” Phinney’s Greek mythology course typically drew 500-600 students. He remained devoted to the Classics – -even participating in skits in Pompeii — until his death in 1996.

The Phinney collection includes a copy of Phinney’s dissertation, “Apollonius Rhodius,” his diplomas and numerous awards, and selected notes for teaching and research, particularly for his very popular course on mythology. Also included are two books of poetry translated by Phinney as well as his translations of Modern Greek poetry written by family friend George Samuel.

Gift of Mary Catherine Phinney, May 2008
Subjects
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Classics
Contributors
  • Phinney, Ed

Photographic collections

Jack Dixon and camera
Jack Dixon and camera, 1929, by Alton Blackington Collection

SCUA is a significant source for visual content, and thousands of digitized images are available for viewing online in our digital repository, Credo. Credo contains thousands of scanned images from our manuscript and photographic collections, representing photographers such as Jeff Albertson, James Baker, Alton Blackington, Burt V. Brooks, Lionel Delevingne, Roy Finestone, Clif Garboden, Diana Mara Henry, Nancy Palmieri, and Peter Simon, as well as over thousands of photographs documenting the history of the University of Massachusetts Amherst community. Although new content is being added to Credo daily, tens of thousands of other photographs are described through manuscript finding aids and have yet to be digitized. All can be viewed on site.

Digital copies of images from SCUA collections are available for a modest fee and modest publication fees may also apply for either commercial or scholarly use. Additional information about our collections can be obtained by contacting our reference staff.

Inventory of unscanned negatives

The Negatives Collection represents over 21,000 photo shoots (perhaps 500,000 images) undertaken by Campus Creative Services between 1954 and 2004. Each negative number represents a single photographic session and may include anywhere from a single image to thirty or more. Please note that the terms used in the inventory were supplied by Photo Services staff over many years and are not always accurate, and furthermore, not all images listed in these inventories were transferred to SCUA. You are always welcome to contact our archivists if you have any questions. Please use the reference number when requesting negatives.

Other UMass photo collections:

While the University Photograph Collection and Photo Center Negatives represent the largest collections of University-related photographs, there are several other smaller collections that visually document UMass.

Contact SCUA for more information about viewing the photographs in these collections.

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Pierrefeu, Yann de

Yann de Pierrefeu Diaries
1927-1938
3 boxes (1.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 815
Image of Yann de Pierrefeu, ca.1935
Yann de Pierrefeu, ca.1935

Marie Alphonse Leopold Jehan Tudor Dedons “Yann” de Pierrefeu was born in 1905, the eldest of four children born into a distinguished family and heir to a French marquisate. After attending the Groton School and Harvard, Pierrefeu settled in Cape Ann, marrying Ellen Hemenway Taintor in 1930.

A dedicated, if idiosyncratic diarist, Pierrefeu left a large number of dense and often impenetrable volumes that can be part dream book, part imagination, and part quixotic engagement with the turbulent events of the 1930s. Laden with references to the Oz novels and replete with nicknames and apparently coded language, the diaries offer glimpses into Pierrefeu’s social life and marriage, and his reactions to the Great Depression, national politics, history, and the growing crises in Europe and Asia.

Acquired from Ben Katz, Mar. 2014
Subjects
  • Depressions--1929
  • Dreams
  • Pierrefeu, Ellen Taintor
Types of material
  • Diaries
  • Photographs

Polish Architecture and Folk Art

Polish Architecture and Folk Art Photograph Collection
1980s
1 box, 234 items (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 279

234 photographs taken by Marian Pokropek and others of a variety of subjects in Poland, including homes, farms, buildings, churches, businesses, wood carvings, ceramics, corn dollies, friezes, metalwork, sculptors, paintings, textiles, ceremonies, and a Jewish graveyard. Many of these images were published in Pokropek’s books.

Subjects
  • Poland--Photographs
Contributors
  • Pokropek, Marian
Types of material
  • Photographs
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