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.
Levi Stockbridge Papers, 1841-1878.
Call no.: RG 003/1 S76
Born in Hadley, Mass., in 1820, Levi Stockbridge was one of the first instructors at Massachusetts Agricultural College and President from 1879-1882. Known for his work on improving crop production and for developing fertilizers, Stockbridge was an important figure in the establishment of the college’s Experiment Station. After filling in as interim President of MAC in 1879, he was appointed president for two years, serving during a period of intense financial stress. After his retirement in 1882, he was named an honorary professor of agriculture.
The Stockbridge Papers include correspondence, personal notebooks, travel diary, journal as a farmer (1842-1845), writings, lectures, notes on experiments, clippings, photocopies of personal and legal records, and biographical material, including reminiscences by Stockbridge’s daughter. Also contains auction records, notebook of Amherst, Massachusetts town records (1876-1890), and printed matter about Amherst and national elections, including some about his candidacy for Congress on Labor-Greenback party ticket 1880. Also contains papers (13 items) of Stockbridge’s son, Horace Edward Stockbridge (1857-1930), agricultural chemist and educator, including a letter (1885) from him to the elder Stockbridge, written from Japan while he was professor at Hokkaido University.
- Amherst (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Greenback Labor Party (U.S.)--History
- Japan--Description and travel--19th century
- Legislators--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- Massachusetts Agricultural College
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
- Massachusetts Agricultural College. President
- Massachusetts Cattle Commission
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- Stockbridge family
- Stockbridge, Horace E. (Horace Edward),1857-1930
- Stockbridge, Levi, 1820-1904
Types of material
Noah Lyman Strong Account Book, 1849-1893.
Call no.: MS 187
Operator of a sawmill and gristmill in Southampton, Massachusetts, later an owner of tenements and other real estate in Westfield, Massachusetts. Includes lists of gristmill and sawmill products, the method and form of payment (cash, barter for goods, or services such as sawing or hauling), real estate records, and miscellaneous personal records (school, clothing, board, and travel expenses for his niece and nephew; accounts for the care and funeral of his father-in-law and the dispensation of his estate; a Strong family genealogy; town of Westfield agreements and expenses; a list of U.S. bonds that Strong bought; and money lent and borrowed, among others).
- Barter--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Boardinghouses--Massachusetts--Westfield--History--19th century
- Clapp, Anson--Estate
- Fowler, Henry
- Grist mills--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Guardian and ward--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- House construction--Massachusetts--Westfield--History--19th century
- Millers--Massachusetts--Southampton--Economic conditions--19th century
- Railroad companies--United States--History--19th century
- Sawmills--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Southampton (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Strong family
- Strong, Noah Lyman, 1807-1893--Finance, Personal
- Westfield (Mass.)--History--19th century
- Westfield (Mass.)--Social conditions--19th century
- Strong, Noah Lyman
Gordon Francis Sutton Papers, 1970-2004.
Call no.: FS 111
Gordon Francis Sutton (1928-2012) began his tenure at the University of Massachusetts Amherst as an Assistant Professor of Sociology. Sutton was later appointed to serve as the Director of the Population and Ecology Studies Program. With an interest in social policy, Sutton’s work focused on evaluating statistical classification systems of metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. His dissertation on travel patterns in urban communities earned him a PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 1959. In 1997 Sutton’s son Matthew created the Gordon and Dolores Sutton Scholarship Fund at UMass Amherst to promote ethnic diversity and economic opportunity.
The Sutton Papers contain a wealth of material relating to Sutton’s research in urban sociology, social statistics, and demography.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Sociology
- Sutton, Gordon Francis, 1930-
Brainerd Taylor Family Papers, 1871-1964.
Call no.: MS 733
A member of a distinguished family of New England educators and clergymen, Brainerd Taylor played an key role in assisting the U.S. Army takes its first steps into modern mechanized warfare. Born in Newtonville, Massachusetts, in 1877, Taylor entered Harvard with the class of 1899, but during the rush of enthusiasm accompanying the start of the Spanish American War, he left before completing his degree to join the military. Serving with the Coast Artillery for several years, he became the Chief Motor Transport Officer for the Advance Section of the Service of Supply for the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War, earning promotion to Colonel, a Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Honor from France for his efforts. Taylor married twice, first to Vesta Richardson, who died in 1919, and then to Helen Cady. Taylor died in 1955.
The Taylor family collection contains over 1,000 letters documenting the military career and personal life of Brainerd Taylor, with particularly thick coverage of the period of the First World War when he was stationed in France, building the Motor Transport Corps virtually from scratch. These letters are exceptionally well written and rich in description, both about his duties and his travels in France and Germany. The collection also includes Taylor’s extensive correspondence to his father, James Brainerd Taylor (1845-1929), and correspondence relating to Taylor’s wives, children, and grandchildren.
- France--Description and travel
- Germany--Description and travel
- World War, 1914-1918
- Taylor, Brainerd, 1877-
- Taylor, Helen M.
- Taylor, James Brainerd
- Taylor, Vesta R.
Thomas W. and Margaret Tenney Photograph Collection, 1966-1978 (Bulk: 1966-1972).
Call no.: PH 045
A long-time resident of Berkeley, Calif., Thomas W. Tenney and his wife Margaret took up photography in a serious way in the early 1960s. Photographing the Bay Area scene and publishing in the New York Times and elsewhere, the Tenneys became full time photographers by about 1964. For over a decade, they took summer trips to New England to photograph colonial and early national gravestones, culminating in a public exhibition of their work in 1972 at the Bolles Gallery in San Francisco.
The Tenney collection consists of several hundred scrupulously-documented images of gravestones in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states taken between 1966 and 1978. Selecting stones for “artistic rather than historical reasons,” the Tenney’s focused primarily on details of the carving and inscriptions.
- Sepulchral monuments--Connecticut
- Sepulchral monuments--Massachusetts
- Sepulchral monuments--Rhode Island
- Sepulchral monuments--Vermont
- Tenney, Margaret K.
- Tenney, Thomas W.
Types of material
Roscoe Wilfrid Thatcher Papers, 1900-1934.
Call no.: RG 003/1 T43
The agronomist Roscoe Thatcher served as the last president of Massachusetts Agricultural College and the first when the institution changed its name to Massachusetts State College in 1931. Before coming to Amherst, Thatcher had extensive experience in both agricultural research and administration, having served as director of the agricultural station for the state of Washington, as professor of plant chemistry at the University of Minnesota (1913-1917), and as dean of the School of Agriculture and director of the Minnesota Experiment Station (1917-1921), and as director of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. Selected as President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1927, he helped expand the two year program in practical agriculture to become the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and oversaw curricular reform, orienting vocational training toward citizenship education. The student health service also started during his tenure. Thatcher resigned due to ill health in 1933. Although he returned to research in agricultural chemistry at the College in April 1933, he died in his laboratory on December 6, 1933.
Official and administrative correspondence, memos, and other papers, relating to Thatcher’s service as president of Massachusetts State College together with writing and biographical material.
- Massachusetts State College. President
- Thatcher, Roscoe Wilfrid, 1872-1933
Frederick Tillis Papers, 1970-2010.
Call no.: FS 156
A composer, performer, poet, educator, and arts administrator, Fred Tillis was one of the major influences on the cultural life at UMass Amherst for forty years. Born in Galveston, Texas, in 1930, Tillis began playing jazz trumpet and saxophone even before his teens. A product of segregated schools, he graduated from Wiley College at the age of 19, and received his MA and PhD in music at the University of Iowa. As a performer and composer of unusual breadth, his work spans both the jazz and European traditions, and he has written for piano and voice, orchestra, choral pieces, chamber music, and in the African American spiritual tradition, drawing upon a wide range of cultural references. After teaching at Wiley, Grambling, and Kentucky State in the 1960s, Tillis was recruited to UMass in 1970 by his former adviser at Iowa, Philip Bezanson, to teach music composition and theory. Earning promotion to Professor in 1973, Tillis was appointed Director of the Fine Arts Center in 1978, helping to jump start some of the most successful arts initiatives the university has seen, including the the Afro American Music and Jazz program, the New World Theater, Augusta Savage Gallery, Asian Arts and Culture Program, and Jazz in July. Upon retirement from UMass in 1997, he was appointed Emeritus Director of the Fine Arts and remains active as a musician and poet.
The Tillis papers document an extraordinary career in the arts, focused on Fred Tillis’s work as a composer. Consisting primarily of musical scores along with an assortment of professional correspondence relating to his publishing and miscellaneous notes, the collection offers insight into the evolution of Tillis’s musical vision from the 1970s into the new millennium.
- African American composers
- African American musicians
- Fine Arts Center (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Music and Dance
- Tillis, Frederick, 1930-
Types of material
Conrad D. Totman Papers, 1800-2005.
Call no.: MS 447
A scholar of the history and culture of early modern Japan, Conrad Totman began his career as a student of ornamental horticulture at the University of Massachusetts. After graduation in 1953, Totman served in the army for three years in South Korea where got his first taste of Japanese culture during leave. His experiences in Japan piqued his scholarly interest, and upon his return to the states with his new wife Michiko, he finished college at UMass and did his graduate work at Harvard where he received a doctorate in 1964 for a study of politics during the Tokugawa period. Totman held academic positions at UC Santa Barbara, Northwestern, and Yale before retiring in 1997.
The bulk of the collection documents Professor Totman’s education and professional work as a scholar and teacher of Japanese history. Dispersed throughout is a treasure trove of information on Japan in general, and particularly on his specialties: early modern Japan and forestry and environmental management. An enormous, highly influential, and cherished part of Totman’s life is his family, and the Totman clan is well represented in this collection. Reams of genealogical material document the rich heritage of the Totman family, including the transcribed love letters and diaries of his paternal grandmother and biographies of Totman ancestors, as well as hundreds of letters written between Michiko and her family in Japan.
- Conway (Mass.)--Genealogy
- Dairy farms--Massachusetts
- Family farms--United States
- Farm life--United States
- Forest management--Japan--Akita-ken--History
- Forest policy--Japan
- Forests and forestry--Japan
- Human ecology--Japan--History
- Human ecology--Korea--History
- Japan--Civilization--American influences
- Japan--Environmental conditions
- Japan--History--Restoration, 1853-1870
- Japan--History--Tokugawa period, 1600-1868
- Japan--Politics and government--1600-1868
- Korea--American influences
- Korea--Environmental conditions
- Lumber trade--Japan--History
- Tokugawa, Ieyasu, 1543-1616
- Totman family
- United States--Army--Medical personnel--Correspondence
- Drew, Raymond Totman, 1923-1981
- Lewis, Gertrude Minnie, 1896-
- Totman, Conrad D
- Totman, Ruth J
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
University of Massachusetts Amherst. Campus Center and Student Union
Call no.: RG 037
The Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center and Student Union is one of the hubs of undergraduate life at UMass Amherst, offering a range of facilities and services to the university community. In addition to the Campus Center Hotel and rooms for meetings, conferences, conventions, and special events, the Campus Center houses UMass Catering Services, retail food outlets, student cooperative businesses, administrative offices, and the University Store. The Student Union houses student organizations and other stores and food outlets.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Student Union