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Mission

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

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry, the production 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:

Montague (Mass.) Nuclear Power Station

Montague Nuclear Power Station Environmental Report, 1975
1 box (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 061

Planning for construction of a nuclear power plant in Montague, Mass., in 1973, Northeast Utilities was required to conduct an environmental impact survey of the site, building a 500-foot tall weather monitoring tower to gather data. Their plans, however, were thwarted by the rise of a powerful antinuclear opposition, symbolized by a renowned act of civil disobedience in February 1974. On Washington’s Birthday, a member of the Montague Farm commune, Sam Lovejoy, took down the tower using simple farm tools, turning himself in to the police immediately afterward. The ensuing trial, the effective organizing by his colleagues, and the success of their effort to prevent construction of the power plant is often regarded as a formative moment in the history of the modern antinuclear movement.

This environmental report for the proposed Montague Nuclear Power Station includes an accounting of the purpose of the facility, its environmental, archaeological, and social impact, and an analysis of the costs and benefits of operation.

Subjects
  • Antinuclear movement--United States
  • Lovejoy, Sam
  • Montague (Mass.)--History
  • Northeast Utilities
  • Nuclear power plants--Massachusetts

North Bridgewater (Mass.). Treasurer

North Bridgewater (Mass.) Treasurer Account Book, 1858-1881
1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 223 bd

Nearly two thirds of this town treasurer’s account book from Bridgewater (later Brockton), Massachusetts, is devoted to a monthly accounting of money paid to the families of Civil War volunteers, beginning in April 1861 and carrying through 1881, made mostly by town treasurer R.P. Kingman; accounts of school district expenses and revenues for the years 1858 to 1869, for the 14 school districts in North Bridgewater (teacher salaries, supplies, and accounts with textbook publishers such as Harper & Bros. and Heath & Co.); and listings of salaries paid town officers, including the Superintendent of Streets, Overseer of the Poor, city clerk, city treasurer, and the Police Department.

Subjects
  • Schools--Massachusetts--North Bridgewater
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Contributors
  • North Bridgewater (Mass.). Treasurer
Types of material
  • Account books

Planning Services Group (Cambridge, Mass.)

Planning Services Group Records, 1956-1986
10 boxes (4.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 335

An urban planning firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that assisted New England cities and towns with initiating and managing urban development projects. The firm had two main types of contracts, urban renewal and comprehensive community planning, and many of their projects were supported with funds designated by the Federal Housing Act of 1949.

Includes organizational histories, memoranda, correspondence, proposal guidelines, materials for citizen participation, job inventories and reports, brochures that document urban growth management and the problems of suburbanization in New England, background studies, planning reports, growth management policies, zoning bylaws and amendments, and the files of Katharine Kumala.

Subjects
  • Carlisle (Mass.)--History
  • City planning--New England
  • Durham (N.H.)--History
  • Lancaster (Mass.)--History
  • Portsmouth (N.H.)--History
  • Sanford (Me.)--History
  • Urban renewal--New England
Contributors
  • Kulmala, Katherine

Prescott (Mass.)

Prescott (Mass.) Collection, 1822-1952
8 vols. (digital) (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 021

Rural and sparsely populated, Prescott, Massachusetts, was founded in 1822 along the ridge separating the West and Middle branches of the Swift River. Its three villages (North Prescott, Atkinson Hollow, and Prescott Hill) never amounted to more than a few houses each, and the town’s total population never exceeded 500. Prescott became the first of four towns to vacate after the Swift River Valley was ordered cleared and dammed to create the Quabbin Reservoir, ceding its administration to the state in 1928 before formally disincorporating in 1938.

The records of Prescott, Mass., document the history of the smallest of the four towns inundated to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Held by the Swift River Valley Historical Society, the materials in this collection consist of records of town meetings and of the activities of the town Selectmen, 1822-1938, as well as sparser records of the School Committee, the Treasurer, and Overseers of the Poor.

Subjects
  • Education--Massachusetts--Prescott--History
  • Poor--Massachusetts--Prescott--History
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Appropriations and expenditures
  • Prescott (Mass.)--History
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Politics and governmen
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Social conditions
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--History
  • Quabbin Reservoir Region (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Contributors
  • Prescott (Mass. : Town)
  • Prescott (Mass. : Town). Overseers of the Poor
Types of material
  • Account books
  • School records

Storrsville (Mass.) Lyceum Debating Society

Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook, 1842-1846
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 016 bd

Club that met weekly or bi-weekly in Storrsville, Massachusetts, to debate questions of local, national, and international interest including religion, abolition and slavery, human nature, penal reform, the lure of the West, intemperance, and war and peace. Single minutebook includes two versions of the constitution, proposed and debated questions, the teams, the outcome, and notations of any additional activities that took place during the formal meetings.

Subjects
  • Ciceronean Debating Club (Dana, Mass.)
  • Dana (Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
  • Debates and debating--Massachusetts--Dana (Town)--History
  • Storrsville (Dana, Mass. : Town)--Intellectual life--19th century
  • Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society (Dana, Mass.)--Archives
Types of material
  • Minute books

Sunderland (Mass.)

Sunderland Town Records, 1620-1912
4 reels (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 409 mf

Although the Connecticut River Valley town of Swampfield was set off from Hadley in 1673, European settlement there was decimated by King Phillip’s War and with continued turmoil in the region, the town was not resettled by Europeans until after the turn of the eighteenth century. Officially incorporated as the town of Sunderland on Nov. 12, 1718, the town’s economy has been rooted in agriculture, taking advantage of the valley’s rich soils.

The five reels of microfilm of Sunderland’s records include vital records and information on town meetings, militia, and town finances.

Subjects
  • Sunderland (Mass.)--History
Types of material
  • Microfilm

Watchmaker (Springfield, Mass.)

Watchmaker's Account Book, 1882-1883
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 623 bd

The mid-century success of the Waltham Watch Company set the stage for a period of innovation and corporate ferment in the manufacture and distribution of watches in the United States. As watchmakers and technologies spread and new companies sprouted and split at a rapid pace, Springfield emerged as a center for the production of high quality, mass produced watches. Perhaps best known among the large local corporations, the Hampden Watch Company was established in 1877 from the New York Watch Company and was bought out in turn by the Dueber Watch Company and relocated a decade later.

The unidentified owner of this slender account book maintained itemized records of income and expenses for a relatively small watchmaking concern in Springfield between May 1882 and September 1883. Most of the trade consisted of sales of accoutrements and repair work.

Subjects
  • Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Watchmakers--Massachusetts--Springfield
Types of material
  • Account books

Westhampton (Mass. : Town)

Westhampton Town Records, 1779-1900
10 boxes (5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 799
Westhampton Town Records image
Close-up of records from 1779

Originally settled by Europeans in 1762, the town of Westhampton, Massachusetts, was separated from adjacent Northampton and incorporated in September 1778. Situated in the western reaches of Hampshire County, it was principally an agricultural town until the later twentieth century, producing apples, other fruit, and maple sugar, with only minor industry. The town still retains its rural character: a century after incorporation, the population had grown to just over 500, and nearly 1,500 by 2000.

The Westhampton collection provides an extensive record of public life and local governance in a typical small Hampshire County town. Spanning from 1779, just after the date of incorporation, through the turn of the twentieth century, the collection includes extensive records of town meetings, including warrants, agendas, and summaries; records of the Overseers of Poor, the schools, militia service, and parish; materials on roads and highways; and a large quantity of financial records.

Subjects
  • Churches--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Poor--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Roads--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Town meetings--Massachusetts--Westhampton

Westhampton Congregational Church (Westhampton, Mass.)

Westhampton Congregational Church Records, 1817-1970
17 vols. (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 806

The Congregational Church in Westhampton, Mass., was formally organized on Sept. 1, 1779, with the installation of a young graduate of Yale, Enoch Hale, brother of the patriot Nathan Hale. At the end of Hale’s fifty years in the Westhampton pulpit, the church experienced a crisis that resulted in the separation of a portion of the membership as the Union Church, led by the charismatic evangelical preacher John Truair. The churches were reunited in 1850.

The records of the Westhampton Congregational Church document nearly two hundreds of religious life in a rural western Massachusetts community. Beginning with the founding of the church in 1779, the collection include a nearly unbroken record of church activities including thorough records of membership, transfers, marriages, baptisms, deaths, and church discipline, and for the latter century, a complete record of church finances. Of particular note is a volume recording the activities of the secessionist Union Church, 1829-1849.

Subjects
  • Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Hale, Enoch, 1753-1837
  • Revivals--Massachusetts--Westhampton
  • Second Great Awakening
  • Truair, John, 1780-1845
  • Westhampton (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
Contributors
  • Union Church (Westhampton, Mass.)
Types of material
  • Account books
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