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 hsitory 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.
Social Change Periodicals Collection, 1969-2006.
Call no.: MS 306
The Social Change Periodical Collection was created to bring together magazines, newsletters, and newspapers that deal with a variety of activist movements from different sources under one heading where they could be reviewed as a whole. Since the core of the collection was transferred from the Everywoman’s Center many of the periodicals deal with feminism and women’s issues. Other subjects represented in the collection include antiracism, antiwar, gay rights, political radicalism, and environmental activism.
- African Americans--Suffrage--Periodicals
- Central America--Politics and government--Periodicals
- Gay liberation movement--Periodicals
- Labor--United States--Periodicals
- Prisons--United States--Periodicals
- Radicalism--United States--Periodicals
Stonewall Center Records, 1962-2005.
Call no.: RG 030/2/6
Following a series of homophobic incidents on the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1985, the Program for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns was established as an administrative center in the Office of Student Affairs. Later renamed after the notorious riots in New York, the Stonewall Center has provided the campus and surrounding community with cultural and educational programming through speakers, films, video and book library, Speakers Bureau on LGBTQ issues, referrals and support, advocacy and community outreach.
The records of the Stonewall Center include documentation of day to day operations, including phone logs, memos, and budget information, as well as posters and press releases for events, publications, campus and external reports, training manuals, surveys, newspaper clippings, and ephemera such as banners, tee-shirts, and buttons.
- Gay college students--Massachusetts
- Gays--Services for
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns
- Stonewall Center
- Yeskel, Felice
Jane Swift Papers, 1988-2008.
Call no.: MS 823
Just 36 years of age, Jane Swift became Acting Governor of Massachusetts in 2001, the first and only woman to hold that office, the youngest woman governor in US history, and the only one to give birth while in office. A native of North Adams, Swift served as a Republican in the state Senate from 1990-1996, becoming widely known for her role in passing the Education Reform Act of 1993. Defeated in a bid to represent the 1st District in the US Congress, she served in the William Weld administration before earning election as Lieutenant Governor in 1998, rising to the governorship three years later when Paul Cellucci resigned to become Ambassador to Canada. During her time in office, Swift, but her tenure is remembered both for her calm management of the fallout from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and for a series of controversies that ultimatley cost her political support. Trailing eventual nominee Mitt Romney in the 2002 Republican gubentorial primary, Swift abandoned her campaign. Returning home to Williamstown, where she has been involved in several educational initiatives, including serving as Director of Sally Ride Science, a lecturer in Leadership Studies at Williams Colege, and since July 2011, CEO of Middlebury Interactive Languages. She remains active in Republican politics.
Centered on her political career, Jane Swift’s Papers provide insight into her experiences as governor of Massachusetts with content ranging from policy briefings to topical files, technical reports, economic and budgetary information, correspondence, legal filings, and transition reports at the time of leaving office. The visual documentation of Swift’s time in office includes a wide range of photographs, videotapes, paraphernalia, and souvenirs. There is comparatively little material is available to document Swift’s time in the state senate.
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Massachusetts. Governor
- Republican Party (Mass.)
Types of material
Association for Gravestone Studies
Thomas W. and Margaret Tenney Photograph Collection, 1966-1978 (Bulk: 1966-1972).
Call no.: PH 045
A long-time resident of Berkeley, Calif., Thomas W. Tenney and his wife Margaret took up photography in a serious way in the early 1960s. Photographing the Bay Area scene and publishing in the New York Times and elsewhere, the Tenneys became full time photographers by about 1964. For over a decade, they took summer trips to New England to photograph colonial and early national gravestones, culminating in a public exhibition of their work in 1972 at the Bolles Gallery in San Francisco.
The Tenney collection consists of several hundred scrupulously-documented images of gravestones in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states taken between 1966 and 1978. Selecting stones for “artistic rather than historical reasons,” the Tenney’s focused primarily on details of the carving and inscriptions.
- Sepulchral monuments--Connecticut
- Sepulchral monuments--Massachusetts
- Sepulchral monuments--Rhode Island
- Sepulchral monuments--Vermont
- Tenney, Margaret K.
- Tenney, Thomas W.
Types of material
Roscoe Wilfrid Thatcher Papers, 1900-1934.
Call no.: RG 003/1 T43
The agronomist Roscoe Thatcher served as the last president of Massachusetts Agricultural College and the first when the institution changed its name to Massachusetts State College in 1931. Before coming to Amherst, Thatcher had extensive experience in both agricultural research and administration, having served as director of the agricultural station for the state of Washington, as professor of plant chemistry at the University of Minnesota (1913-1917), and as dean of the School of Agriculture and director of the Minnesota Experiment Station (1917-1921), and as director of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. Selected as President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1927, he helped expand the two year program in practical agriculture to become the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and oversaw curricular reform, orienting vocational training toward citizenship education. The student health service also started during his tenure. Thatcher resigned due to ill health in 1933. Although he returned to research in agricultural chemistry at the College in April 1933, he died in his laboratory on December 6, 1933.
Official and administrative correspondence, memos, and other papers, relating to Thatcher’s service as president of Massachusetts State College together with writing and biographical material.
- Massachusetts State College. President
- Thatcher, Roscoe Wilfrid, 1872-1933
Conrad D. Totman Papers, 1800-2005.
Call no.: MS 447
A scholar of the history and culture of early modern Japan, Conrad Totman began his career as a student of ornamental horticulture at the University of Massachusetts. After graduation in 1953, Totman served in the army for three years in South Korea where got his first taste of Japanese culture during leave. His experiences in Japan piqued his scholarly interest, and upon his return to the states with his new wife Michiko, he finished college at UMass and did his graduate work at Harvard where he received a doctorate in 1964 for a study of politics during the Tokugawa period. Totman held academic positions at UC Santa Barbara, Northwestern, and Yale before retiring in 1997.
The bulk of the collection documents Professor Totman’s education and professional work as a scholar and teacher of Japanese history. Dispersed throughout is a treasure trove of information on Japan in general, and particularly on his specialties: early modern Japan and forestry and environmental management. An enormous, highly influential, and cherished part of Totman’s life is his family, and the Totman clan is well represented in this collection. Reams of genealogical material document the rich heritage of the Totman family, including the transcribed love letters and diaries of his paternal grandmother and biographies of Totman ancestors, as well as hundreds of letters written between Michiko and her family in Japan.
- Conway (Mass.)--Genealogy
- Dairy farms--Massachusetts
- Family farms--United States
- Farm life--United States
- Forest management--Japan--Akita-ken--History
- Forest policy--Japan
- Forests and forestry--Japan
- Human ecology--Japan--History
- Human ecology--Korea--History
- Japan--Civilization--American influences
- Japan--Environmental conditions
- Japan--History--Restoration, 1853-1870
- Japan--History--Tokugawa period, 1600-1868
- Japan--Politics and government--1600-1868
- Korea--American influences
- Korea--Environmental conditions
- Lumber trade--Japan--History
- Tokugawa, Ieyasu, 1543-1616
- Totman family
- United States--Army--Medical personnel--Correspondence
- Drew, Raymond Totman, 1923-1981
- Lewis, Gertrude Minnie, 1896-
- Totman, Conrad D
- Totman, Ruth J
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Travel Brochure Collection, 1921-1949.
Call no.: MS 490
Collection of travel brochures for camps, inns, hotels, historic sites, and tourist attractions throughout New England. Most brochures advertise accommodations or attractions in a natural setting, including room rentals at farms, hiking in the White Mountains, and the rivers and mountains of Vermont. Women traveling alone are the target audience of some of the brochures, which promise clean accommodations and wholesome activities. Tourist sites in a few states outside of New England are also included: New York State, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Ontario.
- Tourism--New England
- Travel--United States
Abel Turner, The Life and Travels of Abel Turner, 1839.
Call no.: MS 708 bd
As a young man in Foxcroft, Maine, Abel Turner was caught up in the evangelical revivals and converted to Free Will Baptism, becoming a minister by the age of 21. Beginning in the backwoods settlements, Turner spent the better part of a decade attempting to “convert sinners” in Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties and the in the Burned-Over District of New York state, from Utica to Penn Yan and Cattaraugus County.
Written for his wife, Abel Turner’s long and detailed autobiography is a remarkable record of a young Free Will Baptist minister’s labors during the Second Great Awakening. Beginning with his childhood in Maine and his conversion experience, the manuscript provides insight into Turner’s experiences preaching in the rough-hewn interior settlements of Maine and the Burned-Over District of New York from roughly 1821 through 1839. In addition to some wonderful commentary on evangelical religion in the heart of the Awakening and on Turner’s own spiritual development, the memoir includes fascinating descriptions of the towns and people he met along the way.
- Free Will Baptists (1727-1935)--Clergy
- Maine--History--19th century
- New York (State)--History--19th century
- Second Great Awakening--Maine--History
- Second Great Awakening--New York (State)--History
- Turner, Abel
Types of material
University of Massachusetts Amherst. Academic Departments, Programs, Institutes, Centers, 1870-2007.
Call no.: RG 025
The academic departments at UMass Amherst are organized within ten schools and colleges. Among the more than 88 degree programs in 2009, 74 confer masters degrees, and 53 confer doctorates.
Containing the records of individual academic departments, programs, institutes, and centers, Record Group 25 documents the shifting history of disciplinarity and departmental affairs at UMass Amherst. The papers of individual faculty members are contained within the Faculty and Staff (FS) collections and are indexed separately in UMarmot.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty