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Mission and history


Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation 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. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History 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 foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included 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. Each of these volumes remains 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 collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, 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 merged 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, and by 2007, it had 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, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

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:

Morris, William, 1834-1896

William Morris, The friendship of Amis and Amile

1 item 0.1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 362 bd

A leader in the English Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris translated the ancient French romance, Amis and Amile, in 1894, one of a number of romances he published in his literary efforts to restore the middle ages.

This holograph copy of Morris’s short story was prepared for the Kelmscott Press in 1894 and printed in a run of 500. The first American edition appeared later that year, published by Thomas Bird Mosher.

  • Kelmscott Press
  • Morris, William, 1834-1896
Types of material
  • Holographs (Autographs)

Mosely, Luther, 1807-

Luther Mosely Daybook

1 vol. 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 249 bd

Homeopathic physician from Arlington, Vermont. Daybook contains patients’ names, including many women, identification of some cases (such as vaccination, extraction of teeth, treatment of swellings, fractures, and burns, and the delivery of babies), methods of treatment (such as purges, bleeding, cupping, and the use of blistering ointments), prices for his services, and method and form of payment (including goods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, clothes, and services such as butchering and timbering). Also contains personal entries and notation of goods he sold such as poultry, leathers, and fabrics.

  • Arlington (Vt.)--Social conditions--19th century
  • Canfield family
  • Contraception--Vermont--Arlington--History--19th century
  • Hard family
  • Homeopathic physicians--Vermont--Arlington
  • Matteson family
  • Medicine--Practice--Vermont--19th century
  • Milligan family
  • Oatman family
  • Pessaries
  • Purdy family
  • Women--Medical care--Vermont--Arlington--19th century
  • Mosely, Luther, 1807-
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Daybooks

Mountain House (South Deerfield, Mass.)

Views from and of the Mountain House, summit of Sugar-Loaf Mountain, South Deerfield, Mass.

3 photographs 0.1 linear feet
Call no.: PH 042
Image of Mountain House, ca.1865
Mountain House, ca.1865

A popular tourist destination during the post-Civil War years, the Mountain House hotel was built on the summit of Sugar Loaf Mountain, in South Deerfield, Mass., by Granville Wardwell in 1864 on property owned by his father-in-law Dwight Jewett. Positioned near the southern end of the mountain, the hotel provided tourists with a stunning panoramic vista of the Connecticut River Valley.

This small collection consists of three scenic cartes de visite from a larger series featuring views from the Mountain House. The images include No. 6, a view of five persons perched on the southeast promontory of Sugar Loaf with a view to the northeast across the Connecticut River to Mt. Toby; No. 10, Mountain House with a group of nine men and women posed on the lawn with telescope and tripod; No. 18, view of barns at the southern base of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

  • Mountain House (South Deerfield, Mass.)--Photographs
  • South Deerfield (Mass.) -- Pictorial works
  • Sugar Loaf Mountain (Mass.)--Photographs
  • Wardwell, Granville
Types of material
  • Photographs

Murray, Samuel E., 1906-1989

Samuel E. Murray Papers

14 boxes 7 linear feet
Call no.: MS 568
Image of Samuel Murray, 1966
Samuel Murray, 1966

One of the pioneers in the ephemera trade, Samuel E. Murray (1906-1989) was a long time antiquarian bookman, based at his home in Wilbraham, Mass. Born on Christmas Day, 1906, Murray interrupted his college studies to go to sea, but after the Depression left him unemployed, he landed a position as sales representative for McGraw-Hill and, later, G. & C. Merriam and other firms. Always an avid book collector, Murray left the publishing industry in 1970 to become a full time bookseller. Without ever advertising or issuing catalogs, he developed a wide reputation among dealers and collectors for his keen eye and perspicacity with rare and uncommon books. A generalist by trade, Murray had a particular fondness for colorplate books and travel literature, but was renowned both for his extensive reference library and for recognizing early on the value of ephemera. After a lengthy bout with myelofibrosis, Murray died at home on June 4, 1989.

The Murray Papers contain correspondence between Murray and a range of his fellow booksellers and clients, as well as his extensive card files on fellow book dealers and wants lists. The collection offers insight into the operations of a well known antiquarian bookman during the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Antiquarian booksellers--Massachusetts
  • Book collecting
  • Books--Want lists
  • Printed ephemera--Collectors and collecting--Massachusetts
  • Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America
  • Ephemera Society of America
  • Murray, Samuel E., 1906-1989

Nanney, David Ledbetter, 1925-

David Ledbetter Nanney Papers

13 boxes 6.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 592
Image of Tracy M. Sonneborn
Tracy M. Sonneborn

The experimental ciliatologist David L. Nanney spent much of his career studying the protozoan Tetrahymena. Under Tracy M. Sonneborn at Indiana University, he completed a dissertation in 1951 on the mating habits of Paramecium, but soon after joining the faculty at the University of Michigan, he turned his attention to Tetrahymena. During his subsequent career in Ann Arbor (1951-1959) and at the University of Illinois (1959-1991), Nanney made a series of fundamental contributions to the cytology, genetics, developmental biology, and evolution of ciliates, influencing the work of other biologists such as Joe Frankel, Janina Kaczanowska, Linda Hufnagel, and Nicola Ricci. Since his retirement in 1991, Nanney has remained in Urbana.

The Nanney Papers include a dense run of professional correspondence with ciliatologists, geneticists, students and colleagues regarding his pioneering research on ciliates and other professional matters. Of particular note is an extensive correspondence with Sonneborn, accompanied by several biographical essays written after Sonneborn’s death, and a large body of correspondence of the controversial reorganization of the biological sciences departments at the University of Illinois in the 1970s. The collection also includes a selection of Nanney’s writings and a handful of photographs.

  • Developmental biology
  • Evolution (Biology)
  • Protozoans--Genetics
  • Tetrahymena--Genetics
  • University of Illinois--Faculty
  • Allen, Sally
  • Bleyman, Lea K
  • Corliss, John O
  • Frankel, Joseph, 1935-
  • Kaczanowski, Andrzej
  • McKoy, J. Wynne
  • Nanney, David Ledbetter, 1925-
  • Nyberg, Dennis Wayne, 1944-
  • Orias, Eduardo
  • Ricci, Nicola
  • Siegel, Richard
  • Sonneborn, T. M. (Tracy Morton), 1905-

National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts Collection

5 boxes 7.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 686
Image of

Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.

In contributing to the National Arts Policy Archive and Library (NAPAAL), the NEA allowed SCUA to digitize publications on the arts and arts management since its inception. The collection reflects the impact of the arts (including music, literature, and the performing arts) on everyday lives of Americans and include materials intended to support individual and classroom education, information on arts management, reports on the status of the arts, histories of the organization, and much more. All items are cataloged in the UMass Amherst Libraries online catalog and are included in the Internet Archive, where they are available for full-text searching.

  • Art and State
  • Arts--Management
  • Government aid to the arts

New England Historical Association

New England Historical Association Records

13 boxes 6.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 352
Image of NEHA meeting, Holy Cross College, April 1982
NEHA meeting, Holy Cross College, April 1982

The New England Historical Association, the regional branch of the American Historical Association, was founded in 1965 in an informal meeting at the University of Connecticut. The purpose of the NEHA is to serve the interests of New England historians of all levels: professional, academic, or amateur. These interests include a means to share their research and work, learn about history resources that are available to them for personal study or teaching, or simply to meet socially. NEHA aims to maintain the pursuit of history through both regional and national dimensions.

This collection holds the records of the New England Historical Association including an organizational history, constitution and meeting minutes, correspondence, financial records, membership lists, committee reports, meeting programs, and newsletters.

  • History--Study and teaching
  • American Historical Association
  • New England Historical Association
  • New England History Teachers' Association
Types of material
  • Photographs

New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League

New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League Records

9 boxes 5.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 331

When Charles Marsters founded the Boston Lacrosse Club in 1913, the club was the only one in New England to play teams from outside of the region. Under Marsters’s leadership, however, participation in the sport rose steadily at both the high school and collegiate level, helping establish New England as one of the centers of the American game. In 1935, he and Tom Dent founded the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League (NEILL) to continue to build the sport.

The NEILL records document the growth of lacrosse from informal club team play to a more regulated, interscholastic and intercollegiate varsity sport. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, minutes, and agendas kept by co-founder Charles Marsters and a handful of other NEILL officers, but with material documenting the growth of the sport at UMass Amherst from the 1950s onward and the addition of women’s lacrosse as a collegiate sport. The collection also includes some printed material (including rulebooks), news clippings, and photographs.

  • College sports--New England
  • Lacrosse for women--United States
  • Lacrosse guide
  • Lacrosse--New England--History
  • School sports--New England
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Sports
  • Boyden, Frank L. (Frank Learoyd), 1879-1972
  • Marsters, Charles E
  • New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse League

New England Telephone Workers’ Strike

New England Telephone Workers Strike Collection

1 folder 0.15 linear feet
Call no.: MS 323

In 1989, almost 60,000 telephone workers in New England and New York waged a successful fifteen week strike against Nynex to protest a new contract that threatened cuts to medical benefits.

This small collection includes three handouts and a bulletin documenting the four-month labor strike carried out by New England telephone workers (represented by the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions) against the NYNEX corporation.

  • NYNEX Corporation
  • New England--Economic conditions--20th century
  • Strikes and lockouts--Telephone companies--New England --History
  • Telephone companies--Employees--Labor unions--New England--History
  • Communications Workers of America
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Types of material
  • Handbills