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Oral history

Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse
Oral historian at the First National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, 1977. Photo by Diana Mara Henry

No matter how rich our archival collections may be, there are always parts of the historical record that never make it onto the page. Memories, emotions, and attitudes are notoriously difficult to document, and there a variety of all-too human reasons that people choose not to write down every detail of their lives. As a result, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has been actively engaged in recording oral histories as a way of capturing a more complete record of the many voices and diverse experiences that comprise .

SCUA first ventured into oral historical work in the mid-1970s with efforts to document the history of the university prior to the massive expansion of the previous decade, and the department has subsequently engaged in oral historical projects to document the university’s 125th and 150th anniversaries. In the past decade, SCUA has extended its work to documenting the histories of persons represented in its collections and to a broader array of projects documenting the history and experience of social change and the people and cultures on New England. Furthermore, SCUA is the repository for hundreds of oral histories recorded by other people, ranging in scope from interviews with Franco-Americans in the 1980s, 20th century Argentine political figures, and former residents of the Quabbin towns in Western Massachusetts.

Many of SCUA’s oral histories are available online through our digital repository Credo. These include audio and video recordings and, in a few cases, they may be fully transcribed.

Supporting material

For donors of oral histories:

SCUA is happy to accept donations of oral histories that fit within its collection policy.

SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — but in every case, we prefer to receive the interview in the format in which it was recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer digital files that are uncompressed, however we appreciate receiving a compressed derivative (e.g., mp3 for audio, mp4 for video). When available, transcripts in print and electronic form are a very valuable addition.

Learn more:

Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter

Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter Records
1947-1973
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • Civil rights--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter
  • Eddy, Philip
  • Kesselheim, Donn
  • Matz, David E

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Locales Collection
1905-1989
3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • Amherst (Mass.)--History
  • Massachusetts--History
Types of material
  • Maps
  • Photographs

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Agricultural Surveys
1910-1965
25 boxes (18 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • Agriculture--Massachusetts
  • Land use--Massachusetts
Types of material
  • Aerial photographs

Massachusetts AFL-CIO

Massachusetts AFL-CIO Records
1902-1995
72 boxes (64 linear feet)
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.

Subjects
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • AFL-CIO
  • Massachusetts AFL-CIO

Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs

Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Posters Collection
1852-1860
19 items
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.

Subjects
  • Agricultural exhibitions--Massachusetts--Posters
  • Agricultural exhibitions--Rhode Island--Providence--Posters
  • Agriculture--Social aspects--Massachusetts--History
  • Agriculture--Social aspects--Rhode Island--History
Types of material
  • Posters

Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc.

Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test Records
1953-1959
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 082
Image of Terry B. Kinney at groundbreaking, July 1954
Terry B. Kinney at groundbreaking, July 1954

An early example of cooperative research between industry and academia, the Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc. was founded in 1954 to conduct tests to improve poultry productivity. Taking advantage of the professional skills of the staff and students in the Poultry Science Department at UMass Amherst, the Test facility was located adjacent to campus and over its five year course of operations, gathered scientific data on a number of variables, including rate of growth, rate of feathering, age of maturity, and egg production and hatchability.

The records of the Broiler Test consist of minutes, financial documents, correspondence, and test results.

Gift of Thomas W. Fox, 1987
Subjects
  • Chickens--Breeding
  • Poultry industry--Massachusetts
  • Turkeys--Breeding
Contributors
  • Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc
Types of material
  • Photographs

Massachusetts Indian Association. Stockbridge Auxilliary

Massachusetts Indian Association Stockbridge Auxiliary Records
1886-1909
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 151 bd

The Stockbridge Auxilliary of the Massachusetts Indian Association was formed by prominent local women in western Berkshire County who sought to aid in educational and missionary work for and among Indians, and to “abolish all oppression of Indians within our national limits.”

Records include minutes that document the group’s committees, meetings, dues, and contributions to Indians on reservations nation-wide, accounts, membership lists, and a letter.

Subjects
  • Indians of North America--Arizona--Social conditions
  • Indians of North America--Government relations--History
  • Indians of North America--Missions--History
  • Indians of North America--Social conditions
  • Indians, Treatment of--United States--History
  • Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian
  • Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian and Other Dependent Peoples
  • Stockbridge Indians--Social conditions
Contributors
  • Carter, Henry J
  • Massachusetts Indian Association. Stockbridge Auxiliary

Massachusetts Review

Massachusetts Review Records
1959-2013
49 boxes (73 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 555

The Massachusetts Review is an independent quarterly of literature, the arts, and public affairs. Co-founded by Jules Chametzky and Sidney Kaplan in 1959 to promote eclectic, nontraditional, and underrepresented literary and intellectual talent, the Review has been an important venue for African American, Native American, and feminist writers and poets, mixing new and established authors.

The records of the Massachusetts Review document the history and operations of the magazine from its founding to the present, including general correspondence and nearly complete editorial files for published works. The collection also includes a small number of audio recordings of MR2, a radio show hosted by Review editor David Lenson with interviews of writers, artists, and cultural critics.

Subjects
  • Criticism--20th century--Periodicals
  • Literature--20th century--Periodicals
  • Poetry--20th century--Periodicals
Contributors
  • Abramson, Doris E
  • Chametzky, Jules
  • Massachusetts Review

Massachusetts State Employees Association. University of Massachusetts Chapter

MSEA University of Massachusetts Chapter Records
1955-1978
10 boxes (4.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 049

The Massachusetts State Employees’ Association (MSEA) was founded in 1943 to protest proposed changes in the state employees’ retirement system. By 1969, the group had become the exclusive bargaining agent for the University’s administrative, clerical, and technical employees.

This small collection includes the constitution and by-laws of the MSEA along with Executive Board and general body minutes, correspondence, contracts, legislative materials, grievance records, hearing transcripts and decisions pertaining to job reallocations, subject files, newsletters, and press releases that document the UMass chapter of the Massachusetts State Employees’ Association from 1955 to 1978.

Subjects
  • Collective labor agreements--Education, Higher--Massachusetts--Amherst
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
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