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
Henry Gustave Reinsch Papers, 1942-1960.
Call no.: MS 527
Born in Germany in 1888, Henry Gustave Reinsch became an American citizen in 1912, serving in the military during the First World War, marrying an American girl, and starting a family. In 1942, however, two FBI agents showed up at Reinsch’s office, and a year later, Reinsch’s citizenship was revoked when he was accused by the U.S. government of living a double life — publicly loyal to America, privately loyal to Germany. Reinsch appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court and won. His citizenship was reinstated in 1945.
The Reinsch Papers contains newspaper clippings, personal and business correspondence, and official documents pertaining to both citizenship trials, that tell of uncommon wartime experiences.
- Citizenship, Loss of--United States
- Fascists--United States
- German Americans--Washington
- Silver Shirts of America (Organization)
- World War, 1939-1945--German Americans
- Reinsch, Bernice
- Reinsch, Henry Gustave
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
The SCUA staff have assembled a series of introductory guides to assist researchers in navigating through our collections. These guides provide a broad overview of our collections for the history of social change; labor, work, and industry; agriculture; and the regional history of New England, and intended for use in conjunction with the descriptions in UMarmot and our finding aids.
On the right side of this page, UMarmot sports several features to help you locate individual manuscript and archival collections: from top to bottom, you may search collections by entering any term in the search box; browse by general category using the drop down menu; or browse alphabetically by clicking on the appropriate letter.
We encourage researchers with more specialized interests or who require more in-depth work with our collections to consult with our staff.
Association for Gravestone Studies Collection
Susanne S. Ridlen Photograph Collection, 1985-1991.
Call no.: PH 025
A folklorist at Indiana University Kokomo for many years, Susanne S. Ridlen is noted for her research on grave markers in the Midwest. Her dissertation at Indiana University was on tombstones carved to mimic tree-stumps, a rustic form of funerary monument that enjoyed a vogue during the late nineteenth century. Ridlen’s research culminated in publication of her book Tree-Stump Tombstones: A Field Guide to Rustic Funerary Art in Indiana (Kokomo, 1999).
The Ridlen collection provides an extensive visual record of tree-stump tombstones in Indiana. Organized by county, town, and cemetery, the collection typically includes several views of each marker along with documentation of the individual(s) interred, the date of creation, inscriptions, and any other design motifs employed. These images and data form the basis for Ridlen’s Tree-Stump Tombstones.
- Sepulchral monuments--Indiana
- Association for Gravestone Studies
- Ridlen, Susanne S
Types of material
Maida L. Riggs Papers, 1932.
Call no.: FS 095
Maida Leonard Riggs, Class of 1936, taught women’s physical education at UMass before shifting to teacher preparation. Riggs was a beloved member of the UMass faculty for 28 years before her retirement. An adventurous spirit took Riggs around the globe: to Europe with the Red Cross during World War II; as a bicycling tour leader after the war; on a trek across Nepal at age 62; to Russia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Uzbekistan. After retiring, Riggs, a self-described compulsive traveler, embarked on a more personal journey to explore her roots. Riggs transcribed over 250 letters by her pioneer great-grandmother, Mary Ann Clark Longley, and published them under the title A Small Bit of Bread and Butter: Letters from the Dakota Territory, 1832-1869, an absorbing and sometimes heartbreaking account of life on the frontier. An avid photographer, Riggs took advantage of any opportunity to use her camera. These images, particularly from World War II, tell as many stories as do her correspondence. Her book, Dancing in Paratrooper Boots, contains typed copies of her letters from her days as a Red Cross volunteer during the war.
The Riggs Papers are a rich documentary history of the World War II era, both in America and Europe, as well as an engrossing study (in transcripts) of the American frontier. Included with extensive correspondence and photographs are published and unpublished prose, and Lovingly, Lucy: Vignettes of a Pioneer Woman’s Life, an essay on Riggs’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Dodge Riggs. Additional items in the collection include handwritten journals, one detailing a trip to China and Japan in 1982, and Riggs’s photographs of young children at play taken for her book on child development, Jump to Joy: Helping Children Grow Through Active Play. Riggs also took her genealogical research seriously, meticulously charting her family’s 1638 immigration from England to Massachusetts. With camera in hand, she later traveled to England in search of more evidence of the Longley’s English roots.
- China--Description and travel
- Longley family
- Riggs family
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Alumni and alumnae
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Physical Education
- Women physical education teachers
- World War, 1939-1945
- World War, 1939-1945--Women
- Riggs, Maida L.
Types of material
Hans Joachim Ring Collection of East German Cinema, 1945-1990.
Call no.: MS 566
Born in Germany on Aug. 4, 1934, Hans Joachim Ring was a film enthusiast with an encyclopedic knowledge of German cinema. During the Second World War, movie theatres became a refuge for the young boy, whose family was forced several times to flee due to Allied bombing. The hardships of post-war life cemented the role of film in his life and as he grew older, he became an ardent collector of materials relating to film.
The Ring Collection includes hundreds of programs, fliers, and handbills published by the official East German film distributors Progress Film-Vertrieb and the Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) and sold to patrons at theatres. This extraordinary assemblage includes several hundred programs covering the immediate post-war period (1945-1950) and hundreds more relating to films released up to and beyond the end of the Communist era. Offering insight into the evolution of graphic design in East Germany and the marketing of film, the collection is one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
- Children's films--Germany, East
- Motion pictures--Germany, East
- Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft
- Progress Film-Vertrieb
- Ring, Hans Joachim
Types of material
- Fliers (Printed matter)
Craig D. Robinson Papers, ca.1980-2007.
Call no.: MS 739
A labor attorney and activist, Craig Robinson was born in Hartford, Conn., on August 6, 1952, and raised in Stafford. After rising tuition led him to drop out of the University of Connecticut in 1971, Robinson worked in a variety of manual jobs until he was hired by the US Postal Service in 1974. From the time of his assignment to the bulk mail facility in Springfield the next year, Robinson was an active member of the American Postal Workers Union, eventually serving as steward, vice president, and president of his Local, and his activism often created friction with management. Earning his BA at UMass Amherst (1980) and JD from the Western New England School of Law (1984), he began practicing labor law, moving to full time in 1991. Devoted to workplace justice, he served as General Counsel for the Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council and for Locals of the United Roofers Union and Amalgamated Transit Union, among others, and was a founding board member of the Western Massachusetts Coalituion for Occupational Safety and Health. Robinson died on June 17, 2007, and is survived by his wife Linda Tonoli, and son.
The Robinson papers contain a record of labor activism in the Pioneer Valley and beyond. The collection incldues retained copies of legal filings relating to arbitration and other labor-related cases, along with articles written by and about Robinson, and an assortment of other notes and correspondence.
- American Postal Workers Union
- Labor laws and legislation
- Labor lawyers--Massachusetts
- Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council
- Robinson, Craig D.
Juan Mauricio Rugendas Letters, 1835-1845.
Call no.: MS 271
Born in Germany as Johann Moritz Rugendas, Juan Rugendas was a painter who spent much of his adult life working and traveling in South America. The collection includes a total of 4 poems and 192 personal letters received by Rugendas from four friends during the years 1835 to 1845. Rugendas received the bulk of these letters while living in Valparaíso, Chile, where he found political asylum, and in Lima, Peru from 1842 to 1844.
- Argentina--Description and travel
- Argentina--Social life and customs--19th century
- Painters--South America
- Bustamante, José Javier y Tomás
- Espinosa, Juan, 1804-1871
- Godoy, Juan Gualberto, 1793-1864
- Oro, Domingo de, 1800-1879
- Rugendas, Johann Moritz, 1802-1858
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
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
Sagendorph Woolen Company Daybook, 1885-1887.
Call no.: MS 430
Daybook contains daily transactions between the Sagendorph Woolen Company of East Brookfield, Massachusetts and other businesses, local residents, and the company’s labor force. These detailed entries present a dynamic picture of the company’s manufacturing operations ranging from the purchase of raw materials to the sales of finished products.
- Carding (textiles)
- East Brookfield (Mass.)--History
- Textile construction processes and techniques
- Textile industry--Massachusetts--History
- Textile manufacturers--Massachusetts
- Textile materials
- Yarn-making processes and techniques
- Sagendorph Woolen Company
Types of material