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 of Massachusetts Amherst. Student Body, 1867-2007.
Call no.: RG 045
Since the arrival of the first class of students at Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1867, the student body at UMass has grown to over 20,500 undergraduates and nearly 6,000 graduate students.
Record Group 45 includes the collected records of student activities at UMass Amherst, from student publications and organizations (fraternities and sororities, unions, and honorary societies) to records of student government, student protests, and religious and social groups. Also included are class notes and correspondence of some individual students while enrolled in the University.
- Aggie Life
- Bay State Ruralist
- College Signal
- College students--Massachusetts
- Greek letter societies--Massachusetts
- Student newspapers and periodicals--Massachusetts
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
Blake Slonecker Collection, 2008.
Call no.: MS 795
An historian of twentieth century social movements, Blake Slonecker received his doctorate at the University of North Carolina in 2009 and joined the history faculty at Waldorf College soon thereafter. In a dissertation examining the utopian impulses of the New Left (published in 2012 as A new dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the long sixties), Slonecker explored how the political and cultural activism of the 1960s helped reshape American political culture in the decade following.
In June 2008, Slonecker conducted oral historical interviews with four individuals who were part of the extended community centered on the Montague Farm and Packer Corners communes during the late 1960s: Tom Fels, Charles Light, Sam Lovejoy, and Richard Wizansky. In wide-ranging interviews, the former communards discuss topics ranging from the fraught politics of the era, political and cultural activism, gender roles and sexuality, and daily life on the communes.
- Amherst College
- Babbitt, Elwood, 1922-
- Bloom, Marshall, 1944-1969
- Brotherhood of the Spirit Community
- Clamshell Alliance
- Green Mountain Post Films
- Johnson Pasture Community (Vt.)
- Liberation News Service (Montague, Mass.)
- Montague Farm Community (Mass.)
- Musicians United for Safe Energy
- Packer Corners Community (Vt.)
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Fels, Thomas Weston
- Light, Charles
- Lovejoy, Sam
- Wizansky, Richard
Types of material
- Oral histories (document genres)
Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter Records, 1947-1973.
Call no.: MS 303
Minutes and correspondence of the Executive Committee, correspondence and general files of chairmen Philip Eddy, David E. Matz, and Donn Kesselheim, as well as correspondence, briefs, and clippings related to legal cases and inquiries undertaken by the chapter.
- Civil rights--Massachusetts
- Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter
- Eddy, Philip
- Kesselheim, Donn
- Matz, David E
NOFA Massachusetts Records, 1988-2005.
Call no.: MS 461
A product of the back-to-the-land movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Northeast Organic Farming Association began as the vision of a New York City plumbing supplies salesman. Now an increasingly influential non-profit organization with chapters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, NOFA has “nearly 4,000 farmers, gardeners and consumers working to promote healthy food, organic farming practices and a cleaner environment.”
The MA NOFA collection of meeting minutes, financial records, correspondence, and publications from 1988 to 2003, documents maintenance and change in the structure of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, particularly concerning the Massachusetts chapter and the Interstate Council.
- Organic farming
- Organic gardening
- Sustainable agriculture
- NOFA Massachusetts
Polish Women's Club of Three Rivers Records, 1924-1994.
Call no.: MS 391
Polish-American women’s club located near Palmer, Massachusetts, that aims to encourage Polish women to become United States citizens and provide them with classes in the English language; to take an active part in local, state and federal politics; to support local Polish-owned businesses; to preserve and integrate Polish culture with those of other ethnicities present in the United States; to encourage higher education in the Polish-American community.
Includes meeting minutes (primarily in Polish), histories, anniversary programs, town and state citations, and government publications, documenting the activities, membership, and national recognition of the club over a period of seventy years.
- Americanization--History--20th century
- Palmer (Mass.)--Ethnic relations--20th century
- Palmer (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Poles--Cultural assimilation--Massachusetts--History--20th century
- Polish American friendly societies--Massachusetts--Palmer--History
- Polish Americans--Ethnic identity--History--20th century
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Palmer
- Polish Americans--Political activity--History--20th century
- Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women's Clubs
- Polish American Women Citizens Political Club of Three Rivers and Thorndike (Palmer, Mass.)
- Polish Women's Club of Three Rivers (Palmer, Mass.)
Types of material
UBCJA Massachusetts State Council Records, 1892-1980.
Call no.: MS 015
One of the largest building trade unions in the U.S., the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America was established in 1881 by a convention of carpenters’ unions. An early member of the American Federation of Labor, the Brotherhood began as a radical organization, but beginning in the 1930s, were typically aligned with the conservative wing of the labor movement.
The records of the Massachusetts State Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America contain reports and other information generated during the union’s annual conventions as well as copies of the constitution and by-laws, handbooks, and histories of the union.
- Carpenters--Labor unions
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
Valley Women's Union Records, 1974-1976.
Call no.: MS 201
The Valley Women’s Union was established in 1974 by members of the Valley Women’s Center, Northampton, Massachusetts, who were committed to political change benefiting women. They were concerned that the Valley Women’s Center had become a static umbrella organization and that many of its formerly vital functions had been absorbed by local social service agencies The VWU sought to unify groups that were working for political change beneficial to women.
Records include newsletters, agendas for meetings, reports, position papers, and mailings.
- Feminism--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History
- Feminists--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
- Social change--Political activity--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History
- Women--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity --History
- Valley Women's Union (Northampton, Mass.)
Western Massachusetts Library Club Records, 1898-2006.
Call no.: MS 492
Situated in a region known for its progressive spirit, the Western Massachusetts Library Club was established in 1898 to respond to the unique needs of librarians overseeing small or rural libraries, and to foster camaraderie among local colleagues. Almost immediately, however, the club expanded its focus, taking positions on issues ranging from modern library practices to national legislation and leading the way in the expansion of services for public libraries, all while maintaining its identity as an advocate for local libraries and librarians.
The collection is richest in records that document the early history of the club including detailed meeting minutes, news clippings, programs, and circulars. Beginning in the late 1960s, the club’s activities are captured primarily through membership lists and meeting notices and programs. Taken together, the records trace the growth of the WMLC for more than a century from its establishment to the present.
- Cutter, Charles A. (Charles Ammi), 1937-1903
- Western Massachusetts Library Club
Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection, 1797-1897.
Call no.: RB 012
Although printing requires a substantial capital investment in equipment before any hope of profitability can be entertained, there have been numerous attempts over the years to set up printing houses in communities with astonishingly small population bases. In even the most remote Massachusetts towns, people like John Metcalf (Wendell), Ezekiel Terry (Palmer), and John and Solomon Howe (Enfield and Greenwich) operated as printers during the nineteenth century, specializing in a quotidian array of broadsides, song sheets, almanacs, toy books, and printed forms, hoping to supplement, or provide, a decent living.
This small, but growing collection consists of materials printed prior to the twentieth century in small Massachusetts towns, defined as towns with populations less than about 2,500. Although few of these houses survived for long, they were important sources for rural communities. Typically simple in typography, design, and binding, even crude, the output of such printers provides an important guage of the needs and tastes of New England’s smallest and often poorest communities.
Types of material