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
American Friends Service Committee Records, 1975-2005.
Call no.: MS 459
Established in 1968 in response to the war in Vietnam, the AFSC office in western Massachusetts did not limit its focus to draft and military counseling, instead the organization broadened its focus over time to include educational and outreach programs for a variety of peace and socal justice issues. Today the chapter focuses on economic justice, campaigns against U.S. military intervention, and actions to combat racism and classism. With an emphasis on serving the community of western Massachusetts, the program is equally committed to calling attention to issues of both national and local importance. Recent campaigns range from ending the war in Iraq and supporting peace in Columbia to preventing the construction of a new jail in Chicopee.
The collection consists chiefly of subject files that together provide a picture of the various issues in which the western Massachusetts AFSC was involved. Topics range from the organization’s earliest focus, the Vietnam War, to the first Gulf War, landlord/tenant relations, immigration, and landmines. The collection also includes materials relating to public figures, some of whom traveled to the region to speak.
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions
- Peace movements--Massachusetts
- Social justice--Massachusetts
- American Friends Service Committee. Western Massachusetts
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
Massachusetts Locales Collection, 1905-1989.
Call no.: MS 300
Materials, such as clippings, maps, and photographs, relating to Amherst, but also including items from other western Massachusetts towns. Topics covered include are Amherst writers such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, town history, trees and birds of Amherst, and Connecticut River Valley history.
- Amherst (Mass.)--History
Types of material
Massachusetts Agricultural Surveys, 1910-1965.
Call no.: MS 261
Studies were conducted by departments of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, Massachusetts State College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in conjunction with various other college departments and agencies of the state and federal governments. The surveys encompass a number of agricultural study areas such as land use, business and farm management, dairy farm and cost of milk production, tobacco and onion production, and poultry and livestock disease surveys. Supplemental statistical information and aerial photographs are also included.
- Land use--Massachusetts
Types of material
- Aerial photographs
Massachusetts AFL-CIO Records, 1902-1995.
Call no.: MS 369
Formed in 1887 as the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Labor, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO currently represents the interests of over 400,000 working people in the Commonwealth. Like its parent organization, the national AFL-CIO, the Mass. AFL-CIO is an umbrella organization, a union of unions, and engages in political education, legislative action, organizing, and education and training.
The official records of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO provide insight into the aims and administrative workings of the organization. These includes a nearly complete run of proceedings and reports from its conventions since 1902, except for a five year gap 1919-1923, minutes and agendas for the meetings of the Executive Council, and the President’s files (1982- ). The collection is particularly strong in the period since about 1980.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts AFL-CIO
Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Posters Collection, 1852-1860.
Call no.: MS 169
With one of the first agricultural fairs in the country taking place in Massachusetts in 1807, the state has a special place in the history of agricultural fairs in the United States. Twenty antebellum posters promoting agricultural fairs in western Massachusetts, primarily from agricultural societies in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties.
- Agricultural exhibitions--Massachusetts--Posters
- Agricultural exhibitions--Rhode Island--Providence--Posters
- Agriculture--Social aspects--Massachusetts--History
- Agriculture--Social aspects--Rhode Island--History
Types of material
Massachusetts Public Information Research Group Records, 1972-1989.
Call no.: MS 054
A non-profit, nonpartisan organization, MassPIRG is an advocate for the public interest in Massachusetts. Taking a stand on issues like public health, political corruption, consumer protection, and voting rights, MassPIRG uses the combined power of research, the media, grassroots organizing, and advocacy to initiate change that will improve the lives of citizens of the state.
Records of MassPIRG include reports on topics of research and investigation, issues of their publication, MassPIRG Reports, and documents relating to the establishment of Western Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (WMPIRG) on the UMass Amherst campus in 1972.
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Massachusetts Public Information Research Group
Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education Records, 1985-2006..
Call no.: MS 513
Founded in 1982, the Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education (MWPHE) is a non-profit organization open to current and prospective women administrators in public higher education in the Commonwealth. Founded in 1982, the MWPHE serves as a support network, enhances professional development, encourages and promotes upward mobility, and addresses issues affecting Massachusetts public higher education and the status of women within the system.
The MWPHE records include administrative files and correspondence that document the organization’s work since its founding.
- Education, Higher--Massachusetts
- Women educators--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education
Massachusetts. Special Commission on the Reorganization of Higher Education Records, 1980.
Call no.: MS 125
The Special Commission on the Reorganization of Higher Education was established to investigate and review Massachusetts laws concerning elementary and secondary education. In order to determine the existence and extent of unequal educational opportunity services, the commission reviewed the state’s school systems as well as the educational laws, programs, and school systems of other states.
Consists of records of the Special Commission on the Reorganization of Higher Education Records, including materials relating to the Boston Community Reorganization, a federal finance proposal, lottery distribution, and school finance reform.
- Education, Higher--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts. Special Commission on the Reorganization of Higher Education