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Rare book collections

Votes for women, Enfield Collection
Votes for Women, ca.1919 (Enfield Collection)

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses approximately 40,000 volumes reflecting an evolving history of collecting at UMass Amherst. Beginning in the late 1860s with a focus on agriculture and the natural sciences, SCUA has developed into a resource for the study of regional and local history in New England, emphasizing our varied cultural, social, religious, and political histories.

Beyond New England, SCUA has developed strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the literature of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era and the works of an eclectic assortment of poets and writers. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to Cold War culture: a growing collection of books printed in East Germany and one of the largest collections of materials in the United States from the Solidarity movement in Poland.

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All books and periodicals held by SCUA are cataloged in the Library’s online catalog and summary descriptions of most major book collections, but not individual titles, are included in SCUA’s own online catalog, UMarmot.

Notice: due to renovations in the library, much of SCUA’s collection of printed materials (books and periodicals) will be unavailable until further notice. Please contact our archivists to see whether we can assist.

Selected areas of collecting interest:

Agriculture, horticulture, natural history

The library holds key works in apiculture, entomology, gardening, landscape design, organic agriculture, pomology, sustainability, and viticulture, with numerous works in animal husbandry. Materials date back to the 16th century, however the strength of the collections lies in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Cookery in New England

Knox gelatin
The Collection

The collections of Beatrice A. McIntosh, Athena Savas, and Lynette Foucher, among others, include books, pamphlets, and ephemera relating to the culinary history of New England, including many thousands of cookbooks published by church and community organizations.

European history and culture

Diverse collections ranging from materials on Revolutionary-era Europe, 1789-1848 (the Binet and Brabançonne Collections); Anglo-American Political Economy; twentieth century German history (the Harold Gordon Collection on the Interwar period and the Hans Joachim Ring Collection on East German cinema); and Communist-era Poland (Basia Jakubowska Schlatner Solidarity Collection).

Gay and Lesbian Literature

The centerpiece extensive of our holdings is the collection of gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings and her partner, Kay Tobin Lahusen, which includes books on the history of homosexuality in America, works by and about gay writers, gay activism, and related topics.

Literary collections

Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press; records of the Cummington School for the Arts and Massachusetts Review; and the poetry libraries of Francis, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Halley. Although the literary collections focus largely on New England writers, SCUA houses fine collections of the works of Charles Lamb, William Morris, and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers. We are stewards of the papers of several writers from New England and collect their works comprehensively, including Andrew Coburn, Mary Doyle Curran, Mary McGarry Morris, Raymond Mungo, Jodi Picoult, and Harvey Swados.

New England history and culture

Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard
Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard

Local and regional histories, novels, and other writing about Massachusetts from the eighteenth century to the present. These include an array of election, ordination, installation, dedication, fast-day, mission, farewell, and funeral sermons; Fourth of July orations; and addresses to or by benevolent, cultural, and civic organizations in the Commonwealth. The New England Yearly Meeting of Friends collection contains thousands of books, pamphlets, and periodicals relating to Quaker history from the seventeenth century to the present. With an emphasis on New England Quakerism, these collections include the libraries of Moses and Obadiah Brown and libraries amassed by several monthly and quarterly meetings. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Social change

Valuable collections for the history of antislavery in New England and politics of the left. The John P. Roche and Steven Siteman Collections focus on the American left from the late 19th century through the 1950s, with some European materials and materials from the political right.

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Ravett, Abraham

Abraham Ravett Collection

1977-1979
1 box 1.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 890

The independent filmmaker Abraham Ravett has taught film and video at Hampshire College since 1979. Born in Poland in 1947 and raised in Israel, Ravett emigrated to the United States with his family in 1955. Since earning his BFA and MFA in Filmmaking and Photography, he has won wide recognition for his work, receiving major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, among other organizations, and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. His films have been screened internationally and have earned Top Prize at the Viennale 2000, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and Onion City Film/Video Festival.

This small collection contains raw footage on open-reel videotape shot by Ravett and two dvds documenting local communities in eastern Massachusetts: the North End, Boston (1977-1978) and Haverhill High School (1978-1979), the latter taken while artist in residence.

Gift of Abraham Ravett, Mar. 2011

Subjects

  • Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
  • Haverhill (Mass.)--Social life and customs
  • North End (Boston, Mass.)--Social life and customs

Types of material

  • Videotapes
Regional Dairy Marketing Program

Regional Dairy Marketing Program Records

1946-1960
2 boxes 0.75 linear feet
Call no.: MS 070

Founded in 1935, the Northeast Dairy Conference was “an association of more than 40 organizations of dairy producers in thirteen states from Maine to West Virginia.” Ranging from individual farmers and cooperatives to state-level departments of agriculture and milk control boards,” the NDC represented the interests of “hundreds of dairy plants and… thousands of workers,” and worked to ensure the success of the “principle agricultural industry in the Northeast.”

The Regional Dairy Marketing Program collection contains meeting proceedings, annuals reports, research project statements, and detailed accounts of the Northeast Dairy Conference’s Cooperative Regional Projects from 1946 to 1960.

Subjects

  • Dairy products industry
  • Milk trade--New England

Contributors

  • Northeast Dairy Conference
Reinsch, Henry Gustave

Henry Gustave Reinsch Papers

1942-1960
1 box 0.25 linear feet
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.

Gift of Vincent DiMarco, June 2007

Subjects

  • Citizenship, Loss of--United States
  • Fascists--United States
  • German Americans--Washington
  • Silver Shirts of America (Organization)
  • World War, 1939-1945--German Americans

Contributors

  • Reinsch, Bernice
  • Reinsch, Henry Gustave

Types of material

  • Letters (Correspondence)
Research services

Using the collections

Football team, 1930s

MAC football team, 1930s

The collections held by Special Collections and University Archives are available at no cost to all researchers, regardless of affiliation.

In the reading room

  • How do I begin?
    • On your first visit, you will be asked to register and to provide name, institutional affiliation (when applicable), and current address, and to present a valid form of identification including a photograph.
    • On each subsequent visit, you must sign in and out at the front desk.
    • Upon leaving for the day, please notify the staff whether you are finished with your material or wish to place it on hold for a return visit.
  • What may I bring into the reading room?
    • Pencil and paper, laptops, cellphones, and usb drives are all permitted: lockers are available to store anything else.
    • You may bring your cell phone into the reading room, but we ask you to set it to silent mode or switch it off; calls may be taken in the adjacent elevator lobby.
    • Smoking, food, and drink are not permitted.
  • Care and handling of materials
    • Please use care in handling manuscripts and books to prevent damage.
    • Use only a single box of manuscript or archival material at a time and preserve the existing arrangement of the files.
    • You may photograph items for research purposes, though please check with a staff member first.
    • Scans and photocopies are made only by staff members in keeping with our copying policies.

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Riggs, Maida L.

Maida L. Riggs Papers

1925-2000
8 boxes 4.5 linear feet
Call no.: FS 095
Image of Maida Riggs, ca.1944
Maida Riggs, ca.1944

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 more than 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 memoir, 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 Longleys’ English roots.

Gift of Maida Riggs, 2000-2006

Subjects

  • 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

Contributors

  • Riggs, Maida L.

Types of material

  • Photographs
Ring, Hans Joachim

Hans Joachim Ring Collection of East German Cinema

1945-1990
10 boxes 4.75 linear feet
Call no.: MS 566
Image of Bummi
Bummi

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.

Acquired from Ann Langevin, May 2008
Language(s): German

Subjects

  • Children's films--Germany, East
  • Motion pictures--Germany, East

Contributors

  • Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft
  • Progress Film-Vertrieb
  • Ring, Hans Joachim

Types of material

  • Fliers (Printed matter)
  • Handbills
  • Programs
Robinson, Frank B. (Frank Bruce), b. 1886

Psychiana Collection

1932
1 box 0.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 502

Moved by a vision in which he saw himself as the head of a new religion, Frank Bruce Robinson established Psychiana soon after moving to Moscow, Idaho, in 1928-1929. Once established, word about the religion spread quickly, primarily through advertisements Robinson placed in newspapers and magazines. Within the first year more than 600,000 students in 67 countries were receiving his printed lessons. Robinson’s launching of Psychiana could not have been better timed. The Great Depression provided a ready-made audience eager to grasp onto his message of “health, wealth, and prosperity” achieved by positive affirmations and self help.

This collection consists of 16 lessons in the Psychiana Advanced Course printed in 1932.

Acquired from Stephen Resnick, Apr. 2006

Subjects

  • Psychiana movement

Contributors

  • Robinson, Frank B. (Frank Bruce), b. 1886
Ross, Laura

Laura M. Ross Papers

1945-2003 Bulk: 1967-1990
13 boxes 6.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 515
Image of Laura Ross
Laura Ross

Born in the coal mining town of Blossburg, Pa., in 1913, Laura Ross (nee Kaplowitz) grew up in poverty as one of seven children of Lithuanian immigrants. In about 1932, Ross married Harry Naddell, a wine merchant, and settled into a comfortable life Brooklyn, N.Y., raising a son and daughter. During the Second World War, however, she became intensely politicized through her work with Russian War Relief, joining the Communist Party and eventually divorcing her les radical husband. Moving to the Boston area, she married Max Ross in 1963, an attorney for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and became a noted presence in a wide range of political activities, working for civil rights, the antiwar movement, and for many years, helping to run the Center for Marxist Education in Central Square , Cambridge. Perhaps most notably, between 1974 and 1984, Ross ran for Congress three times on the Communist Party ticket, taking on the powerful incumbent Tip O’Neill and winning almost a quarter of the vote. An activist to the end, Ross died in Cambridge on August 5, 2007.

The Ross papers are the legacy of a highly visible activist, organizer, educator, and member of the Communist Party USA. Heavily concentrated in the period 1967-1990, the collection includes material relating to her affiliation with CPUSA and her work with the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Mass., including information on party membership, platforms, and conventions, minutes from various district committee meetings, material relating to the People’s Daily World, and course information and syllabi. Scattered throughout the collection are materials pertaining to contemporary political issues and elections, particularly the policies associated with Ronald Reagan. Ross was a vocal and persistent opponent of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race that Reagan accelerated.

Gift of Eugene Povirk, 2007

Subjects

  • Center for Marxist Education (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Communist Party of the United States of America
  • Peace movements--Massachusetts
  • People’s Daily World
  • United States--Politics and government--1981-1989

Contributors

  • Ross, Laura
Rotundo, Barbara

Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection

ca.1970-2004
9 boxes 10 linear feet
Call no.: PH 050
Image of

A long-time member of the English Department at the University of Albany, Barbara Rotundo was a 1942 graduate in economics at Mount Holyoke College. After the death of her husband, Joseph in 1953, Rotundo became one of the first female faculty members at Union College, and after earning a master’s degree in English at Cornell University and a doctorate in American Literature from Syracuse University, she served as an associate professor of English at the University of Albany, where she founded one of the first university writing programs in the United States. Avocationally, she was a stalwart member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, helping to broaden its scope beyond its the Colonial period to include the Victorian era. Her research included the rural cemetery movement, Mount Auburn Cemetery, white bronze (zinc) markers, and ethnic folk gravestones. Her research in these fields was presented on dozens of occasions to annual meetings of AGS, the American Culture Association, and The Pioneer America Society. In 1989, after residing in Schenectady for forty-six years, she retired to Belmont, NH, where she died in December 2004.

Consisting primarily of thousands of color slides (most digitized) and related research notebooks, the Rotundo collection is a major visual record of Victorian grave markers in the United States. The notebooks and slides are arranged by state, with an emphasis on the eastern states, and white bronze (zinc) markers also are represented in photographs and a separate research notebook. The collection also includes several rare or privately published books.

Subjects

  • Cemeteries--New York (State)
  • Gravestones--New Jersey
  • Gravestones--New York (State)
  • Gravestones--Pennsylvania

Contributors

  • Rotundo, Barbara

Types of material

  • Photographs