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.
Every fall, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives sponsors a colloquium focusing on a topic in social change. Like SCUA’s collections, these colloquia cover a broad terrain, touching on a variety of issues in social justice, equality, and democracy.
Colloquia are free and open to the public.
November 3, 2014, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Lower Level, W.E.B. Du Bois Library
“A Long and Winding Road: The legacy of the back-to-the-land communes of the 1960s,” will explore the nearly forty year history of some of the region’s best known communes: Montague Farm and Wendell Farms nearby in Massachusetts, and Packer Corners and Tree Frog Farms in neighboring southern Vermont. All were partners in the back-to-the-land movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s; all have survived into the current era. The colloquium’s four speakers, who have each spent much of the intervening years on or near one of the four farms, represent each of these idealistic enterprises, as well as offering their own specific views. What have they learned from their long years in service to their ideals? Was the altruism of the counterculture era borne out in the experiences they faced later? Would they recommend the route of alternative life to the youth and radicals of today?
The sources of inspiration that led to the creation of these communities and the evidence of their later influence are documented by SCUA. The Famous Long Ago archive was formed to collect, preserve, and make available materials relating to the communes at Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Johnson Pasture, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm. Collections range from from the papers of writers Steve Diamond, Raymond Mungo, and Jonathan Maslow to those of anti-war activists Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner; from the records of the Liberation News Service, the organization that spawned the farms, to the Alternative Energy Coalition, and Musicians United for Safe Energy, later enterprises of the region’s communal farmer-activists. It also includes the photographic collections of farm parent Roy Finestone, activist photographer Lionel Delavigne, and former head of a neighboring Montague ashram, Stephen Josephs.
Daniel Keller, filmmaker, farmer: Wendell Farm, Green Mountain Post Films
Verandah Porche, writer, teacher: Packer Corners Farm, Monteverdi Artists Collaborative
John Scagliotti, filmmaker, LGBT activist: Tree Frog Farm, Kopkind Colony
Susan Mareneck, artist, teacher, social worker: Early resident and longtime neighbor of Montague Farm, Montague Catholic Social Ministries
Timothy Miller, University of Kansas, scholar of intentional communities, author of The Hippies and American Values (1991), The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America (1998), The Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond (1999)
Verandah Porche, a forty-year resident of Packer Corners Farm (known to the reading public, through the works of Ray Mungo and others, as Total Loss Farm) works as a poet-in-residence, performer, and writing partner. Based in rural Vermont since 1968, she has published three volumes of poetry – Sudden Eden (Verdant Books), The Body’s Symmetry (Harper and Row) and Glancing Off (See Through Books) – and has pursued an alternative literary career, creating collaborative writing projects in nontraditional settings: literacy and crisis centers, hospitals, factories, nursing homes, senior centers, a 200 year-old Vermont tavern, and an urban working class neighborhood. Broad Brook Anthology, a play for voices, honors the lives of elders in her home town of Guilford, Vermont. Listening Out Loud documents her residency with Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut. Come Over is a CD of songs written with her neighbor Patty Carpenter, performed by the Dysfunctional Family Jazz band. She has read her work on NPR stations, in the Vermont State House, and at the Guggenheim Museum. In 1998 the Vermont Arts Council presented her with its Award of Merit, and Marlboro College, in 2012, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Susan Mareneck arrived in the Pioneer Valley in the mid 1960s, and spent her college years engaged in civil rights and anti-war activities, majoring Art and Political Science. After experiencing Montague Farm for several months in its early days, she settled into an unrenovated 18th century farmhouse in nearby Leverett, a building without heat or running water. Improving it slowly but concertedly over the years, she returned regularly to the house for vacations and summers, and has remained a neighbor of Montague Farm and a member of its extended family ever since. Decamping after several years for a graduate degree in art, and finally a move to New York, she spent 30 years making art and teaching it at the Spence School and the Convent of the Sacred Heart, on New York’s upper east side, before returning to western Massachusetts in 2009 to work full time with families in Turners Falls as Executive Director at Montague Catholic Social Ministries. Living three blocks from Ground Zero, Susan saw her world change forever on 9/11. Her turn from education to social work reflects her long interest in non-profits and the role of faith in social change.
John Scagliotti is an Emmy Award-winning American film director, producer, and radio broadcaster. He has received honors for his work on documentaries about LGBT issues including Before Stonewall and After Stonewall. During the 1970s, Scagliotti was the News and Public Affairs Director of the pioneering radio station WBCN-FM in Boston. For his work in radio, he was awarded two Major Armstrong Awards. In the early 1980s, he attended New York University Film School and went on to create In the Life for PBS, the first gay and lesbian national television series in the United States. The Scagliotti-produced documentary film Before Stonewall (1985) won the Audience Award at L.A. Outfest and two Emmies. Scagliotti directed a companion piece, After Stonewall, which won a Golden Eagle and the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Scagliotti is openly gay. His partner for 24 years was the late, highly regarded journalist Andrew Kopkind. Together they produced the radio show The Lavender Hour. Scagliotti is a longtime resident of the Kopkind Colony, an activist community housed at Tree Frog Farm, a close neighbor to Packer Corners Farm in Guilford, Vermont. The Kopkind Colony holds an educational summer residency program for nonpartisan, independent journalists and community organizers. In addition, the Colony fosters public education through publication of its lectures and the hosting of open forums on contemporary issues held at Tree Frog Farm and in other educational centers around the country.
Daniel Keller, a founder of Wendell Farm, in Wendell Massachusetts, has lived there, keeping it a working organic farm, since its inception in 1969. In collaboration with Charles Light, a former communard of the Johnson Pasture and Montague Farm, Keller’s Green Mountain Post Films, with offices in nearby Turners Falls, has produced and distributed award-winning films for more than twenty-five years. GMP’s first documentary Lovejoy’s Nuclear War, released in 1975, about Montague Farm activist Sam Lovejoy, was one of the first films to question the nuclear energy policy of the United States. Since then GMP Films has continued to produce movies that explore social issues, Its films have been used as educational and organizational tools for activists working on peace, veteran, nuclear, environmental, and other related issues. GMP films include: The Last Resort (1978), and Save the Planet (1979), both on nuclear issues; The Secret Agent (1983), on Agent Orange; and Unknown Secrets (1990), on the reaction of artists and writers to the arrest, trial, and execution of accused spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. For Vietnam Experience Keller and Light teamed up with musician Country Joe McDonald to bring viewers closer to the reality of the Vietnam War. Cannabis Rising is an early investigation into the issues surrounding marijuana today so much in the news.
Timothy Miller is a longtime student of communal living, professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas, and author of The Hippies and American Values (1991), The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America (1998), The Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond (1999). His course offerings include a history of intentional communities in America; American religious history; and an overview of new and alternative religious movements in the United States. Miller’s major research focus is the history of intentional communities in America, especially in the twentieth century. For his work in this area, Professor Miller has been recognized by the Communal Studies Association as a distinguished scholar. Additional areas of research interest include American religious history, new and alternative religious movements in the United States, and religion in Kansas. Professor Miller also coordinates the Religion in Kansas Oral History Project. His most recent publications include The Encyclopedic Guide to American Intentional Communities (Richard Couper Press), Spiritual and Visionary Communities: Out to Save the World (Ashgate Publishing), as well as the second edition of The Hippies and American Values (University of Tennessee Press), and the second edition of Following In His Steps: A Biography of Charles M. Sheldon (University of Tennessee Press). Through Miller’s work on American communes, he has long been familiar with the extended farm family at the center of the current symposium. In a recent book review, taking in the larger field in which he is involved, he wrote, “…it can be safely said that Montague Farm has the best published record of any of the communes.”
Stonewall Center Records, 1962-2005.
Call no.: RG 30/2/6
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
Abode of the Message Collection, 1975-2012.
Call no.: MS 780
Founded in 1975 by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, The Abode of the Message is the headquarters for members of the Sufi Order International. Sitting on 430 acres, formerly the site of a Shaker Village in New Lebanon, New York, the Abode was settled by 75 adults and 20 children coming from all over the United States. The Sufi Order initiates spent the first several months preparing for the arrival of winter, a task that required much effort since buildings were in need of repair, there was no central heating system or updated electrical wiring, and few bathrooms. Within a year, the community prospered with the establishment of woodworking, stained glass, and sewing shops, a bakery, and a small school. Today, the community is smaller in number, but their mission remains the same: to collectively embody spiritual awakening.
The collection consists chiefly of publications produced by the Abode, including two newsletters Connections and The Messenger dating from the 1970s to the present. Also represented are other Sufi Order publications, such as Heart & Wing and Mureed’s Newsletter.
- Sufi Order International
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
United Congregational Church of Holyoke (Holyoke, Mass.) Records, ca.1830-1990.
Call no.: MS 787
The present day United Congregational Church of Holyoke is the product of complex history of growth and consolidation of five separate churches responding to the changing demographics and spiritual needs of the city. Established in 1799, the First Congregational Church in Holyoke was initially a small congregation perched above the floodplain south of the center of town, sharing preachers with the equally sparse population of Baptists until the establishment of the First Baptist Church in 1826. The First Congregational Church was finally erected in 1838, and ten years later, the Second Church was established in to serve the needs of the growing Protestant population in the city center, building their own church in 1853 as the mill economy was booming. Reaching out to the millworkers, members of the Second Church opened the Grace Mission in 1870, which spun off into its own church in 1896. Skinner Chapel was founded in 1909 as an addition to the Second Congregational Church, dedicated to the prominent Skinner family. Finally, the German Reformed Church was organized in 1892, though meetings were held years earlier. In the latter part of the twentieth century, however, declining memberships in each of these churches led to a series of mergers, beginning in 1961 when the German Reformed Church united with the First Congregational to become the First United Congregational Church. Grace Church and the First UCC merged in 1973 to become Grace United, and in 1996, Grace joined with the Second Congregational Church to become the present UCC of Holyoke.
The records of the UCC of Holyoke document over 200 years of the ecclesiatical history of an industrial city. In addition to records of membership, baptisms, marriages, and church governance, the collection includes valuable records of the women’s missionary society, the German Maenner Bund, and a long run of church newsletters that offer insight into the weekly course of events in the religious community. Materials relating to Skinner Chapel are part of the collections of Wistariahurst Museum.
- Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Holyoke
- Holyoke (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- First Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- German Reformed Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Grace Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Second Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
Types of material
Roberta Uno Collection of Asian American Women Playwrights' Scripts, 1924-2005.
Call no.: MS 345
Roberta Uno was the founder and long time artistic director of the New WORLD Theater at UMass Amherst, a theater in residence dedicated to the production of works by playwrights of color.
Established by Uno in 1993, the Asian American Women Playwrights Scripts Collection contains manuscripts of plays, but also production histories, reviews, and articles, along with biographies and audio and videotaped interviews with playwrights. Among the individuals represented are Brenda Wong Aoki, Jeannie Barroga, Marina Feleo Gonzales, Jessica Hagedorn, Velina Hasu Houston, Genny Lim, le thi diem thuy, Ling-Ai Li, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Nobuko Miyamoto, Bina Sharif, and Diana Son.
- Asian American women authors
- New WORLD Theater
- Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
- Scripts (Documents)
William Gould Vinal Papers, 1931-1963.
Call no.: FS 138
William “Cap’n Bill” Vinal was the first instructor in nature education at Massachusetts State College and a pioneer in the field. A graduate of Bridgewater State (1904), Harvard (MA 1907) and Brown (PhD, 1922), Vinal worked for several years as a camp director on his native Cape Cod and held a variety of university appointments in nature education before joining the faculty at Massachusetts State College as Professor of Nature Education in the Nature Guide School in 1937. Spontaneous in the classroom and field, enthusiastic, and highly popular with his students, Vinal taught courses in conservation, outdoor leadership, outdoor recreation, and nature guiding, and was an important figure in the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the American Camping Association, the Camp Directors Association, and several conservation groups. After retiring from UMass in 1951, Vinal returned to his home in Norwell, Mass., remaining active as a nature writer and teacher until his death in 1973.
A valuable glimpse into the early growth of nature and conservation education, the Vinal collection includes dozens of scarce publications by the exceptionally prolific Cap’n Bill, along with a small quantity of correspondence, talks, and reports. As a collection, these document the origin and growth of the Nature Guide School and the program in nature recreation at MSC and UMass, and more generally the growth of nature, recreation, and conservation education in New England. Of local interest is an extensive report for the town of Amherst Recreation Survey Committee (1948) regarding recreational opportunities for youth. Nearly half of the collection consists of an extensive run of Vinal’s quirky, self-published Nature Guide Newsletter (1935-1951).
- Amherst (Mass.)--Social life and customs
- Conservation of natural resources--Study and teaching
- Nature Guide Newsletter
- Outdoor education--Massachusetts
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Nature Guide School
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program in Nature Recreation
- Vinal, William Gould, 1881-
Western New England Poetry Collection, 1977-2008.
Call no.: MS 561
Since 2004, the Florence Poets Society has been a hub of the poetry communities in Western Massachusetts, promoting the sharing, reading, and publication of works by its members. The group has sponsored outdoor poetry festivals, poetry slams, and readings and it has encouraged publication of poetry through its annual review,
Established in partnership with Rich Puchalsky and the Florence Poets Society, the Western New England Poetry Collection constitutes an effort to document the vibrant poetry communities in Western New England. The collection includes all forms of poetry, from the written to the spoken word, in all formats, but with a particular emphasis upon locally produced and often difficult to find chapbooks, small press books, unpublished works, and limited run periodicals. The collection is not limited to members of the Florence Poets Society, and additions from poets in Western New England are eagerly welcomed.
- Poetry--New England
- Florence Poets Society
- Puchalsky, Rich
WFCR Radio Broadcast Collection, 1954-1987 (Bulk: 1964-1987).
Call no.: MS 741
The first public radio station in western New England, WFCR Five College Radio has provided a mix of high quality, locally-produced and nationally syndicated programming since May 1961. In 2012, the station reached over 175,000 listeners per week, with a mix of classical and jazz music, news, and entertainment.
The WFCR Collection contains nearly 4,500 reel to reel recordings of locally-produced radio programs, reflecting over fifty years of the cultural and intellectual life of western Massachusetts. Drawing upon the talents of the faculty and students of the Five Colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and UMass Amherst), the collection offers a remarkable breadth of content, ranging from public affairs to community and national news, cultural programming, children’s programming, news and current events, scholarly lectures, classical music, and jazz.
- Amherst (Mass.)
- Pioneer Valley (Mass.)
- Radio stations--Massachusetts
- WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Types of material
- Sound recordings