To spark researchers’ imaginations and to celebrate the legacy of innovation and the activist spirit, SCUA pursues an ambitious program of collecting materials of enduring historical value and offers strong support for research and learning. Through its collections, programs, public events, and exhibitions, SCUA promotes meaningful engagement with the broad record of social change in America, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the varied histories of the people of New England and the UMass Amherst community. We embrace the university’s historic role as a center of knowledge for the people of the Commonwealth and are committed to providing free and unfettered access to our holdings for all who wish to use them, using the highest professional standards and practices and the best technologies available.
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. Documenting the activities of the administration and faculty and the life of its students, this 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.
The timing of Goodell’s proposal to preserve the College archives coincided roughly with the Library’s first efforts to assemble a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. Although the campus had no separate library building until 1885, the College accepted several significant gifts of books, beginning as early as 1868, when the apiarist and state Adjutant General Henry K. Oliver donated twenty scarce volumes on bee culture, followed by other donations of important works in agriculture, history, and science. By the time the library published its first catalogue in 1875, rare books were a small, but distinctive part of the collections. 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 two 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. All remain part of the collections today.
From its initial focus on agriculture, horticulture, and the natural sciences, the Library soon extended its collections to encompass the history and culture of New England. With the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski in 1973, the Library began to acquire collections of personal papers and organizational records of historical significance. The rare book and manuscript collections were combined administratively with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Today, SCUA oversees a growing research collection of primary materials that includes rare books and manuscripts, historic maps, photographs, prints, and the official records of the campus at UMass Amherst.
Sesquicentennial oral history project
Marking the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the University of Massachusetts, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is conducting an oral history project to capture the many voices and diverse experiences that make up our campus community. The anniversary presents an opportunity to reflect on the real achievements — and real challenges — of public higher education over the past century and a half, and a chance to consider where we would like to be in the future.
Over the course of eighteen months, the staff of SCUA and our associates will conduct one hundred and fifty interviews with an array of administrators, faculty, students, alumni, and university employees, as well as selected members of the local community. As they are completed, the interviews will be made available to the public through this website and Credo, SCUA’s digital repository.
If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact the SCUA staff.
As one of the main repositories documenting the history of western Massachusetts and New England, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.
Concentrated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the collections in SCUA touch on many aspects of the history of the region with developing depth in immigration, labor, work, and industry, social change and movements for social change, and literature and the arts. Among the more valuable collections for the political history of the region is the papers of Silvio O. Conte, Republican congressman from the First District of Massachusetts from 1959-1991. A member of the House Appropriations Committee (and its ranking minority member from 1979-1991), Conte is particularly remembered for his work in Health and Human Services, education, and the environment. SCUA also holds collections for state representatives John Haigis and Maurice Donahue, as well as other figures involved in political life in the Commonwealth.
Although the Department holds materials relating to individual communities in western Massachusetts, the history of the Quabbin watershed is a particular focal point. SCUA collects books printed in the Quabbin region and more generally, in rural New England prior to 1900, as well as manuscript, printed, and photographic collections relating to Quabbin towns.
- Business and industry
- In addition to collections relating to organized labor and the labor movement, SCUA attempts to document the experience of work and the business community to provide a rounded understanding of work life in New England. For a more complete listing, see our guide for Labor, Work, and Industry.
- Civic organizations and charities
- Collections ranging from the records of charitable organizations that provide social services to groups that foster civic engagement and social justice, benevolent and ethnic self-help societies, to organizations that support social and professional communities.
- Family history
- SCUA has a strong interest in “family collections,” typically collections that include correspondence, photograph albums, family and farm accounts, and other materials that reveal the every day lives of New Englanders. Researchers on family life and genealogy should note that many collections indexed under other subjects contain personal and family information of some importance. Our printed materials collections include many local and county histories, genealogies, and other resources which may be useful for understanding family life.
- Immigration, demography, and ethnicity
- Medical history
- Collections include daybooks and medical accounts of physicians, primarily from the nineteenth century, personal papers of physicians, and some materials on public health policy.
- Military history
- Political life and culture
- The distinctive political culture of Massachusetts and formal and informal political activity in the Commonwealth. Although the collections extend back into the nineteenth century, our focus is primarily on the post-World War II period.
- Printing in rural Massachusetts
- SCUA collects books, broadsides, and other materials printed in rural New England prior to 1900. The collections include a growing collection for the printers in the Quabbin region, Solomon and John Howes, but also includes works printed in small towns throughout Berkshire, Hampshire, Hamden, and Franklin Counties.
- Quabbin Regional collections
- Collections relating to all aspects of life and the legacy of the four towns inundated by the Quabbin Reservoir: Dana, Greenwich, Enfield, and Prescott, as well as surrounding communities such as New Salem, Petersham, and Wendell. In our rare books holdings, we have a number of works printed in Enfield or Greenwich, mostly by Solomon and John Howe.
- Religious life
- Our efforts to document the spiritual lives and religious commitments of New Englanders has resulted in a number of manuscript and archival collections. Our social change holdings include a number of collections on spiritually-motivated social reform, and our rare book holdings include hundreds of published sermons and other printed materials relating to religious life in the region.
- New England regional history
University Anti-Intervention, Disarmament and Conversion Project Resource Guide, 1989.
Call no.: MS 280 bd
Founded in September 1989, the University Anti-Intervention, Disarmament & Conversion Project was developed by individuals in the UMass Amherst community who wanted to eliminate the university’s dependence on defense research. The purpose of the project was to serve as a resource center for students, faculty, and community activists working to break the link between the nation’s institutions of higher learning and the military industrial complex.
The collection consists of a resource guide created by the group.
- Peace movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
Alternative Energy Coalition, ca.1975-1985.
Call no.: MS 586
A product of the vibrant and progressive political culture of western Massachusetts during the early 1970s, the Alternative Energy Coalition played a key role in the growth of antinuclear activism. In 1974, the AEC helped mobilize support for Sam Lovejoy after he sabotaged a weather tower erected by Northeast Utilities in Montague, Mass., in preparation for a proposed nuclear power plant, and they helped organize the drive for a referendum opposing not only the proposed plant in Montague, but existing plants in Rowe, Mass., and Vernon, Vt. Forming extensive connections with other antinuclear organizations, the AEC also became one of the organizations that united in 1976 to form the Clamshell Alliance, which made an art of mass civil disobedience.
The AEC Records provide insight into grassroots activism of the 1970s and 1980s, galvanized by the seemingly unrestrained growth of the nuclear power industry. The records, emanating from the Hampshire County branch, contain both research materials used by the AEC and organizational and promotional materials produced by them, including publications, minutes of meetings, correspondence, and materials used during protests. Of particular interest are a thick suite of organizational and other information pertaining to the occupation of the Seabrook (N.H.) nuclear power plant in 1979 and minutes, notes, and other materials relating to the founding and early days of the Clamshell Alliance. The collection is closely related to the Antinuclear Collection (MS 547).
- Antinuclear movement--Massachusetts
- Hampshire County (Mass.)--History
- Nuclear energy--Massachusetts
- Political activists--Massachusetts
- Renewable energy source
- Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (N.H.)
- Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station
- Alternative Energy Coalition
- Clamshell Alliance
Types of material
Association for Gravestone Studies Collection
Association for Gravestone Studies Book Collection, 1812-2005.
Call no.: Rare Book Collections
Founded in 1977, the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) is an international organization dedicated to furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. Based in Greenfield, Mass., the Association promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives. To raise public awareness about the significance of historic gravemarkers and the issues surrounding their preservation, the AGS sponsors conferences and workshops, publishes both a quarterly newsletter and annual journal, Markers, and has built an archive of collections documenting gravestones and the memorial industry.
The AGS Books Collection contains scarce, out of print, and rare printed works on cemeteries and graveyards, epitaphs and inscriptions, and gravemarkers, with an emphasis on North America. The collection is divided into two series: Series 1 (Monographs and Offprints) and Series 2 (Theses and Dissertations).
- Sepulchral monuments
- Association for Gravestone Studies
Hugh Potter Baker Papers, 1919-1951.
Call no.: RG 3/1 B35
Hugh Baker served as President during most of the existence of Massachusetts State College, taking office in 1933, two years after it changed name from Massachusetts Agricultural College, and retiring in 1947, just as the college became the University of Massachusetts. A forester by training, Baker began his career as a professor, and later dean, in the College of Forestry at Syracuse University. In 1920, he left Syracuse to become Executive Secretary of the American Paper and Pulp Association, and for nearly a decade, he worked in the forestry industry. He returned to academia in 1930, when he resumed the deanship at the New York State School of Forestry. During his presidency at Massachusetts State College, Baker oversaw the construction of improved housing and classroom facilities for students, a new library, the expansion of the liberal arts curriculum, and a near doubling of student enrollment. Further, chapel services were reorganized to be voluntary, and a weekly convocation was initiated. Baker also founded popular annual conferences on recreation and country life.
The Baker Papers include correspondence with college, state, and federal officials, college suppliers, and alumni; speeches and articles; reports and other papers on topics at issue during Baker’s college presidency, 1933-1947, particularly the building program. Also included are several biographical sketches and memorial tributes; clippings and other papers, relating to Baker’s career as professor of forestry at several colleges, trade association executive, and college president.
- Clock chimes--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- College buildings--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- Massachusetts State College--Anniversaries, etc
- Massachusetts State College--Buildings
- Massachusetts State College--History
- Massachusetts State College--Student housing
- Massachusetts State College. President
- Massachusetts State College. School of Home Economics
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- Old Chapel (Amherst, Mass.)--History
- Student housing--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--History
- Baker, Hugh Potter, 1878-
Elmer C. Bartels Papers, 1965-2010.
Call no.: MS 817
As the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission for thirty years, Elmer C. Bartels became a national leader on issues related to vocational rehabilitation and independent living for people with disabilities. While studying physics at Colby College in 1960, Bartels broke his neck in an inter-fraternity hockey game, but returned to complete his degree and then to earn an MS at Tufts. While working as a computer programmer at the Laboratory for Nuclear Science at MIT and later at Honeywell, he became involved in coordinating services and access that members of the community needed to survive. To address the range of issues relating to employment, housing, and architectural barriers for people with disabilities, he helped found three significant organizations: the Massachusetts Association of Paraplegiacs (1964), the Massachusetts Council of Organizations of the Handicapped (a cross-disability organization created in the late 1960s with Harold Remmes) and the Boston Center for Independent Living (1972). Bartels was a key figure in securing passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, considered the first civil-rights statute for persons with disabilities. In 1977, Bartels was appointed to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission by Gov. Michael Dukakis, serving under seven successive administrations, leaving an important mark on public policy. Since leaving the MRC, Bartels has remained active as a teacher and advocate for disability issues.
The Bartels Papers are an important resource for study of the early history of disability advocacy and public policy in Massachusetts. The collection includes a wealth of material on the formation and activity of the Massachusetts Association of Paraplegiacs, the National Paraplegia Foundation, and the Mass Rehabilitation Commission; correspondence with other leading figures in the disability rights movement; and publications relating to legislation on disability issues, vocational rehabilitation, and independent living.
- People with disabilities--Civil rights
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Massaachusetts. Rehabilitation Commission
- Massachusetts Association of Paraplegiacs
Simeon Bartlett Account Books, 1792-1867.
Call no.: MS 175 bd
Freight hauler, farmer, sawmill owner, and possibly a hatmaker from Williamsburg, Massachusetts.
The first volume of Bartlett’s accounts includes records of Bartlett’s income, sales and exchange of goods and services, and details about his employees and family (such as family births, deaths, and marriages). Volume 2 contains lists of hat purchases, lists of teachers and their pay, his participation in town affairs, and a number of lyrics to Civil War songs.
- Clapp, Joseph
- Hat trade--Massachusetts--South Hadley
- Lyman, Joseph
- Rice, Aaron
- Songs, English
- United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Songs and music
- Williamsburg (Mass.)--Economic conditions
- Bartlett, Simeon, b. 1764
Types of material
- Account books
Thomas Barton Papers, 1947-1977 (Bulk: 1960-1974).
Call no.: MS 539
In the early 1960s, Tom Barton (b. 1935) emerged as a leader in the Left-wing of the Young People’s Socialist League, the national youth affiliate of the Socialist Party. Deeply committed to the civil rights and antiwar struggles and to revolutionary organizing, Barton operated in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York and was a delegate and National Secretary at the 1964 convention in which tensions within YPSL led to its dissolution.
A small, but rich collection, the Barton Papers provide a glimpse into the career of a long-time Socialist and activist. From Barton’s entry into the Young People’s Socialist League in the latest 1950s through his work with the Wildcat group in the early 1970s, the collection contains outstanding content on the civil rights and antiwar movements and the strategies for radical organizing. The collection is particularly rich on two periods of Barton’s career — his time in the YPSL and Student Peace Union (1960-1964) and in the Wildcat group (1968-1971) — and particularly for the events surrounding the dissolution of YPSL in 1964, following a heated debate over whether to support Lyndon Johnson for president. The collection includes correspondence with other young radicals such as Martin Oppenheimer, Lyndon Henry, Juan McIver, and Joe Weiner.
- Antiwar movements
- Civil rights movements
- Socialist Party of the United States of America
- Socialists--United States
- Student Peace Union
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
- Young People's Socialist League
- Barton, Thomas
- Gilbert, Carl
- Henry, Lyndon
- MacFadyen, Gavin
- McIver, Juan
- Oppenheimer, Martin
- Shatkin, Joan
- Shatkin, Norm
- Verret, Joe
- Weiner, Joe