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
Laura M. Ross Papers, 1945-2003 (Bulk: 1967-1990).
Call no.: MS 515
Born in the coal mining town of Blossburg, Pa., in 1913, Laura Ross (nee Kaplowitz) grew up in poverty as one of seven children of Lithuanian immigrants. In about 1932, Ross married Harry Naddell, a wine merchant, and settled into a comfortable life Brooklyn, N.Y., raising a son and daughter. During the Second World War, however, she became intensely politicized through her work with Russian War Relief, joining the Communist Party and eventually divorcing her les radical husband. Moving to the Boston area, she married Max Ross in 1963, an attorney for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and became a noted presence in a wide range of political activities, working for civil rights, the antiwar movement, and for many years, helping to run the Center for Marxist Education in Central Square , Cambridge. Perhaps most notably, between 1974 and 1984, Ross ran for Congress three times on the Communist Party ticket, taking on the powerful incumbent Tip O’Neill and winning almost a quarter of the vote. An activist to the end, Ross died in Cambridge on August 5, 2007.
The Ross papers are the legacy of a highly visible activist, organizer, educator, and member of the Communist Party USA. Heavily concentrated in the period 1967-1990, the collection includes material relating to her affiliation with CPUSA and her work with the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Mass., including information on party membership, platforms, and conventions, minutes from various district committee meetings, material relating to the People’s Daily World, and course information and syllabi. Scattered throughout the collection are materials pertaining to contemporary political issues and elections, particularly the policies associated with Ronald Reagan. Ross was a vocal and persistent opponent of Reaganomics and the nuclear arms race that Reagan accelerated.
- Center for Marxist Education (Cambridge, Mass.)
- Communist Party of the United States of America
- Peace movements--Massachusetts
- People’s Daily World
- United States--Politics and government--1981-1989
- Ross, Laura
Roxbury Action Program Collection, 1944-1975 (Bulk: 1966-1974).
Call no.: MS 765
The Roxbury Action Program and Black Panther Party of Boston were both founded in the Roxbury section of Boston following the riots of 1968. RAP pursued community revitalization through Black self-determination and enjoyed success in its housing initiatives and in providing social services ranging from support for Black businesses to Black draft counseling, health and legal referrals, a Black library, and community awareness program.
Although the exact provenance of this small collection is uncertain, the materials appear to have been collected by an individual, possibly a woman, associated with the early days of the Roxbury Action Program and Boston branch of the Black Panther Party. Steeped in Black Power ideology, the collection includes publications of the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and other organizations, as well as an insightful series of transcripts of Roxbury Action Program meetings held during its first few months of operation.
- African Americans--Massachusetts--Boston
- Black Panther Party
- Black power
- Nation of Islam (Chicago, Ill.)
- Roxbury (Boston, Mass.)--History
- Morrison, George
Types of material
Arvo A. Solander Papers, 1930-1958.
Call no.: MS 587
Graduating from Harvard in the thick of the Great Depression, Arvo A. Solander worked as a civil and sanitary engineer for a variety of state and federal agencies, including the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the 1930s, as opportunity arose, he filled positions as a road engineer, in the design and construction of water and sewage plants, in pollution control, as a safety engineer in the shellfish industry, and in mosquito control, taking jobs throughout Massachusetts and as far away as Tennessee. After using his talents as an officer in the Sanitary Corps during the Second World War, based primarily in Arkansas, Solander returned home to Massachusetts and opened a private engineering office in South Hadley. He worked as a civil engineer and surveyor until his death in January 1976.
The Arvo Solander Papers consists of twenty-four bound volumes documenting thirty years of varied work as an engineer, including his contributions to the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Within the bound volumes are a wide range of reports, typescripts, sketches and diagrams, graphs, contracts and design specifications, photographs, and postcards.
- Civil engineers
- Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
- Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)
- Roads--Design and construction
- Sanitary engineers
- Sewage disposal plants--Design and construction
- United States. Federal Civil Works Administration
- Westfield State Sanatorium
- World War, 1939-1945
- Wrentham State School
- Solander, Arvo A
Types of material
The University Archives contains the official and unofficial records of the University of Massachusetts Amherst throughout its evolution from a small agricultural college into a dynamic and complex university. Within the archives are letters and artifacts, records, photographs, and sound recordings documenting the lives of its founders, the pursuits of its faculty, and the changing attitudes of its students and alumni, revealing what high quality public education means to our Commonwealth and nation.
Among the hundreds of discrete collections and over 13,000 linear feet of records are the official papers of Chancellors, Presidents, Trustees, and other administrators; information about the University’s academic units and student organizations; and the founding documents of our sister campuses at Worcester, Boston, Lowell, and Dartmouth. The papers of faculty members add a wealth of information about the lives and intellectual pursuits of our campus community as well as their chosen academic disciplines.
Finding things in the archives
A comprehensive alphabetical index of UMass departments, programs, and other units, including acronyms. Each entry includes a reference to the archival Record Group where the records can be found.
YouMass is wiki devoted to the life and history of the campus community.
University of Massachusetts Amherst. Student Body, 1867-2007.
Call no.: RG 045
Since the arrival of the first class of students at Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1867, the student body at UMass has grown to over 20,500 undergraduates and nearly 6,000 graduate students.
Record Group 45 includes the collected records of student activities at UMass Amherst, from student publications and organizations (fraternities and sororities, unions, and honorary societies) to records of student government, student protests, and religious and social groups. Also included are class notes and correspondence of some individual students while enrolled in the University.
- Aggie Life
- Bay State Ruralist
- College Signal
- College students--Massachusetts
- Greek letter societies--Massachusetts
- Student newspapers and periodicals--Massachusetts
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
Roberta Uno Collection of Asian American Women Playwrights' Scripts, 1924-2005.
Call no.: MS 345
Roberta Uno was the founder and long time artistic director of the New WORLD Theater at UMass Amherst, a theater in residence dedicated to the production of works by playwrights of color.
Established by Uno in 1993, the Asian American Women Playwrights Scripts Collection contains manuscripts of plays, but also production histories, reviews, and articles, along with biographies and audio and videotaped interviews with playwrights. Among the individuals represented are Brenda Wong Aoki, Jeannie Barroga, Marina Feleo Gonzales, Jessica Hagedorn, Velina Hasu Houston, Genny Lim, le thi diem thuy, Ling-Ai Li, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Nobuko Miyamoto, Bina Sharif, and Diana Son.
- Asian American women authors
- New WORLD Theater
- Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
- Scripts (Documents)
Rae Unzicker Papers, 1979-1997.
Call no.: MS 818
Rae Unzicker’s exposure to the psychiatric system began at a young age. Growing up in an abusive home, her parents sent her to psychiatrists off and on for years before she was involuntarily committed. While there, she was quickly introduced to the chaotic and damaging atmosphere of a psychiatric institution, exposing her to mandatory drugs, seclusion rooms, forced feeding, and work “therapy” that required her to wash dishes six hours a day. Once she was release, Unzicker’s road to recovery was long, but after several suicide attempts and stays at other treatment facilities, she ultimately counted herself–along with her friend Judi Chamberlin, an early leader in the movement–a psychiatric survivor. Like Chamberlin, Unzicker embraced her role as an advocate of patient’s rights and for the radical transformation of the mental-health system. In 1995, President Clinton appointed her to the National Council on Disability; two years later she was elected president of the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA). Unzicker was widely known for her public appearances, conferences and speeches, and her writings, including numerous articles and contributions to the book Beyond Bedlam: Contemporary Women Psychiatric Survivors Speak Out. A survivor of cancer of the jaw and breast, Rae Unzicker died at her home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on March 22, 2001 at the age of 52.
Although a small collection, Rae Unzicker’s papers document her activities as a leading advocate for the rights of mental health patients, including transcripts of speeches and videotaped appearances, correspondence and feedback related to workshops and conferences, press kits, and newspaper clippings. The most important materials, however, are her writings. It is through her poems and her full-length memoir, You Never Gave Me M & M’s, that Unzicker’s story and voice are preserved.
- Ex-mental patients
- People with disabilities--Civil rights
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Unzicker, Rae
Types of material
Robert Coldwell Wood Papers, 1964-1977.
Call no.: RG 003/3 W66
A distinguished political scientist, specialist on urban affairs, and advisor to two U.S. Presidents, Robert Coldwell Wood was named the first President of the new University of Massachusetts system. A graduate of Princeton and Harvard (PhD 1949), Wood built his academic reputation on the faculty at MIT. An advisor to John F. Kennedy on urban policy, he served in the Johnson administration as Under-Secretary, and briefly Secretary, of Housing and Urban Development before coming to UMass in 1970. His Presidency was marked by considerable turmoil as he navigated the reorganization of the university into a system of three campuses and as he struggled with discontent among students and faculty and conflict with the legislature. Wood died in April 2005 at the age of 81.
Although far from a comprehensive record, the Wood papers offer insight into the tumultuous tenure of Robert C. Wood as President of the University of Massachusetts, 1970-1977. The largest series in the collection (Series 2) consists of the central office files from Boston, including a fairly full record of outgoing correspondence, materials on staff and facilities at the various campuses, minutes of meetings and reports, and records of Wood’s numerous trips and lecture engagements while in office.
- University of Massachusetts (System). President
- University of Massachusetts Amherst
- University of Massachusetts Boston
- University of Massachusetts Worcester
Types of material
- Appointment books
Center for Community Access Television Records, 1973-1989.
Call no.: MS 293
Group comprised of students from the University of Massachusetts and community members who sought to develop and promote cultural, literary, charitable, educational and public affairs television programming. Records include by-laws, articles of organization, organizational histories, annual reports, meeting minutes, correspondence, program schedules, subject files, brochures, handbills, news clippings, and materials relating to a proposed merger with University of Massachusetts Cable Vision. In 1989, CCATV was renamed Amherst Community Television (ACT).
- Amherst (Mass.)--Intellectual life--20th century
- Cable television--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- Public-access television--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- Television programs--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- Center for Community Access Television (Amherst, Mass.)
Types of material