MAC baseball team, 1878
Literature and the arts play a vital role in the culture and traditions of New England. Western Massachusetts in particular has had a rich history of fostering writers and poets, musicians, dancers, and actors. The Department of Special Collections and University Archives seeks to document not only the lives and work of writers and performers in our region, but the creative and artistic process; showing not just the inspiration, but the perspiration as well.
View all collections in Literature and the arts
- Arts and arts management
- Significant collections under the National Arts Policy Archive and Library include materials from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and the Arts Extension Service.
- SCUA houses significant collections for the poets Robert Francis, Madeleine de Frees, and Anne Halley, as well as small collections for William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. The records of the Massachusetts Review are an important literary resource.
- Prose writing
- Collections of note include the papers of writers William J. Lederer (author of The Ugly American, Nation of Sheep, and Their Own Worst Enemy), William Manchester (The Death of a President and American Caesar), Jodi Picoult (many novels from Songs of the Humpback Whale in 1992 to The Storyteller in 2013), Mary Doyle Curran (The Parish and the Hill).
- Journalists and photojournalists associated with traditional print and new media, including an important collection for the Liberation News Service, a media service for the alternative press, and the Social Change Periodicals Collection, which includes alternative and radical small press publications. The papers of Sidney Topol provide insight into the technical development of cable television.
- Literary criticism and linguistics
- The papers of literary scholars associated with the University; records of the Massachusetts Review.
- Performing arts
- The vibrant performing arts community in western Massachusetts is well represented in SCUA through groups ranging from the Arcadia Players Baroque music ensemble to theater troupes such as Double Edge Theater, the Valley Light Opera, and the New World Theater. Among the most significant national collections are the Roberta Uno Asian Women Playwrights Collection and the papers of African American expatriate actor and director Gordon Heath, while the James Ellis Theatre Collection includes nearly 8,000 printed volumes on the English and American stage, 1750-1915, along with numerous broadsides, graphics, and some manuscript materials. Musical collections include the papers of Philip Bezanson and Charles Bestor, the score collection of Julian Olevsky, and the Katanka Fraser Political Music Collection.
Within its holdings, SCUA houses collections of the published works of W.E.B. Du Bois, Robert Francis, Anne Halley, William J. Lederer, William Manchester, Thomas Mann, William Morris, Wallace Stevens, and William Butler Yeats, as well as the personal poetry libraries of Halley, Francis, and Stevens. The department also has an extensive collection of Science Fiction magazine fiction and Scottish literature.
Lyman Family Papers, 1839-1942.
7 boxes (2.25 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 634
The descendants of Joseph Lyman (1767-1847) flourished in nineteenth century Northampton, Mass., achieving social prominence, financial success, and a degree of intellectual acclaim. Having settled in Northampton before 1654, just a generation removed from emigration, the Lymans featured prominently in the development of the Connecticut River Valley. A Yale-educated clerk of the Hampshire County courts, Joseph’s descendants included sons Joseph Lyman (an engineer and antislavery man) and Samuel Fowler Lyman (a jurist), and three Harvard-educated grandsons, Benjamin Smith Lyman (a geologist and traveler in Meiji-era Japan) and brothers Joseph and Frank Lyman (both trained in the natural sciences).
Consisting of the scattered correspondence and photographic record of three generations of an intellectually adventurous Northampton family, the Lyman collection explores the ebb and flow of family relations, collegiate education, and educational travel in Europe during the mid-nineteenth century, with important content on antislavery and the Free State movement in Kansas. Although the family’s tendency to reuse names (repeatedly) presents a challenge in distinguishing the various recipients, the focal points of the collection include the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman, his uncle Joseph (1812-1871), cousins Joseph (1851-1883) and Frank, and Frank’s son Frank Lyman, Jr. Antislavery is a major theme in the letters of Samuel F. Lyman to his son Benjamin, and in the letterbook of the Kansas Land Trust, an affiliate of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, of which the elder Joseph was Treasurer.
- Antislavery movements--Massachusetts
- Germany--Description and travel--19th century
- Harvard University--Students
- Kansas Land Trust
- New England Emigrant Aid Company
- Lawrence, Amos Adams, 1814-1886
- Lyman, Benjamin Smith, 1835-1920
- Lyman, Joseph B, 1812-1871
Types of material
Jonathan Evan Maslow Papers, ca.1978-2008.
20 boxes (30 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 639
A man of diverse and interests, Jon Maslow was a naturalist and journalist, an environmentalist, traveler, and writer, whose works took his from the rain forests to the steppes to the salt marshes of his native New Jersey. Born on Aug. 4, 1948, in Long Branch, Maslow received his MA from the Columbia University School of Journalism (1974), after which he spent several years traveling through South and Central America, studying the flora and fauna, reporting and writing, before returning to the States. Always active in community affairs, he was a reporter with the Cape May County Herald (1997-2002) and the West Paterson Herald News (2002-2008). The author of six books, including The Owl Papers (1983), Bird of Life, Bird of Death, a finalist for the National Book Award in 1986, and Sacred Horses: Memoirs of a Turkmen Cowboy (1994), he often combined an intense interest in natural history with a deep environmentalist ethos and, particularly in the latter two cases, with a deep concern for the history of political turmoil. He died of cancer on Feb. 19, 2008.
A large and rich assemblage, the Maslow Papers document his career from his days as a young journalist traveling in Central America through his community involvements in New Jersey during the 2000s. An habitual rewriter, Maslow left numerous drafts of books and articles, and the collection includes valuable correspondence with colleagues and friends, including his mentor Philip Roth, as well as Maslow’s fascinating travel diaries.
- Authors--New Jersey
- Central America--Description and travel
- Journalists--New Jersey
- New Jersey--History
- Reporters and reporting--New Jersey
- Maslow, Jonathan Evan
- Roth, Philip
Massachusetts AFL-CIO Records, 1902-1995.
72 boxes (64 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 369
Formed in 1887 as the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Labor, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO currently represents the interests of over 400,000 working people in the Commonwealth. Like its parent organization, the national AFL-CIO, the Mass. AFL-CIO is an umbrella organization, a union of unions, and engages in political education, legislative action, organizing, and education and training.
The official records of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO provide insight into the aims and administrative workings of the organization. These includes a nearly complete run of proceedings and reports from its conventions since 1902, except for a five year gap 1919-1923, minutes and agendas for the meetings of the Executive Council, and the President’s files (1982- ). The collection is particularly strong in the period since about 1980.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts AFL-CIO
Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 1717-2003.
3 boxes (1.5 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 719
Miscellaneous Manuscripts is an artificial collection that brings together single items and small groups of related materials. Although the collection reflects the general collecting emphases in SCUA, particularly the history of New England, the content ranges widely in theme and format.
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions--18th century
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions--19th century
- Massachusetts--Politics and government
- Massachusetts--Social conditions--18th century
- Massachusetts--Social conditions--19th century
- Massachusetts--Social conditions--20th century
Types of material
- Account books
Robert and Martha Perske Papers, 1964-2005.
13 boxes (19.5 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 772
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.
- Mental retardation--Social aspects
- People with disabilities--Deinstitutionalization
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Perske, Martha
- Williams, Robert R.
Types of material
Post War World Council Collection, 1942-1961.
1 box (0.25 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 307
Founded and chaired by Norman Thomas in 1942, the Post-War World Council sought to lay the groundwork for a democratic and anti-imperialist end to the Second World War. As the face of the organization, Thomas promoted the pacifist ideals of internationalism, disarmament, and decolonization, however his failing health in the early 1960s led to the decline of the Council and its formal dissolution in 1967.
This collection consists of pamphlets from the Post War World Council that document a range of opinions concerning the war and the world, including titles such as “Saboteurs of Victory,” “The Case Against Compulsory Peacetime Military Training,” “The Future of the Far East,” and “Disarmament in the Post War World.”
- Anti-imperialist movements
- Peace movements
- World War, 1939-1945
Types of material
Digital (+)Finding aid
Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection, ca.1970-2004.
9 boxes (10 linear feet).
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)
- Gravestones--New Jersey
- Gravestones--New York (State)
Types of material
Roxbury Action Program Collection, 1944-1975 (Bulk: 1966-1974).
2 boxes (1 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 765
The Roxbury Action Program and Black Panther Party of Boston were both founded in the Roxbury section of Boston following the riots of 1968. RAP pursued community revitalization through Black self-determination and enjoyed success in its housing initiatives and in providing social services ranging from support for Black businesses to Black draft counseling, health and legal referrals, a Black library, and community awareness program.
Although the exact provenance of this small collection is uncertain, the materials appear to have been collected by an individual, possibly a woman, associated with the early days of the Roxbury Action Program and Boston branch of the Black Panther Party. Steeped in Black Power ideology, the collection includes publications of the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and other organizations, as well as an insightful series of transcripts of Roxbury Action Program meetings held during its first few months of operation.
- African Americans--Massachusetts--Boston
- Black Panther Party
- Black power
- Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)
- Roxbury (Boston, Mass.)--History
Types of material
Orlando Sargent Account Book, 1753-1808.
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 139
Prosperous, slave-owning farmer from Amesbury, Massachusetts, who also served as town warden, selectman, and representative. Includes details of the purchases of agricultural products (corn, potatoes, lamb, rye, hay, molasses, wood, cheese), and related services with some of the town’s earliest settlers, widow’s expenses, expenses in support of his grandmother, and family dates.
- Agricultural prices--Massachusetts--Amesbury--History--18th century
- Amesbury (Mass.)--Economic conditions--18th century
- Amesbury (Mass.)--History--18th century--Biography
- Amesbury (Mass.)--Officials and employees--History--18th century
- Farm produce--Massachusetts--Amesbury--History--18th century
- Farmers--Massachusetts--Amesbury--Economic conditions--18th century
- Sargent family
- Sargent, Orlando, 1728-1803
Types of material