Special Collections and University Archives
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Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery and advances scholarship through astute curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry, the production of knowledge, and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. As the official record of the activities of the university’s administrators and faculty and a reflection of the life of its students, this collection grew steadily, until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s initiative to assemble the College archives coincided roughly with the Library’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. Although the College had no separate library until 1885, its administrators nevertheless accepted several significant gifts of books, beginning with the 1868 donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist and state Adjutant General Henry K. Oliver. By the time the library published its first catalog in 1875, rare books formed a small, but notable part of the collections, focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. All remain part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collections of rare books and manuscripts have evolved in concert with the evolution of the university and its academic programs. With the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski in 1973, the Library began to acquire collections of personal papers and organizational records of historical significance, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were combined administratively with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, but by 2007, evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, thanks to generous support from the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. The papers of W.E.B. Du Bois led SCUA’s way into the digital realm, followed by the papers of Horace Mann Bond, and then dozens of of other collections.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

Learn more:

Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910
Two girls in carriage, Quabbin region, ca.1910

SCUA is dedicated to documenting New England history, including primary materials relating to the political, cultural, economic, and intellectual life of our region, and the lives and experiences of its residents.

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. Of particular note are two exceptionally large and rich collections: the records of the Hampshire Council of Governments, which contains over 325 years of county-level governance in western Massachusetts, and the records of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, which contains 350 years of Quaker history.

The recent political history of the region is documented through the papers of congressmen Silvio O. Conte and his successor John Olver, Governor Jane Swift, state Senator Stanley Rosenberg, state representatives John G. Clark, Maurice Donahue, Whiting Griswold, and John Haigis, and other figures involved in the political life of the Commonwealth.

In addition to holding material relating to many individual towns and communities in western Massachusetts, SCUA maintains a special interest in the history of the towns of the Quabbin watershed.

Significant collections

  • 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
    • Although SCUA has scattered holdings relating to earlier wars, the department houses interesting materials relating to World War II and the War in Vietnam, with the latter concentrated on the antiwar movement.
  • 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

Learn more:

Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse
Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse

Marking the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the University of Massachusetts, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is conducting an oral history project to capture the many voices and diverse experiences that make up our campus community. The anniversary presents an opportunity to reflect on the real achievements — and real challenges — of public higher education over the past century and a half, and a chance to consider where we would like to be in the future.

Over the course of eighteen months, the staff of SCUA and our associates will conduct one hundred and fifty interviews with an array of administrators, faculty, students, alumni, and university employees, as well as selected members of the local community. As they are completed, the interviews will be made available to the public through this website and Credo, SCUA’s digital repository.

If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact the SCUA staff.

James Aronson Collection of W.E.B. Du Bois, 1946-1983

2 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 292

Materials written by or pertaining to W.E.B. Du Bois, collected by James Aronson, who was executive editor of the “National Guardian” from 1948 to 1967. Includes correspondence, speeches by Du Bois in published form, articles by Du Bois, biographical sketches and tribute articles about Du Bois, photographs, and newspaper clippings.


  • African Americans--Civil rights
  • African Americans--History--1877-1964
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963--Death and burial
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963--Views on Pan-Africanism
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963--Views on democracy
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963--Views on pacifism
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963--Views on socialism
  • National Guardian
  • Socialism--Africa


  • Du Bois, Shirley Graham, 1896-1977
  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963

Types of material

  • Photographs
  • Speeches

Simeon Bartlett Account Books, 1792-1867

2 vols. (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 175 bd

Freight hauler, farmer, sawmill owner, and possibly a hatmaker from Williamsburg, Massachusetts.

The first volume of Bartlett’s accounts includes records of Bartlett’s income, sales and exchange of goods and services, and details about his employees and family (such as family births, deaths, and marriages). Volume 2 contains lists of hat purchases, lists of teachers and their pay, his participation in town affairs, and a number of lyrics to Civil War songs.


  • Clapp, Joseph
  • Hat trade--Massachusetts--South Hadley
  • Lyman, Joseph
  • Rice, Aaron
  • Songs
  • Songs, English
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Songs and music
  • Williamsburg (Mass.)--Economic conditions


  • Bartlett, Simeon, b. 1764

Types of material

  • Account books

Thomas Barton Papers, 1947-1977 (Bulk: 1960-1974)

4 boxes (2 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 539
YPSL logo
YPSL logo

In the early 1960s, Tom Barton (b. 1935) emerged as a leader in the Left-wing of the Young People’s Socialist League, the national youth affiliate of the Socialist Party. Deeply committed to the civil rights and antiwar struggles and to revolutionary organizing, Barton operated in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York and was a delegate and National Secretary at the 1964 convention in which tensions within YPSL led to its dissolution.

A small, but rich collection, the Barton Papers provide a glimpse into the career of a long-time Socialist and activist. From Barton’s entry into the Young People’s Socialist League in the latest 1950s through his work with the Wildcat group in the early 1970s, the collection contains outstanding content on the civil rights and antiwar movements and the strategies for radical organizing. The collection is particularly rich on two periods of Barton’s career — his time in the YPSL and Student Peace Union (1960-1964) and in the Wildcat group (1968-1971) — and particularly for the events surrounding the dissolution of YPSL in 1964, following a heated debate over whether to support Lyndon Johnson for president. The collection includes correspondence with other young radicals such as Martin Oppenheimer, Lyndon Henry, Juan McIver, and Joe Weiner.


  • Antiwar movements
  • Civil rights movements
  • Communists
  • Revolutionaries
  • Socialist Party of the United States of America
  • Socialists--United States
  • Student Peace Union
  • Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
  • Wildcat
  • Young People's Socialist League


  • Barton, Thomas
  • Gilbert, Carl
  • Henry, Lyndon
  • MacFadyen, Gavin
  • McIver, Juan
  • Oppenheimer, Martin
  • Shatkin, Joan
  • Shatkin, Norm
  • Verret, Joe
  • Weiner, Joe

Philip Bezanson Papers, 1946-1980

9 boxes
Call no.: FS 040

An influential educator and composer, Philip Bezanson helped guide the Department of Music at UMass Amherst through its period of rapid expansion in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After graduate study (PhD 1954) and appointment to the faculty at the University of Iowa, Bezanson was brought to UMass in 1964 to become Head of the Music Department and helped to expand and reorient the program, recruiting an increasingly accomplished faculty, including his former student Frederick Tillis.

The Bezanson papers include materials relating to the development, performance, and publication of much of Bezanson’s musical work, including scores and parts for 46 of his 47 instrumental and vocal compositions. The collection also includes a sampling of correspondence, programs and posters for performances, papers relating to the development of the opera Golden Child and his collaboration with Paul, the score of the opera Stranger in Eden (libretto by William A. Reardon), and one sound recording.


  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Music and Dance


  • Bezanson, Philip, 1916-1975

Judi Chamberlin Papers, ca.1970-2010

30 boxes (45 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 768
Judi Chamberlin, 2000
Judi Chamberlin, 2000

A pioneer in the psychiatric survivors’ movement, Judi Chamberlin spent four decades as an activist for the civil rights of mental patients. After several voluntary hospitalizations for depression as a young woman, Chamberlin was involuntarily committed for the only time in 1971, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her experiences in the mental health system galvanized her to take action on patients’ rights, and after attending a meeting of the newly formed Mental Patients’ Liberation Project in New York, she helped found the Mental Patients’ Liberation Front in Cambridge, Mass. Explicitly modeled on civil rights organizations of the time, she became a tireless advocate for the patient’s perspective and for choice in treatment. Her book, On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System (1978), is considered a key text in the intellectual development of the movement. Working internationally, she became an important figure in several other organizations, including the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilition at Boston University, the Ruby Rogers Advocacy Center, the National Disability Rights Network, and the National Empowerment Center. In recognition of her advocacy, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities in 1992, the David J. Vail National Advocacy Award, and the 1995 Pike Prize, which honors those who have given outstanding service to people with disabilities. Chamberlin died of pulmonary disease at home in Arlington, Mass., in January 2010.

An important record of the development of the psychiatric survivors’ movement from its earliest days, the Chamberlin Papers include rich correspondence between Chamberlin, fellow activists, survivors, and medical professionals; records of her work with the MPLF and other rights organizations, conferences and meetings, and her efforts to build the movement internationally.


  • Antipsychiatry
  • Ex-mental patients
  • People with disabilities--Civil rights
  • People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.


  • Mental Patients Liberation Front
  • Mental Patients Liberation Project
  • National Empowerment Center

Types of material

  • Videotapes

Lot Chase Account Books, 1837-1848

2 vols. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 199

Mariner from Harwich, Massachusetts, who was involved in the cod and mackerel fishing industry in Barnstable County. Two account books include expenses, income, and final settlements with those involved with annual voyages of 1837 and 1848. They also contain lists of crew members and part owners, many of whom were members of the Chase family.


  • Barnstable County (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Chase family
  • Cod fisheries--Massachusetts--Barnstable County--History
  • Fisheries--Massachusetts--Equipment and supplies--History
  • Fisheries--Massachusetts--Finance--History
  • Fishers--Massachusetts--History
  • Fishing--Economic aspects--Massachusetts
  • Harwich (Mass.)--History
  • Horace (Schooner)
  • Mackerel fisheries--Massachusetts--Barnstable County--History


  • Chase, Lot
  • Chase, Nathaniel

Types of material

  • Account books

Paul and Olive Colburn Collection, 1894-2001

1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 860
Jonathan Dow marker, Eastern Cemetery, Portland, Me.
Jonathan Dow marker, Eastern Cemetery, Portland, Me.

Husband and wife Paul Francis and Olive (“Tommie” Fox) Colburn were active members of the Association for Gravestone Studies from the 1980s. Natives of Lowell, Mass., and long-time residents of Berwick, Me., the Colburns shared an interest in New England gravestones and marker symbolism, with Tommie enjoying a particular specialty in metal-based markers.

The Colburn collection represents a cross-section of the couple’s work documenting and lecturing about New England grave markers and marker symbolism as well as Victorian funerary practice. Of note are a small number of items reflecting Victorian mourning culture, including images of funeral wreaths and arrangements, three mourning handkerchiefs, and a funeral card.


  • Gravestones--Connecticut
  • Gravestones--Maine
  • Gravestones--Massachusetts
  • Gravestones--New Hampshire
  • Gravestones--New York
  • Gravestones--Rhode Island
  • Gravestones--Vermont


  • Colburn, Olive

Types of material

  • Handkerchiefs
  • Photographs
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