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New England history

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

SCUA is dedicated to documenting New England history, including primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.

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. Of particular note are two exceptionally large and rich collections: the records of the Hampshire Council of Governments, which contains over 325 years of county-level governance in western Massachusetts, and the records of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, which contains 350 years of Quaker history.

The recent political history of the region is documented through the papers of congressmen Silvio O. Conte and his successor John Olver, Governor Jane Swift, state Senator Stanley Rosenberg, state representatives John G. Clark, Maurice Donahue, Whiting Griswold, and John Haigis, and other figures involved in the political life of the Commonwealth.

In addition to holding material relating to many individual towns and communities in western Massachusetts, SCUA maintains a special interest in the history of the towns of the Quabbin watershed.

Significant collections

  • 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
    • Although SCUA has scattered holdings relating to earlier wars, the department houses interesting materials relating to World War II and the War in Vietnam, with the latter concentrated on the antiwar movement.
  • 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

Learn more:

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Quaker History Collection

1783-1950
1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 926

During the early twentieth century, the library at the Moses Brown School (formerly the Friends Boarding School) became an informal repository for Quaker manuscripts reflecting the history and work of the Society of Friends. Most of these materials were later transferred for custody to the school’s governing body, the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

This miscellaneous assortment of letters was apparently set aside by the staff at the Moses Brown School due to their historical content and preserved in the “vault.” Many of the letters appear to have been retained as good examples of Quaker expression of family and friendly bonds or as documentation about significant periods in Quaker history, particularly the Gurneyite-Wilburite controversy of the 1840s, and several touch on Quaker involvement in the antislavery and peace movements. Of special note are four interesting letters from the Quaker minister and social reformer, Elizabeth Comstock, written during and just after the Civil War; a series of nine lengthy letters from a visiting English minister Isaac Stephenson, traveling through New England meetings; a substantial series of letters from prominent Friend Samuel Boyd Tobey; and three letters from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Sarah F. Tobey regarding attempts to connect Stowe with Alexander T. Stewart in hopes of raising funds for her plans for the education of women.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 2016
Subjects
  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Gurney, James Joseph
  • Society of Friends--History
  • Wilbur, John,
Contributors
  • Comstock, Elizabeth L.
  • Stewart, Alexander Turney, 1803-1876
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
  • Tobey, Samuel Boyd, 1805-1867

Playgoers’ Club (London, England)

Playgoers' Club Records

1884-1892
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 351

Founded by Heneage Mandell in 1884, the London Playgoers Club met regularly “to afford members facilities for Critical Theatrical Discussions… in the form of… debate[s].” Playgoers in Victorian England did not generally enjoy a favorable reputation, stereotyped as abrasive at best and dangerous at worst. Mandell and his colleagues sought to promote a more genteel image of playgoers while nurturing a relationship between the players and audience.

The core of the Playgoers Club collection consists of a series of meeting minutes from 1884 to 1892, a list of all members who ran in club elections, and a brief, handwritten history of the club.

Subjects
  • Theater audiences--England--London
  • Theater--England--London
  • Theater--Societies and clubs--Great Britain
Contributors
  • Playgoers’ Club (London, England)
Types of material
  • Minutes (Administrative records)

Association for Gravestone Studies

Association for Gravestone Studies Book Collection

1812-2005
269 items 14 linear feet
Call no.: RB 004

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 AGS Books Collection also includes the AGS publication, Markers. The collection is divided into three series: Series 1 (Monographs and Offprints), Series 2 (Theses and Dissertations), and Series 3 (Markers).

Subjects
  • Cemeteries
  • Epitaphs
  • Gravestones
Contributors
  • Association for Gravestone Studies

Exhibits

Tulip poplar leaves
Tulip poplar leaf Arthur Mange Collection

Drawing upon the unique materials under their care, the staff of the Department of Special Collections and University Archives organize two to three exhibits a year in their reading room and work regularly with their colleagues in the general library to prepare other exhibits for display on the Lower Level of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.

Current Exhibit

Brother David Steindl-Rast Papers

August 2017-January 31, 2018
Location: SCUA and Learning Commons, Du Bois Library

Brother David is one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, leaving Mount Savior in the mid-1960s to study Zen Buddhism with Hakuun Yajutami, Shunayu Suzuki, and Soen Nakagawa. He was the first Benedictine to learn directly from Buddhist teachers and received Vatican support for his bridge-building work in 1967. When not in seclusion, Brother David has served as a teacher of contemplative prayer, the intersection of Zen and Catholicism, and gratefulness as a spiritual practice. Through many books and articles, lectures, and residencies in spiritual centers like Tassajara and the Esalen Institute, Brother David has developed an influential philosophy and much of the current popularity of mindfulness and Zen-influenced living and activism owes a debt to his teachings.

The Brother David Steindl-Rast Papers include Brother David’s extensive published and unpublished writings, sermons, memoirs, personal journals, correspondence, photographs, recordings, and videos of his teachings. His papers extend back to his youth in Vienna, documenting his childhood and experience during the war, including a complete run of Die Goldene Wagen, the children’s magazine published by Brother David’s mother Elisabeth Rast.

Future exhibits

W.E.B Du Bois at 150

Feb 1, 2018 – August 2018
Location: SCUA and Learning Commons, Du Bois Library

Scholar, writer, editor of The Crisis and other journals, co-founder of the Niagara Movement, the NAACP, and the Pan African Congresses, international spokesperson for peace and for the rights of oppressed minorities, W.E.B. Du Bois was a son of Massachusetts who articulated the strivings of African Americans and developed a trenchant analysis of the problem of the color line in the twentieth century.

Drawing from the rich and vast Du Bois Papers, containing the personal and professional papers of a remarkable social activist and intellectual, “W.E.B. Du Bois at 150” touches on all aspects of his long life from his childhood during Reconstruction through the end of his life in 1963. The exhibit reflects the extraordinary breadth of his social and academic commitments from research in sociology to poetry and plays, from organizing for social change to organizing for Black consciousness.

1968: Past, Present, Future

August 2018 – January 2019
Location: SCUA and Learning Commons, Du Bois Library

 

Exhibits online
Class of 1967 Memorial and Monuments Tour

Kenyon Butterfield

Highlights the rich legacy of alumni giving and participation on the UMass Amherst campus from 1867 to today. See the buildings, structures, monuments, plaques, gardens, sculptures, trees, and benches that tell the story of a century and a half of generosity. Exhibit courtesy of the Class of 1967; prepared by Cheryl Harned.

100 photos: Arthur Mange

Arthur Mange

Photographs from the collection of Arthur Mange.

Through the Photographer's Eyes

Photographs taken by Henry along with a rich array of related materials—speeches, press releases, brochures, and her personal notes—collected over the years, which document the political and cultural scene of the second half of the twentieth century

Photographer: Diana Mara Henry

Diana Mara Henry Photographs

Photographs from the collection of Diana Mara Henry. An exhibit by Chuck Abel.

E.D. Hudson

An examination of social reform and antislavery in Antebellum New England. An exhibit by Charles Weisenberger.

Rhetoric or Research

Rhetoric or research

interprets student protests against CIA recruitment at UMass Amherst during the 1980s through a selection of images taken by student photojournalists.
By Tom Hohenstein (ETHIR recipient, 2011).

Gordon Heath

A digital curriculum for teaching U.S. history using archival resources. An exhibit by Emily Oswald (ETHIR recipient, 2011).

Behold And See As You Pass By

I see dead people

An online exhibit on gravestones and mortuary art in Early New England drawn from the Association for Gravestones Studies Collections. By Molly Campbell (ETHIR recipient, 2011)

Robot reader

Science fiction readership in the Cold War and beyond. An exhibit by Morgan Hubbard.

Fifteen letters

Letters home

Conrad D. Totman’s letters home from Korea, 1954-1955. An exhibit by Alex McKenzie.

Du Bois photographs

An online exhibit on the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois based on his papers.

Herbals and Insects

A scarab beetle

A selection of rare botanical and entomological books from the SCUA collections.

A bee

Books on bees and beekeeping. An exhibit by Richard A. Steinmetz.

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Killgrove, Ethel A.

Ethel A. Killgrove Papers

1948-1962 Bulk: 1949-1951
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 866
Image of Ethel A. Killgrove and Mr. Braden, Addis Ababa, 1950
Ethel A. Killgrove and Mr. Braden, Addis Ababa, 1950

Between 1948 and 1951, Chicagoan Ethel A. Killgrove worked as a missionary with the Sudan Interior Mission. A graduate of the St. Paul Bible Institute, Killgrove was based in Aden, Yemen, and worked spreading the gospel and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After returning home in 1951, Killgrove studied education at Wheaton College (Bed, 1959) and Roosevelt (MEd., 1963), teaching in elementary schools in Illinois and Chester County, Pa. She died in Lancaster, Pa., in 2002.

The 142 letters that Killgrove wrote home to her parents and brother Tom include fascinating information on life as a missionary in British-controlled Aden and Ethiopia during the transitional years following the end of World War II. From her perspective on the southern rim of the Middle East, Killgore was witness to the of the impact of the formation of the state of Israel and the growing hostility toward colonial domination in the Arab world and Africa. The collection includes an excellent photograph album with 55 images of her time in mission, along with 65 other images.

Acquired from Michael Brown, May 2015
Subjects
  • Aden (Yemen)--Description and travel
  • Ethiopia--Description and travel
  • Missionaries--Africa
  • Missionaries--Ethiopia
  • Missionaries--Yemen
Contributors
  • Sudan Interior Mission
Types of material
  • Photographs

Meyer, Richard E., 1939-

Richard E. Meyer Collection

1948-2007 Bulk: 1980-2007
31 boxes 15.5 linear feet
Call no.: PH 072
Image of

A member of the English and Folklore faculty at Western Oregon University, Richard E. Meyer studied at Northwestern University and the Universities of Washington and Oregon. A prolific author, he has published on topics ranging from British and American literature to American folklore, but particularly on the culture and history of the American cemetery and gravemarkers. A founder of the Cemeteries and Gravemarkers section of the American Culture Association (1986) and longtime member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, serving as editor of its journal, Markers, for twelve years, Meyer has delivered dozens of talks on the subject, is co-author (with Peggy McDowell) of The Revival Styles in American Memorial Art (1994), and editor of Cemeteries and Gravemarkers: Voices of American Culture (1989) and Ethnicity and the American Cemetery (1993).

During the course of his extensive research in cemeteries throughout the United States and Europe, Meyer documented over 20,000 grave monuments. His collection consists of over 16,000 color slides and 200 black and white photographs, all meticulously well-identified, of gravestones and cemeteries. Meyer also collected ephemera and realia relating to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and to commemoration of the dead of the First World War.

Gift of Richard E. Meyer, May 2016
Subjects
  • Cemeteries
  • Gravestones
  • Sepulchral monuments
  • Soldiers' monuments
  • Tomb of the Unknowns (Va.)
Types of material
  • Photographs

Williams, Gray

Gray Williams Photograph Collection

ca.1988-2000
3 boxes 1.5 linear feet
Call no.: PH 027

The editor, writer, and photographer Gray Williams was born in New York City in 1932, and spent most of his life in Chappaqua (Westchester County), N.Y. A 1954 graduate of Yale, Williams worked in the publishing industry for many years, including for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, and since 1988, he has been a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. Long dedicated to history and historical preservation, he has served as New Castle Town Historian, chair of the New Castle Landmarks Advisory Committee, trustee of the Westchester County Historical Society, and as a member of the Property Council at the National Trust property Lyndhurst. He is the author of Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County (Westchester County Historical Society, 2003). A specialist in the early stone carvers of New York and Connecticut, as well as the use of grave monuments to illuminate and enrich the study of American history, art, and culture, Williams is a former trustee of the Association for Gravestone Studies and has contributed articles to its annual journal, Markers, and its Quarterly. In 2007, he was awarded the Association’s Harriette Merrifield Forbes Award for contributions to scholarship and preservation in the field.

The photographs and research materials he has contributed to the Association for Gravestone Studies are largely devoted to the subjects of three articles in the AAGS journal, Markers: “‘Md. by Thomas Gold’: The Gravestones of a New Haven Carver,” in collaboration with Meredith M. Williams, Markers V (1988); “Solomon Brewer: A Connecticut Valley Yankee in Westchester County,” Markers XI (1994); “By Their Characters You Shall Know Them: Using Styles of Lettering to Identify Gravestone Carvers,” Markers XVII (2000). The collection also includes photographs taken during AGS conferences, principally in New England, as well as a small group taken in Natchez Cemetery in Mississippi.

Subjects
  • Gravestones--New York
  • Stone carving--New York
Contributors
  • Association for Gravestone Studies
  • Williams, Gray
Types of material
  • Photographs

Abbe, Edward H.

Edward H. Abbe Papers

1828-2004
22 boxes 28.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 736
Image of Ed Abbe in Bora Bora, 1987
Ed Abbe in Bora Bora, 1987

Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915 and raised largely in Hampton, Va., Edward Abbe seemed destined to be an engineer. The great nephew of Elihu Thomson, an inventor and founding partner in General Electric, and grandson of Edward Folger Peck, an early employee of a precursor of that firm, Abbe came from a family with a deep involvement in electrification and the development of street railways. After prepping at the Rectory and Kent Schools, Abbe studied engineering at the Sheffield School at Yale, and after graduation in 1938, accepted a position with GE. For 36 years, he worked in the Industrial Control Division in New York and Virginia, spending summers at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. After retirement in 1975, he and his wife Gladys traveled frequently, cruising both the Atlantic and Pacific.

Ranging from an extensive correspondence from his high school and college days to materials relating to his family’s involvement in engineering, the Abbe collection offers an in depth perspective on an educated family. An avid traveler and inveterate keeper, Ed Abbe gathered a diverse assemblage of letters, diaries, and memorabilia relating to the history of the Abbe, Peck, Booth, Gifford, and Boardman families. The collection is particularly rich in visual materials, including albums and photographs, depicting homes, travel, and family life over nearly a century.

Gift of Edward Abbe, Mar. 2012
Subjects
  • Abbe family
  • Boardman family
  • Booth family
  • Electrical engineers
  • General Electric
  • Gifford family
  • Kent School--Students
  • Peck family
  • Rectory School--Students
  • Yale University--Students
Contributors
  • Abbe, Edward H
  • Abbe, Gladys Howard
  • Abbe, William Parker
  • Peck, Edward F
  • Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
  • Diaries
  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Photographs

Akin, Benjamin

Benjamin Akin Daybook and Ledger

1737-1764
1 vol. 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 204 bd

A tanner, currier, and shoemaker, Benjamin Akin was born into a prominent Bristol County family in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on May 18, 1715. With a prolific and well-connected family and successful in his own business endeavors, Akin attained some stature in Dartmouth. First appointed town clerk in 1745, he filled that office from 1754-1770 and again from 1776-1780, adding the title “Esq.” to his name by the 1760s. During the Revolutionary years, he served on the town’s public safety committee. He died on April 10, 1802.

The Akin ledger offers insight into the fortunes of an 18th-century artisan during the most productive years of his life, as well as into the structure of a local community in southeastern Massachusetts. The ledger includes accounts of with customers for tanning and currying of calf and sheepskin, day-book entries, and accounts with the Town of Dartmouth for services performed at Town Clerk.

Acquired from Charles Apfelbaum, 1987
Subjects
  • Artisans--Massachusetts
  • Dartmouth (Mass.)--History--18th century
  • Earthquakes--Massachusetts
  • Shoemaking--Massachusetts
  • Tanning--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Akin, Benjamin, 1715-1802
  • Akin, Eunice Taber, 1711-1762
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Daybooks