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Social change

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

Anti-war sit-in, Whitmore Hall, ca.1971

Building upon the activist legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to individuals and groups devoted to the political, economic, spiritual, and social transformation of American society. Our intent in taking such a broad collecting scope is to view social change as a totality, rather than as isolated movements and to document how ideas about one set of social issues informs other issues, and how social causes cross-pollinate, organizationally and conceptually. By preserving a record of these activities, SCUA makes it possible for future scholars, activists, and members of the community to continue to engage with the ideas that have motivated so many.

Although our interests extend to any endeavors that reflect the efforts of individuals and groups promote social change, the collections in SCUA provide particularly valuable documentation of the movements for peace, social justice, and racial equality, environmentalism, labor activism, intentional communities, and gay rights.

View our brochure on documenting social change (pdf).


Significant collecting areas

  • Antinuclear movement
    • New England has been a hotbed of activity for the antinuclear movement, spawning groups such as the Clamshell Alliance, the Citizens Awareness Network, the Renewable Energy Media Service, and the Musicians United for Safe Energy.
  • Antiracism and civil rights
    • The Du Bois Papers document the lifelong commitment of W.E.B. Du Bois to addressing issues of racial and social injustice in the twentieth century, but SCUA houses a number of other collections that address various aspects of “the problem of the twentieth century,” and the varied approaches to its resolution. See also our research guide for African American history.
  • Community organizations and charities
    • SCUA houses the records of civic organizations involved in relief work, community assistance, and social justice.
  • Environmentalism
    • Collections relating to the history of the environment in New England and of environmentalism in the broad sense. SCUA is also interested in documenting the history of land use, organic farming and sustainability, and similar topics.
  • Intentional Communities
    • Communes seemed to spring up everywhere in New England during the 1960s, but communes of various sorts have been part of our landscape for two centuries. In both its printed and manuscript collections, SCUA documents a wide variety of approaches to communal living and the cultural legacy of communes. The Famous Long Ago Archive focuses intensively on documenting a cluster of related communes in Massachusetts and Vermont, including the Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm.
  • Labor activism
  • Peace Collections
    • Among the department’s collections documenting peace and antiwar movements, SCUA holds the records of several regional peace centers, the AFSC Western Massachusetts branch, and a number of peace activists.
  • Political activism
    • As part of its collections on political life and culture, SCUA houses collections for individuals and organizations working within the political system or against it, and several relating to Socialism and Communism and Cold-War era Eastern Europe.
  • Social Justice
    • Social justice is a catchall term that captures the complex relationships between and among a wide variety of movements for economic justice, social and civic equality. In addition to the other collecting areas listed elsewhere on this page, SCUA documents gay rights, Animal rights, prison issues, and social reform in its various guises.

Learn more:

Social Change Colloquium

Student holding academic gown adorned with Black Power symbol, 1970


Each fall, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives sponsors a colloquium focusing on a topic in social change. Like SCUA’s collections, these colloquia cover a broad terrain, touching on a variety of issues in social justice, equality, and democracy.

Colloquia are free and open to the public.

Colloquium 2015, (Friday, April 8, 2016)
Documenting Punk: Writing, preserving, watching and listening to the history of an American cultural movement
Documenting punk

April 8, 2016, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Room 163, UMass Campus Center

Punk, one of the last major youth sub-cultures during the pre-Internet era, was also a decentralized national and international community linked mostly by recordings, zines and the touring of bands. Individual scenes developed across the country in major urban areas, suburban communities and small towns. While each had its own personality and bands, they were linked by a shared distrust of establishment institutions and commercialized popular culture.

In recent years, punk archives have been established at academic repositories and as a result, scholars and the broader public have access to stories that have before only been shared within the punk community. Efforts have also been made to chronicle the history of the movement through the making of films, books and oral histories. The colloquium aims to open a conversation about the documentation of punk. The panel will explore questions including: How can the anti-establishment, anti-institutional, do-it-yourself ethos of punk be reconciled with the desire to collect, preserve and academically study the movement? How can the needs of community access be balanced with the demands of proper conservation? Can the ways scholars, archivists and librarians document a community be reconciled with the ways the movement documents itself?

Keynote speaker Dr. Michael Stewart Foley is the author of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and Front Porch Politics, The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s. Foley is a professor of American Political Culture and Political Theory at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He is also a founding editor of The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics, and Culture.

Event speakers also include Ramdasha Bikceem, Byron Coley, Lisa Darms, Michael T. Fournier, Deward MacLeod, Sara Marcus and Tanya Pearson. For full speaker bios, visit:

The colloquium is free and open to the public. RSVP at: The event is co-sponsored by the UMass Amherst Libraries, UMass Amherst Department of History, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and Social Thought & Political Economy (STPEC).

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP)

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Records

4 boxes 4.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 868
Image of

Originating in 1991, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) was established “to create a global network for book historians working in a broad range of scholarly disciplines.” With more than 1,000 members, research interests include the composition and reception of books as well as their survival and transformation over time.

Records cover the earliest days of the organization’s development, including founding documents, and document a variety of their activities from hosting conferences and publishing a newsletter to promoting scholarship.

  • Authors and readers
  • Authorship
  • Books--History
  • Publishers and publishing

St. Kazimier Society (Turners Falls, Mass.)

St. Kazimier Society Records

15 boxes 8 linear feet
Call no.: MS 253 bd

The St. Kazimier Society was an early mutual aid society formed in the Polish community in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Established in 1904, the Society preceded the founding of Our Lady of Czestochowa Church by five years.

Records of the St. Kazimier Society of Turners Falls include administrative files, financial records, educational materials, and photographs. Account books generally reflect members’ premium payments and benefits, the income and expenses of the society itself, and of the club.

  • Mutual aid societies--Massachusetts
  • Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Turners Falls
  • Turners Falls (Mass.)--History
  • St. Kazimier Society (Turners Falls, Mass.)
Types of material
  • Account books

Stamper, G. Clifford

G. Clifford Stamper Papers

2 boxes 0.75 linear feet
Call no.: MS 463

George Clifford Stamper was a movie projectionist in the 4th Special Services during World War II. Born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts, he enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 1, 1943 and participated in the European Theater from April 6, 1944 until December 12, 1945, when he was sent home and then honorably discharged in January 1946.

The papers of G. Clifford Stamper consist primarily of his incoming and outgoing letters during his training and service from 1943-1945. Correspondence is mostly with his family, but also includes his letters with neighbors, as well as friends that were serving. The collection contains, too, Stamper’s post-war letters received from 1946-1955. In addition, the outgoing letters of James C. Doyle, Jr. during his service in the U.S. Marines from 1958-1959 are a part of this collection. Doyle’s connection to Stamper is unclear.

  • United States. Army Service Forces. Special Services Division
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Czechoslovakia
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--France
  • Doyle, James C
  • Stamper, G. Clifford (George Clifford), 1912-2005
Types of material
  • Letters (Correspondence)

Steele, Ronald

Ronald Steele Papers

9 boxes 10 linear feet
Call no.: FS 164
Image of Ronald Steele
Ronald Steele

A native of New Jersey, Ronald Steele was devoted to both music and photography from an early age. After a tour of duty with the US Air Force Symphony Orchestra and graduate study in violin performance at the University of Michigan, Steele joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts in 1963. Active as a conductor as well as a performer throughout his career, he was widely known on campus for his popular course, an introduction to music, which was transformed into an award-winning, nationally-syndicated radio show in the mid-1970s. A founder of the UMass Symphony Orchestra (1963) and the Five College Chamber Soloists, Steele resumed his passion for photography in the late 1970s, opening the Ron Steele Photography Studio, which became an increasing creative outlet after his retirement from the university in 1997.

The Steele collection consists of roughly three linear feet of records documenting his career, including corresponce, programs, notes, teaching materials, and photographs. Reflecting his dual creative interests in music and photography, Steele took dozens of photographs of performers and colleagues.

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

Stein, Otto

Otto Stein Papers

7 boxes 10 linear feet
Call no.: FS 113

The research interests of Professor of Botany Otto Stein lay primary in the morphogenesis of higher plants, the effects of chemicals on cell deformation, and the development of apical meristems. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1954, Stein accepted a position at the University of Missouri, before coming to UMass in 1964, eventually becoming chair of the department. He left Amherst briefly to pursue a NATO Senior Research Fellowship at Imperial College in London, England (1971-1972), and remained active in the field until his retirement in 1990.

The bulk of the Stein collection is comprised of lecture notes on plant anatomy and reprints of Stein’s articles.

  • Plant anatomy--Study and teaching
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Botany Department
  • Stein, Otto

Stern, Arthur I.

Arthur I. Stern Papers

4 boxes 6 linear feet
Call no.: FS 143

Noted for his research in photosynthesis and the redox activity associated with the plasma membrane of plant cells, the plant physiologist Arthur I. Stern served in the Botany and Biology Departments at UMass Amherst for over thirty years. Receiving his doctorate at Brandeis University for a dissertation under Jerome A. Schiff on chloroplast development in Euglena (1962), Stern spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the NIH before joining the Botany faculty at UMass. Teaching courses in plant metabolism, he continued his research on chloroplasts and photosynthesis in Euglena and Phaseolus, among other topics. In 1982, Stern helped develop the biology track for the Honors Program and new Commonwealth College. Stern transferred to the Biology Department in 1988 and retired in December 1997.

The Stern Papers contain a range of materials documenting Stern’s research on photosynthesis, particularly in Euglena, notes for research and teaching, and a small assortment of professional correspondence. Also of note are some reminiscences contributed by Stern following Jerome Schiff’s death in 1995.

  • Euglena
  • Photosynthesis
  • Schiff, Jerome A
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Biology Department
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Botany Department
  • Stern, Arthur I

Stinson, Mary B.

Mary B. Stinson Collection

2 boxes 1.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 824
Image of

Throughout the 1970s, Mary B. Stinson (formerly Lindblom) was an active member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in California and served as a delegate to the First National Women’s Conference in Houston.

The collection includes several ephemeral objects reflecting Stinson’s activism including IWY pendant necklaces and an ERA license plate frame, along with published reports and articles relating to the IWY and a 1979 NOW conference in California.

Gift of Mary B. Stinson, May 2014
  • Equal rights amendments
  • Feminism--United States
  • International Women's Year Conference
  • National Organization for Women
  • Women's rights--United States
  • Stinson, Mary B.

Stone, George E. (George Edward), 1860-1941

George Edward Stone Papers

14 boxes 6.75 linear feet
Call no.: FS 085

Professor of Botany, Massachusetts Agricultural College.

Correspondence, lecture notes, reports, notes on experiments, drawings depicting original apparatus, scrapbooks of printed botanical illustrations, student papers, genealogies, memorabilia, and photographs; together with papers reflecting administrative and official duties; correspondence, notes, and news clippings on psychic phenomena; and autobiographical notes, including reflections on Massachusetts Agricultural College and on Emily Dickinson.

  • Botany--Massachusetts
  • Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886
  • Horticulture--Massachusetts
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College. Botany Department
  • Plant physiology--Massachusetts
  • Barlow, Waldo
  • Stone, George E. (George Edward), 1860-1941
Types of material
  • Herbaria
  • Photographs