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
John P. Roche Collection, 1886-1965.
Call no.: RB 008
A political scientist, writer, and government consultant, John P. Roche was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 7, 1923, the son of a salesman. A liberal Social Democrat and fervent anti-Communist, Roche spent his academic career at Haverford College and Brandeis and Tufts Universities, writing extensively on American foreign policy, constitutional law, and the history of political thought in America, and maintaining a strong interest in the history of the American left. During the 1960s and early 1970s, he served as an adviser to the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.
The Roche Collection consists of over 300 publications pertaining to the political left in the United States, with a smaller number of works from the radical right and from European Socialists and Communists. Concentrated in the years spanning the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the McCarthy hearings, many of the works were produced by formal political parties in response to particular political campaigns, current events, or social issues, with other works geared primarily toward consciousness raising and general political education on trade unionism, fascism, war and peace, American foreign policy, and freedom of speech and the press.
- United States--Foreign policy--20th century
- World War, 1939-1945
- Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979
- Roche, John P.
Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection, ca.1970-2004.
Call no.: PH 050
A long-time member of the English Department at the University of Albany, Barbara Rotundo was a 1942 graduate in economics at Mount Holyoke College. After the death of her husband, Joseph in 1953, Rotundo became one of the first female faculty members at Union College, and after earning a master’s degree in English at Cornell University and a doctorate in American Literature from Syracuse University, she served as an associate professor of English at the University of Albany, where she founded one of the first university writing programs in the United States. Avocationally, she was a stalwart member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, helping to broaden its scope beyond its the Colonial period to include the Victorian era. Her research included the rural cemetery movement, Mount Auburn Cemetery, white bronze (zinc) markers, and ethnic folk gravestones. Her research in these fields was presented on dozens of occasions to annual meetings of AGS, the American Culture Association, and The Pioneer America Society. In 1989, after residing in Schenectady for forty-six years, she retired to Belmont, NH, where she died in December 2004.
Consisting primarily of thousands of color slides (most digitized) and related research notebooks, the Rotundo collection is a major visual record of Victorian grave markers in the United States. The notebooks and slides are arranged by state, with an emphasis on the eastern states, and white bronze (zinc) markers also are represented in photographs and a separate research notebook. The collection also includes several rare or privately published books.
- Cemeteries--New York (State)
- Gravestones--New Jersey
- Gravestones--New York (State)
- Rotundo, Barbara
Types of material
Rural Massachusetts Imprints Collection, 1797-1897.
Call no.: RB 012
Although printing requires a substantial capital investment in equipment before any hope of profitability can be entertained, there have been numerous attempts over the years to set up printing houses in communities with astonishingly small population bases. In even the most remote Massachusetts towns, people like John Metcalf (Wendell), Ezekiel Terry (Palmer), and John and Solomon Howe (Enfield and Greenwich) operated as printers during the nineteenth century, specializing in a quotidian array of broadsides, song sheets, almanacs, toy books, and printed forms, hoping to supplement, or provide, a decent living.
This small, but growing collection consists of materials printed prior to the twentieth century in small Massachusetts towns, defined as towns with populations less than about 2,500. Although few of these houses survived for long, they were important sources for rural communities. Typically simple in typography, design, and binding, even crude, the output of such printers provides an important gauge of the interests and tastes of New England’s smallest and often poorest communities.
- Children's books--Massachusetts
- Howe, John, 1783-1845
- Howe, Solomon, 1750-1835
- Metcalf, John, 1788-1864
- Terry, Ezekiel, 1775-1829
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
Brother David Steindl-Rast Papers, ca. 1928-2015.
Call no.: MS 892
Brother David Steindl-Rast was born Franz Kuno in Vienna, Austria, in 1926. He discovered The Rule of St. Benedict as a young man, which sent him on a search for an authentic version of Benedictine practice. This search brought him through the Second World War in Vienna, where he earned a Ph.D from the University of Vienna in 1952 and to the Mount Savior Monastery in Elmira, New York, where he became a monk in 1953. Along with his friend Thomas Merton, Brother David is one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, leaving Mount Savior in the mid-1960s to study Zen Buddhism with Hakuun Yajutami, Shunayu Suzuki, and Soen Nakagawa. He was the first Benedictine to learn directly from Buddhist teachers and received Vatican support for his bridge-building work in 1967. Through Merton, Brother David met Thich Nhat Hanh, who introduced him to the peace movement and grounded Brother David’s spirituality in a tradition of activism. When not in seclusion, Brother David has served as a teacher of contemplative prayer, the intersection of Zen and Catholicism, and gratefulness as a spiritual practice. Through many books and articles, lectures, and residencies in spiritual centers like Tassajara and the Esalen Institute, Brother David has developed an influential philosophy and much of the current popularity of mindfulness and Zen-influenced living and activism owes a debt to his teachings.
The Brother David Steindl-Rast Papers include Brother David’s extensive published and unpublished writings, sermons, memoirs, personal journals, correspondence, photographs, recordings, and videos of his teachings. His papers extend back to his youth in Vienna, documenting his childhood and experience during the war, including a complete run of Die Goldene Wagen, the children’s magazine published by Brother David’s mother Elisabeth Steindl.
- Benedictines--United States
- Peace movements--United States
- Peace--Religious aspects
- Spiritual life--Buddhism
- Spiritual life--Catholic church
- Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968
- Steindl-Rast, David
Noah Lyman Strong Account Book, 1849-1893.
Call no.: MS 187
Operator of a sawmill and gristmill in Southampton, Massachusetts, later an owner of tenements and other real estate in Westfield, Massachusetts. Includes lists of gristmill and sawmill products, the method and form of payment (cash, barter for goods, or services such as sawing or hauling), real estate records, and miscellaneous personal records (school, clothing, board, and travel expenses for his niece and nephew; accounts for the care and funeral of his father-in-law and the dispensation of his estate; a Strong family genealogy; town of Westfield agreements and expenses; a list of U.S. bonds that Strong bought; and money lent and borrowed, among others).
- Barter--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Boardinghouses--Massachusetts--Westfield--History--19th century
- Clapp, Anson--Estate
- Fowler, Henry
- Grist mills--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Guardian and ward--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- House construction--Massachusetts--Westfield--History--19th century
- Millers--Massachusetts--Southampton--Economic conditions--19th century
- Railroad companies--United States--History--19th century
- Sawmills--Massachusetts--Southampton--History--19th century
- Southampton (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Strong family
- Strong, Noah Lyman, 1807-1893--Finance, Personal
- Westfield (Mass.)--History--19th century
- Westfield (Mass.)--Social conditions--19th century
- Strong, Noah Lyman
Gifford H. and Marjorie B. Towle Papers, 1970-1987 (Bulk: 1945-1980).
Call no.: MS 881
As a student at Mount Hermon School in the late 1920s, Gifford Hoag Towle met Marjorie Ripley Blossom, a young woman at the Northfield School for Girls. When Giff went on to the Massachusetts Agricultural College (BS 1932) and Marjorie to a midwestern Bible College for a year (before being called home due to a family crisis), they remained connected and after Giff’s graduation in 1932, they married. By the time that Giff graduated from Hartford Seminary, he had left his Quaker upbringing to enter the Congregationalist ministry, and he and Marjorie filled three pulpits near Pelham, Mass. In 1939, however, they were called by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to serve as missionaries in the American Marathi Mission in Maharashtra State, central India. Following two years of intensive study of the Marathi language in Ahmednagar, they settled in Vadala, a rural village on the semi-arid plains, where they worked for thirty-four years, counting furloughs. In 1946 on furlough in the U.S., Giff earned a master’s degree in agricultural engineering from Cornell while pastoring a small church in the suburbs of Ithaca. In his agricultural work in India, Giff used the mission farm to demonstrate crop diversity and farm animal improvement; created co-operatives to enable poor farmers to use appropriate modern tools and machinery for pennies; taught good irrigation and soil conservation; and later built a Mechanical Unit and trained local Indians as mechanics to repair machinery and drill wells. Giff also invented a pump for which he never filed a patent, wanting instead to make it as widely available as possible. He built networks with relatives, churches, and non-profits to fund these efforts and get supplies.
The Towle Collection contains a wealth of information for research in three distinct areas: missions and religious matters; agriculture in “developing” countries; and the cultural and socio-economic context of social change in rural India. The Towles’ voluminous correspondence and reports offer a particularly rich view into mission life in India, including American participation through churches, relations between Hindus and Christians or between Christians, and the viability of these efforts. Marjorie’s letters are particularly vivid, adding significantly to our understanding of mission lives and experiences. The collection is equally rich in revealing the impact of the Towles’ agricultural work and for study of the efficacy of government agencies and non-profits seeking to understand cross-cultural issues.
- India--Description and travel
- Maharasthra (India)--Economic conditions
- Towle, Marjorie Blossom, 1907-1994
Types of material
The Department of Special Collections and University Archives and the Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst co-sponsor an annual colloquium to commemorate W.E.B. Du Bois. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of his birth (February 23), the departments invite a distinguished Speaker to discuss Dr. Du Bois’ life, work, and legacy.
- Performer: Brian Richardson and Pulse Ensemble Theatre
- Title: “A Man for All Times: W.E.B. Du Bois”
This year’s Du Bois Birthday Celebration features performances of “A Man for All Times: W.E.B. Du Bois,” performed by the Pulse Ensemble Theatre. The one-hour one-man show of the 95-year-long life of W.E.B. Du Bois unfolds in a gripping performance by Brian Richardson, and a moving script by writer/director Alexa Kelly. Learn more about Great Barrington’s native son, civil rights leader, and visionary of equality and democracy at this free performance by Pulse Theatre Ensemble.
Additional free performances will be held on Saturday, February 22, 7:00 p.m., at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and on Sunday, February 23, 10:00 a.m., at St. John’s Congregational Church, Springfield, Massachusetts.
- Speaker: Arthur McFarlane II
- Title: “The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois and Its Relevance to Today
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Envrionment
McFarlane, the great-grandson of W.E.B. Du Bois, will discuss the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, civil rights activist, co-founder of the NAACP, and the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard University.
- Speaker: Derrick Alridge
- Title: “Ideas Have Consequences: The Radical Pedagogy of W.E.B. Du Bois”
- Professor in the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Derrick Alridge is author of The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History, lead editor of Message in the Music: Hip Hop, History, and Pedagogy, and Distinguished Lecturer for the Association of the Study of African American Life and History. He is currently completing an intellectual history of Hip Hop as a social movement called The Hip Hop Mind: An Intellectual History of the Social Consciousness of a Generation (University of Wisconsin Press) and is conducting research for a book on the role of education in the civil rights movement.
An educational and intellectual historian, Alridge is associate editor of the Journal of African American History and served as Director of the Institute for African American Studies. Alridge’s areas of scholarship include the history of African America education, African American intellectual history and the history of ideas, and civil rights studies. His work has been published in the Journal of African American History, the Journal of Negro Education, and teh History of Education Quarterly, among others.
- Speaker: Bettina Aptheker
- Title: “W.E.B. Du Bois: Personal Stories/Political Reflections”
- Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies and History
University of California, Santa Cruz
Bettina Aptheker is Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies and History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she has taught for more than 30 years. Her most recent book is a memoir, Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech and Became a Feminist Rebel (2006). It contains many stories of her early friendship with W.E.B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois. Other major books include, The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis (1976; 2nd edition, 1999); Woman’s Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982) and Tapestries of Life: Women’s Work, Women’s Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989). She is the biographer of Shirley Graham Du Bois for Notable American Women, and is currently writing a critical essay on Graham Du Bois’ creative career as an opera composer, playwright, biographer, and novelist. She is also at work on a major research project: “Queering the History of the American Left: 1940s-1980s.”
- Speaker: Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
- Title: “The Many Lives of W.E.B. Du Bois in the New From Slavery to Freedom”
- Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham has been chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard since 2006. She also served as Acting-Director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute in the Spring 2008. A prolific author, she is co-editor with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of the African American National Biography (2008)—a multivolume-reference work that presents African American history through the lives of people, and she and Gates also co-edited African American Lives (2004), which served as the forerunner to the AANB. Professor Higginbotham was the editor-in-chief of The Harvard Guide to African-American History (2001) with general editors Darlene Clark Hine, and Leon Litwack. She also co-edited History and Theory: Feminist Research, Debates and Contestations (1997).
Professor Higginbotham is the author of Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880-1920 (1993), which won numerous book prizes, most notably from the American Historical Association, the American Academy of Religion, the Association of Black Women Historians, and the Association for Research on Non-Profit and Voluntary Organizations. Righteous Discontent was also included among the New York Times Book Review’s Notable Books of the Year in 1993 and 1994.
- Speaker: Howard Dodson
- Chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
New York Public Library
A scholar, historian, educator, curator, consultant, and lecturer, Howard Dodson, has committed his professional life to the retrieval, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of the history and culture of African and African American peoples.
Since 1984, Dodson has served as chief of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the world’s leading and most prestigious repository for materials and artifacts on black cultural life. Under Dodson’s leadership, the Schomburg Center has developed into the world’s most comprehensive public research library devoted exclusively to documenting and interpreting African diasporan and African history and culture.
Dodson’s books include Becoming American: The African American Journey (Sterling Publishing, Inc., 2009), In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience (National Geographic Press, 2004), Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture (National Geographic Press, 2002), and The Black New Yorkers: Four Hundred Years of African American History (Wiley, 2000).
- Speaker: Arnold Rampersad
- Department of English, Stanford University
A distinguished biographer and literary critic, Arnold Rampersad is the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at Stanford University. A scholar of race and American literature and the Harlem Renaissance, Rampersad has written books on W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and most recently, Ralph Ellison. He has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and was a 1991 recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant.” He is a recipient of fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Professor Rampersad has recently published Ralph Ellison, a biography of the novelist (1914-1994). His other books include The Art and Imagination of W.E.B. Du Bois (1976); The Life of Langston Hughes (2 vols., 1986, 1988); Days of Grace: A Memoir (1993), co-authored with Arthur Ashe; and Jackie Robinson: A Biography (1997). In addition, he has edited several volumes including Collected Poems of Langston Hughes; the Library of America edition of works by Richard Wright, with revised individual editions of Native Son and Black Boy; and (as co-editor with Deborah McDowell) Slavery and the Literary Imagination. He was also co-editor, with Shelley Fisher Fishkin, of the Race and American Culture book series published by Oxford University Press. His teaching covers such areas as nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature; American autobiography; race and American literature; and African-American literature.
- Speaker:James Turner
- Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University
- Poster (pdf)
- Speaker: Clayborne Carson
- Stanford University, editor, Papers of Martin Luther King
- Press release (pdf)
- Speaker: Robert Hill
- UCLA, editor, Papers of Marcus Garvey
- Press release (Word file)
- Speaker: John H. Bracey
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Horace Clarence Boyer
- Music, UMass Amherst
- Esther Terry
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Phil Zuckerman, “Du Bois, Religion, and The Souls of Black Folk“
- Sociology, Pitzer College
- David Blight, “A Poet’s Sense of the Past: The Souls of Black Folk as History”
- History, Yale University
- Ernest Allen, “The Education of Black Folk: The Educational Philosophies of W.E.B. Du Bois”
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Gerald Friedman, “Reconstructing the Color Line: The New Economics of Race in the Post-bellum South”
- Economics, UMass Amherst
- Esther Cooper Jackson
- Co-founder, Freedomways
- James Jackson
- Editor, Daily Worker
- Abbott Simon
- Executive director, Peace Information Center and co-defendant with Dr. Du Bois
- Speaker: David Levering Lewis
- History, Rutgers University
- Speaker: Ruth Simmons
- President, Smith College
- Speaker: Ernest Allen
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Speaker: Randolph W. Bromery
- President, Springfield College and former Chancellor, UMass Amherst
- Speaker: David Levering Lewis
- History, Rutgers University
- David Du Bois
- William Strickland
- Michael Thelwell
- Speaker: Herbert Aptheker
- Editor, Complete Published Works of W.E.B. Du Bois
- Listen to a recording of Aptheker’s lecture.
Dana F. Ward Diaries, 1897-1982 (Bulk: 1904-1951).
Call no.: MS 577
Born in Chelsea, Mass., in 1874, and a long-time resident of Somerville, Dana F. Ward enjoyed a prominent career in the fisheries industry in Massachusetts. Entering the wholesale fish business in 1900 when he organized the firm of Whitman, Ward, and Lee, Ward became Director and Advertising Manager of the Boston Fish Market Corporation (builder and operator of the Fish Pier) and an investor. Before the U.S. entry into the First World War, Ward was employed by the state to lecture on the benefits of frozen fish as a food source. An active member in both the Congregational Church and local Masonic lodge, he married Katherine B. Symonds (d. 1948) in Leominster in October 1899.
Personal in nature, the Ward diaries provide a chronicle of the daily life of a relatively well to do fish wholesaler from 1897 through 1951, with some gaps. Generally small in size, the diaries are densely written and are laid in with letters, various sorts of documents, stamps, newsclippings, and other ephemera that help define the contours of Ward’s life. The collection is particularly rich for the years during the Second World War and it includes three diaries (1967, 1977, 1982) from later family members.
- Somerville (Mass.)--History
- Ward, Dana F
Types of material