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Mission and history

Mission

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

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation 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. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History 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 foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included 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. Each of these volumes remains 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 collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, 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 merged 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, and by 2007, it had 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, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

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:

Morris, William, 1834-1896

William Morris, The friendship of Amis and Amile
ca.1894
1 item (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 362 bd

A leader in the English Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris translated the ancient French romance, Amis and Amile, in 1894, one of a number of romances he published in his literary efforts to restore the middle ages.

This holograph copy of Morris’s short story was prepared for the Kelmscott Press in 1894 and printed in a run of 500. The first American edition appeared later that year, published by Thomas Bird Mosher.

Subjects
  • Kelmscott Press
Contributors
  • Morris, William, 1834-1896
Types of material
  • Holographs (Autographs)

Morton, Cyrus

Cyrus Morton Account Book
1828-1838
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 185 bd

The physician Cyrus Morton, (1797-1873) came from a notable medical family from Plymouth County, Mass. His father Nathaniel and son Thomas were both physicians, and his sister-in-law, Julia A.W. (Drew) Winslow was one of the first female medical doctors in the Commonwealth. Morton’s second wife, Lydia Hall (Drew) Morton, was one of the first teachers at the Perkins School for the Blind, and a member of the first graduating class of the Lexington Normal School. Morton died in Halifax on May 18, 1873.

Morton’s account book contains records of frequent visits to his patients, dispensing medicine, his fees and receipts for payment (often received in kind as pigs, fish, beef, hay, wood, the use of a horse, spinning done by widows or wives, digging a well, carpentry, etc.), and a copy of a prayer in Morton’s hand. Among Morton’s patients were Timothy Wood, Stafford Sturtevant, Jacob Thompson, Capts. Knapp and Cushman, and Cyrus Munroe.

Subjects
  • Halifax (Mass.)--Social life and customs--19th centur
  • Physicians--Massachusetts--Halifax--19th century
Contributors
  • Morton, Cyrus, 1797-1873
Types of material
  • Account books

Mungo, Raymond, 1946-

Raymond Mungo Papers
1966-2008
6 boxes (3 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 659
Image of Raymond Mungo, 1967
Raymond Mungo, 1967

Born in a “howling blizzard” in February 1946, Raymond Mungo became one of the most evocative writers of the 1960s counterculture. Through more than fifteen books and hundreds of articles, Mungo has brought a wry sense of humor and radical sensibility to explorations of the minds and experiences of the generation that came of age against a backdrop of the struggles for civil rights and economic justice, of student revolts, Black Power, resistance to war, and experimentation in communal living.

Consisting of the original typescripts and manuscripts of ten of Raymond Mungo’s books, along with corrected and uncorrected galleys and a small number of letters from publishers. Among the other materials in the collection are thirteen photographs of Mungo taken by Clif Garboden and Peter Simon during and immediately after his undergraduate years at Boston University; a DVD containing motion pictures of life at Packer Corners in 1969 and 1977; and an irate letter from a writer regarding the status of poems he had submitted to Liberation News Service.

Subjects
  • Communal living--Massachusetts
  • Communal living--Vermont
  • Liberation News Service (Montague, Mass.)
  • Montague Farm Community (Mass.)
  • Nineteen Sixties
  • Packer Corners Community (Vt.)
  • Porche, Verandah
Contributors
  • Garboden, Clif
  • Mungo, Raymond, 1946-
  • Simon, Peter, 1947-
Types of material
  • Photographs

Murdock, Charles N., 1835-1904

Charles N. Murdock Ledger
1866-1869
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 251

A grocer from Stow, Massachusetts, Charles N. Murdock catered principally to farmers and the country trade.

The accounts of Murdock’s store include mention of products sold (groceries and other items) and payment received, usually in kind (lard, eggs, fruit, butter, potatoes, cigars, beans, cash, and labor).

Subjects
  • Barter--Massachusetts--Stow--History--19th century
  • Derby, Reuben
  • Grocers--Massachusetts--Stow--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Grocery trade--Massachusetts--Stow--History--19th century
  • Stow (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Stow (Mass.)--Rural conditions--19th century
  • Temple, Rufus
  • Wages-in-kind--Massachusetts--Stow--History--19th century
Contributors
  • Murdock, Charles N., 1836-
Types of material
  • Account books

Murray, Samuel E., 1906-1989

Samuel E. Murray Papers
ca.1945-1989
14 boxes (7 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 568
Image of Samuel Murray, 1966
Samuel Murray, 1966

One of the pioneers in the ephemera trade, Samuel E. Murray (1906-1989) was a long time antiquarian bookman, based at his home in Wilbraham, Mass. Born on Christmas Day, 1906, Murray interrupted his college studies to go to sea, but after the Depression left him unemployed, he landed a position as sales representative for McGraw-Hill and, later, G. & C. Merriam and other firms. Always an avid book collector, Murray left the publishing industry in 1970 to become a full time bookseller. Without ever advertising or issuing catalogs, he developed a wide reputation among dealers and collectors for his keen eye and perspicacity with rare and uncommon books. A generalist by trade, Murray had a particular fondness for colorplate books and travel literature, but was renowned both for his extensive reference library and for recognizing early on the value of ephemera. After a lengthy bout with myelofibrosis, Murray died at home on June 4, 1989.

The Murray Papers contain correspondence between Murray and a range of his fellow booksellers and clients, as well as his extensive card files on fellow book dealers and wants lists. The collection offers insight into the operations of a well known antiquarian bookman during the 1970s and 1980s.

Subjects
  • Antiquarian booksellers--Massachusetts
  • Book collecting
  • Books--Want lists
  • Printed ephemera--Collectors and collecting--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
  • Ephemera Society of America
  • Murray, Samuel E., 1906-1989

Nahan, Ken

Ken and Sherri Nahan Collection
1971-1990
13 items (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 848
Image of Max Papart, Araire orange, 1972
Max Papart, Araire orange, 1972

Ken and Sherri Nahan operated the Nahan Art galleries in New York City, New Orleans, and Tokyo for many years, exhibiting, publishing, and selling works by a international stable of contemporary artists. They remain active in the art world, as agents and publishers and providing consultation and curatorial services.

The prints in the Nahan collection represent the high state of achievement in French fine art printing in the 1970s and 1980s, and includes works on handmade paper by four master printmakers: Max Papart, James Coignard, Theo Tobiasse, and Nissan Engel.

Contributors
  • Coignard, James
  • Papart, Max
  • Tobiasse, Theo
Types of material
  • Prints (Visual works)

National Arts Policy Archive & Library (NAPAAL)

National Arts Policy Archive and Library
1965-2013
Image of

The National Arts Policy Archive and Library is a collaborative project initiated by SCUA, the UMass Amherst Arts Extension Service, and several partners in arts agencies intended to document the history of arts administration in America. Collecting the records of state-level and national arts agencies, NAPAAL will provide a foundation for research into the evolution of arts policy, strategies for supporting the arts, and the economic and cultural impact of the arts on our communities.

Constituent collections include:

Subjects
  • Art and state
  • Arts--Management
  • Government aid to the arts
Contributors
  • Americans for the Arts
  • National Asssembly of State Arts Agencies
  • National Endowment for the Arts

New WORLD Theater

New WORLD Theater Records
1979-2010
41 boxes (61.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 025/F2/N4
Image of Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002
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.

Subjects
  • 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
Contributors
  • New WORLD Theater
  • Page, Priscilla
  • Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
  • Audiovisual materials
  • Sound recordings

Norfolk Prison Colony Collection

Norfolk Prison Colony Collection
1932-1934
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 074
Image of Howard B. Gill and daughter Joan, Mar. 1934
Howard B. Gill and daughter Joan, Mar. 1934

In the late 1920s, the sociologist and prisoner reformer Howard Belding Gill proposed building a “model community prison” at Norfolk, Mass., that would represent a radical new approach to dealing with crime and punishment. Integrating social work and sociological theory into the workings of the prison system, Gill reasoned that it would be possible to diagnose and treat the root problems that led to crime and redirect inmates toward constructive behaviors. Built by inmates themselves, the prison opened in 1932, but with opponents decrying the experiment as a “country club” that coddled prisoners, Gill was forced from the superintendency within just two years.

The collection consists of several drafts of a manuscript by a supporter of Gill’s, Thomas O’Connor, that was intended for publication in The Survey magazine, along with associated correspondence and photographs. Although The Survey’s editor, Arthur Kellogg, was sympathetic enough to pass through several drafts and seek opinions widely, the manuscript appears to have been rejected so as not to cause the governor undue political problems.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Norfolk
  • Prison reformers--Massachusetts
  • Prisons--Massachusetts--Norfolk
Contributors
  • Gill, Howard B. (Howard Belding)
  • Kellogg, Arthur
  • O'Connor, Thomas
  • Parsons, Herbert Collins, 1862-1941
  • Wilkins, Raymond S.
Types of material
  • Photographs

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