Building upon the activist legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to individuals and groups devoted to the political, economic, spiritual, and social transformation of American society. Our intent in taking such a broad collecting scope is to view social change as a totality, rather than as isolated movements and to document how ideas about one set of social issues informs other issues, and how social causes cross-pollinate, organizationally and conceptually. By preserving a record of these activities, SCUA makes it possible for future scholars, activists, and members of the community to continue to engage with the ideas that have motivated so many.
Although our interests extend to any endeavors that reflect the efforts of individuals and groups promote social change, the collections in SCUA provide particularly valuable documentation of the movements for peace, social justice, and racial equality, environmentalism, labor activism, intentional communities, and gay rights.
View our brochure on documenting social change (pdf).
Significant collecting areas
- Antinuclear movement
- New England has been a hotbed of activity for the antinuclear movement, spawning groups such as the Clamshell Alliance, the Citizens Awareness Network, the Renewable Energy Media Service, and the Musicians United for Safe Energy.
- Antiracism and civil rights
- The Du Bois Papers document the lifelong commitment of W.E.B. Du Bois to addressing issues of racial and social injustice in the twentieth century, but SCUA houses a number of other collections that address various aspects of “the problem of the twentieth century,” and the varied approaches to its resolution. See also our research guide for African American history.
- Community organizations and charities
- SCUA houses the records of civic organizations involved in relief work, community assistance, and social justice.
- Collections relating to the history of the environment in New England and of environmentalism in the broad sense. SCUA is also interested in documenting the history of land use, organic farming and sustainability, and similar topics.
- Intentional Communities
- Communes seemed to spring up everywhere in New England during the 1960s, but communes of various sorts have been part of our landscape for two centuries. In both its printed and manuscript collections, SCUA documents a wide variety of approaches to communal living and the cultural legacy of communes. The Famous Long Ago Archive focuses intensively on documenting a cluster of related communes in Massachusetts and Vermont, including the Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm.
- Labor activism
- For more detailed information, see our research guide on Labor, work, and industry
- Peace Collections
- Among the department’s collections documenting peace and antiwar movements, SCUA holds the records of several regional peace centers, the AFSC Western Massachusetts branch, and a number of peace activists.
- Political activism
- As part of its collections on political life and culture, SCUA houses collections for individuals and organizations working within the political system or against it, and several relating to Socialism and Communism and Cold-War era Eastern Europe.
- Social Justice
- Social justice is a catchall term that captures the complex relationships between and among a wide variety of movements for economic justice, social and civic equality. In addition to the other collecting areas listed elsewhere on this page, SCUA documents gay rights, Animal rights, prison issues, and social reform in its various guises.
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Records, 1992-2012.
Call no.: MS 868
Originating in 1991, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) was established “to create a global network for book historians working in a broad range of scholarly disciplines.” With more than 1,000 members, research interests include the composition and reception of books as well as their survival and transformation over time.
Records cover the earliest days of the organization’s development, including founding documents, and document a variety of their activities from hosting conferences and publishing a newsletter to promoting scholarship.
- Authors and readers
- Publishers and publishing
Arvo A. Solander Papers, 1930-1958.
Call no.: MS 587
Graduating from Harvard in the thick of the Great Depression, Arvo A. Solander worked as a civil and sanitary engineer for a variety of state and federal agencies, including the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the 1930s, as opportunity arose, he filled positions as a road engineer, in the design and construction of water and sewage plants, in pollution control, as a safety engineer in the shellfish industry, and in mosquito control, taking jobs throughout Massachusetts and as far away as Tennessee. After using his talents as an officer in the Sanitary Corps during the Second World War, based primarily in Arkansas, Solander returned home to Massachusetts and opened a private engineering office in South Hadley. He worked as a civil engineer and surveyor until his death in January 1976.
The Arvo Solander Papers consists of twenty-four bound volumes documenting thirty years of varied work as an engineer, including his contributions to the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Within the bound volumes are a wide range of reports, typescripts, sketches and diagrams, graphs, contracts and design specifications, photographs, and postcards.
- Civil engineers
- Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
- Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)
- Roads--Design and construction
- Sanitary engineers
- Sewage disposal plants--Design and construction
- United States. Federal Civil Works Administration
- Westfield State Sanatorium
- World War, 1939-1945
- Wrentham State School
- Solander, Arvo A
Types of material
Sroka Family Papers, 1842-1960.
Call no.: MS 216
Polish family who emigrated to the United States in 1912-1913 and settled in Chicopee, Massachusetts, working in meat packing firms and textile factories, and also as seamstresses and farmers.
Includes birth and wedding certificates, military and employment documentation, residential and passport applications, photographs, and lists of baptisms, weddings, and deaths. Also contains a family history written by Gary Sroka, correspondence, payment book for the Society of St. Joseph (Chicopee, Massachusetts), and a news clipping. All materials exist as photocopies and are written primarily in Polish, German, and Hungarian, though some are in English, Ukrainian, and Russian.
- Chicopee (Mass.)--History
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts
Wallace Stevens Collection, 1900-1954.
Call no.: MS 365
Collection of Wallace Stevens correspondence, mainly incoming, although three letters are from Stevens himself to Henry Shattuck and Charles Tomlinson. Also includes a letter informing Stevens of his receipt of the Bollingen Prize, an announcement of the honorary degree awarded him from Harvard along with memorabilia relating to his 50th class reunion there, a playbill, and press reviews of Steven’s work.
- Stevens, Wallace, 1879-1955
Levi Stockbridge Papers, 1841-1878.
Call no.: RG 003/1 S76
Born in Hadley, Mass., in 1820, Levi Stockbridge was one of the first instructors at Massachusetts Agricultural College and President from 1879-1882. Known for his work on improving crop production and for developing fertilizers, Stockbridge was an important figure in the establishment of the college’s Experiment Station. After filling in as interim President of MAC in 1879, he was appointed president for two years, serving during a period of intense financial stress. After his retirement in 1882, he was named an honorary professor of agriculture.
The Stockbridge Papers include correspondence, personal notebooks, travel diary, journal as a farmer (1842-1845), writings, lectures, notes on experiments, clippings, photocopies of personal and legal records, and biographical material, including reminiscences by Stockbridge’s daughter. Also contains auction records, notebook of Amherst, Massachusetts town records (1876-1890), and printed matter about Amherst and national elections, including some about his candidacy for Congress on Labor-Greenback party ticket 1880. Also contains papers (13 items) of Stockbridge’s son, Horace Edward Stockbridge (1857-1930), agricultural chemist and educator, including a letter (1885) from him to the elder Stockbridge, written from Japan while he was professor at Hokkaido University.
- Amherst (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Greenback Labor Party (U.S.)--History
- Japan--Description and travel--19th century
- Legislators--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- Massachusetts Agricultural College
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
- Massachusetts Agricultural College. President
- Massachusetts Cattle Commission
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- Stockbridge family
- Stockbridge, Horace E. (Horace Edward),1857-1930
- Stockbridge, Levi, 1820-1904
Types of material
E. Sidney Stockwell Papers, 1910-1928.
Call no.: MS 691
A member of the Massachusetts Agricultural College class of 1919, Ervin Sidney Stockwell, Jr. (1898-1983) was born in Winthrop, Mass., to Grace Cobb and E. Sidney Cobb, Sr., a successful business man and owner of a wholesale dairy. Entering MAC as a freshman in 1915, Stockwell, Jr., studied agricultural economics and during his time in Amherst, took part in the college debate team, winning his class award for oratory, and dramatics with the Roister Doisters. He performed military service in 1918 at Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Camp Lee, Va. Stockwell went on to found a successful custom-house brokerage in Boston, E. Sidney Import Export, and was followed at his alma mater by his son and great-grandson.
The extensive correspondence between Sidney Stockwell and his mother, going in both directions, provides a remarkably in-depth perspective on a typical undergraduate’s life at Massachusetts Agricultural College during the time of the First World War, a period when MAC was considered an innovator in popular education. The letters touch on the typical issues of academic life and social activity, Stockwell’s hopes for the future, his military service and the war. Following graduation, Stockwell undertook an adventurous two year trip in which he worked his way westward across the country, traveling by rail and foot through the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana, Washington state and California, taking odd jobs to earn his keep and writing home regularly to describe his journey. An oral history with Stockwell is available in the University Archives as part of the Class of 1919 project.
- Agricultural education--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
- Montana--Description and travel
- North Dakota--Description and travel
- Washington--Description and travel
- World War, 1914-1918
- Stockwell, E. Sidney
- Stockwell, Helen Cobb
Swedish Book Design Collection, 1922-1961 (Bulk: 1922-1942).
Call no.: RB 026
James H. Fraser and his wife Sibylle were eclectic and sometimes omnivorous collectors of the book arts, dedicated to the scholarly exploration of visual culture, the book, and the avant garde. A former Director of the Library at Farleigh Dickinson University and a consultant to many other academic libraries, James Fraser developed an omnivorous passion for German and Eastern European graphic design and book culture and had interests that ranged from Socialist children’s books to Judaica, the American left, Mongolian printing, and Japanese posters of the 1980s. James Fraser died in the fall 2013 and was survived by Sibylle and their two children.
This unusual collection of over 250 volumes is a product of the Frasers’ interest in Swedish book jacket design. Consisting nearly entirely of soft cover volumes printed between the 1920s and 1960s, primarily pre-war, and not necessarily written by Swedish authors, the collection reflects the work of many illustrators drawing on a range of graphic styles, from avant garde modernism to the later parts of the collection, which includes translations of popular works by writers such as Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie.
- Book jackets--Sweden
- Fraser, James H.
- Fraser, Sibylle
Brainerd Taylor Family Papers, 1871-1964.
Call no.: MS 733
A member of a distinguished family of New England educators and clergymen, Brainerd Taylor played an key role in assisting the U.S. Army takes its first steps into modern mechanized warfare. Born in Newtonville, Massachusetts, in 1877, Taylor entered Harvard with the class of 1899, but during the rush of enthusiasm accompanying the start of the Spanish American War, he left before completing his degree to join the military. Serving with the Coast Artillery for several years, he became the Chief Motor Transport Officer for the Advance Section of the Service of Supply for the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War, earning promotion to Colonel, a Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Honor from France for his efforts. Taylor married twice, first to Vesta Richardson, who died in 1919, and then to Helen Cady. Taylor died in 1955.
The Taylor family collection contains over 1,000 letters documenting the military career and personal life of Brainerd Taylor, with particularly thick coverage of the period of the First World War when he was stationed in France, building the Motor Transport Corps virtually from scratch. These letters are exceptionally well written and rich in description, both about his duties and his travels in France and Germany. The collection also includes Taylor’s extensive correspondence to his father, James Brainerd Taylor (1845-1929), and correspondence relating to Taylor’s wives, children, and grandchildren.
- France--Description and travel
- Germany--Description and travel
- World War, 1914-1918
- Taylor, Brainerd, 1877-
- Taylor, Helen M.
- Taylor, James Brainerd
- Taylor, Vesta R.
Thurber-Woolson Botanical Manuscripts Collection, 1803-1918.
Call no.: MS 065 bd
Largely self-educated, George Thurber (1821-1890) began a career as a pharmacist before signing on as botanist to the U.S. Boundary Commission from 1850-1854. After completing a masters degree at Brown University, he emerged as a important horticultural writer and editor of American Agriculturist from 1863 to 1885.
Letters, photographs, engravings, and clippings compiled primarily by George Thurber and bequeathed to George Clark Woolson (MAC class of 1871) who added to it and donated it as a memorial to his class, the first to graduate from the College. The collection includes 993 letters written by 336 correspondents, and 35 photographs and engravings, primarily botanists and other scientists, including Asa Gray, Louis Agassiz, John Torrey, Frederick Law Olmsted, John James Audubon, Henry Ward Beecher, Jefferson Davis, Edward Payson Roe, Donald G. Mitchell, and George Brown Goode.
- Thurber, George, 1821-1890
- Woolson, George Clark
Types of material