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
Storrsville Lyceum Debating Society Minutebook, 1842-1846.
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.
- 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
United Congregational Church of Holyoke (Holyoke, Mass.) Records, ca.1830-1990.
Call no.: MS 787
The present day United Congregational Church of Holyoke is the product of complex history of growth and consolidation of five separate churches responding to the changing demographics and spiritual needs of the city. Established in 1799, the First Congregational Church in Holyoke was initially a small congregation perched above the floodplain south of the center of town, sharing preachers with the equally sparse population of Baptists until the establishment of the First Baptist Church in 1826. The First Congregational Church was finally erected in 1838, and ten years later, the Second Church was established in to serve the needs of the growing Protestant population in the city center, building their own church in 1853 as the mill economy was booming. Reaching out to the millworkers, members of the Second Church opened the Grace Mission in 1870, which spun off into its own church in 1896. Skinner Chapel was founded in 1909 as an addition to the Second Congregational Church, dedicated to the prominent Skinner family. Finally, the German Reformed Church was organized in 1892, though meetings were held years earlier. In the latter part of the twentieth century, however, declining memberships in each of these churches led to a series of mergers, beginning in 1961 when the German Reformed Church united with the First Congregational to become the First United Congregational Church. Grace Church and the First UCC merged in 1973 to become Grace United, and in 1996, Grace joined with the Second Congregational Church to become the present UCC of Holyoke.
The records of the UCC of Holyoke document over 200 years of the ecclesiatical history of an industrial city. In addition to records of membership, baptisms, marriages, and church governance, the collection includes valuable records of the women’s missionary society, the German Maenner Bund, and a long run of church newsletters that offer insight into the weekly course of events in the religious community. Materials relating to Skinner Chapel are part of the collections of Wistariahurst Museum.
- Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Holyoke
- Holyoke (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- First Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- German Reformed Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Grace Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Second Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
Types of material
Valley Peace Center Records, 1965-1973.
Call no.: MS 301
In the summer of 1967, members of University of Massachusetts Amherst campus groups, such as the Faculty Group on War and Peace and the Students for Political Action, joined with individuals from other area colleges and from the community at large to form the Valley Peace Center of Amherst for the purposes of opposing the Vietnam War, providing draft counseling, eliciting pledges from the government to avoid first use of nuclear and biological weapons, and reduction of the power of the “military-industrial complex”. The Center was active for more than five and a half years, drawing its financial support largely from the community and its human resources from student and community volunteers.
Correspondence, minutes, volunteer and membership lists, financial records, newsletters, questionnaires, notes, petitions, clippings, posters, circulars, pamphlets, periodicals, other printed matter, and memorabilia. Includes material relating to alternative service, boycotts, war tax resistance, prison reform, environmental quality, and political candidates.
- Amherst (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Draft--United States--History
- Peace movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Social movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts--Amherst
- Westover Air Force Base (Mass.)--History--20th century
- Valley Peace Center (Amherst, Mass.)
Types of material
Wendell (Mass.). Treasurer Account book, 1794-1864.
Call no.: MS 090
A sparsely populated rural community in eastern Franklin County, Massachusetts, the town of Wendell was incorporated in 1781, when it was separated from parts of the adjacent towns of Shutesbury and Erving. Primarily a farming community throughout its history, with only light manufacturing, Wendell remains one of the state’s least populous communities.
Kept in standard double column format, the Wendell Treasurer’s account book was approved and settled annually by the town selectmen. Although accounting practices varied, the treasurers of the mid-nineteenth century typically provided somewhat greater detail in detailing income and expenditures. Prominent among the signatories are Judge Joshua Green and the Treasurers Samuel Brewer, George W. Fleming, and Franklin Howe (and other members of the Howe family).
- Green, Joshua
- Wendell (Mass.)--History--19th century
- Brewer, Samuel
- Fleming, George W
- Howe, Franklin
- Wendell (Mass.). Treasurer
Types of material
- Account books
Yarn Finishers Union (Fall River, Mass.) Records, 1919-1922.
Call no.: MS 006
The Yarn Finishers Union was one of several autonomous craft bodies affiliated with the Fall River-based American Federation of Textile Operatives (originally known as the National Amalgamation of Textile Workers). Active in several shops — including Durfee Mills, Tecumseh Mills, Union Belt Co., O.B. Wetherell and Son, and Troy Cotton and Woolen Manufactory — the Yarn Finishers included membership from different segments of the work force, including rollers, quillers, and harness markers.
This slender collection documents two years of labor activism by the Yarn Finishers Union in Fall River, Mass. The minutebook begins in May 1919 as the Yarn Finishers voted to strike over low and unequal wages, particularly those to “girls,” and includes references to elections, financial issues such as the proposition to institute a minimum wage scale, and to settling disputes. The minutes continue through the end of a much quieter year, 1922. The second volume consists of a record of union dues collected, arranged loosely by craft.
- Fall River (Mass.)--History
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts
- American Federation of Textile Operatives
Types of material
New Approaches to History Collection, 1967-1985.
Call no.: MS 182
The collection documents the creation and content of a course entitled New Approaches to History, which relied almost exclusively on the use of primary sources in teaching undergraduates history at UMass.
The collection includes the course proposal, correspondence, syllabi, course assignments, and resources for three units: Salem witchcraft, Shay’s Rebellion, and Lizzie Borden.
- History--Study and teaching
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
Founded under the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, UMass Amherst has long been dedicated to the study and teaching of agriculture and the natural sciences. One of two land grant institutions in the Commonwealth (along with MIT), the university has played an important role in the development of scientific agriculture in New England and has been a major factor in agricultural instruction through its classes and extension service.
SCUA’s collections contain a wealth of information on the history of agriculture and related fields, including horticulture, botany, entomology, animal husbandry, gardening, and landscape design. The strength of the collection lies in documenting the development of American agricultural sciences with an emphasis upon the northeastern states, but it is supplemented with numerous works on British, French, and German agriculture. Adding additional depth are the records of the several departments at UMass Amherst charged with instruction in the agricultural sciences and the papers of individual agricultural educators.
Currently, SCUA is particularly interested in documenting the growth of organic agriculture, heritage breeds, and the practices of sustainable living.
Significant Manuscript collections (view all)
- Agricultural education
- Papers of faculty members at Massachusetts Agricultural College and UMass Amherst, as well as educational organizations dedicated to instruction in the agricultural sciences. Among the individuals represented are the agricultural educator, Kenyon Butterfield; Levi Stockbridge, the first farm manager and long-time instructor at MAC; and William Smith Clark, William Penn Brooks, and William Wheeler, who were instrumental in the 1870s in establishing the agricultural college in Hokkaido, Japan.
- Farming and rural life
- Correspondence, farm accounts, and other records of farming and rural life, primarily in New England, as well as materials relating to the sociology of rural life.
- Botany and horticulture
- Collections relating to the scientific study of botany, horticulture, forestry, and related sciences.
- Landscape and gardening
- The papers and photographs of the landscape designer Frank Waugh, and other collections.
- Other natural sciences
- Including entomology and geology.
Printed works: Collecting areas
- Early works through the late nineteenth century on agriculture in America, Britain, and Europe, including those by John Fitzherbert, Thomas Hale, Arthur Young, “Columella,” John Smith, Gervase Markham, et al.
- Animal husbandry
- Works on sheep culture in the United States (Robert R. Livingston, Samuel Bard) and England (Lord Somerville, John Lawrence); dairy and beef cattle, horses, poultry science.
- Beekeeping and entomology
- Among the earliest rare books acquired by the Massachusetts Agricultural Library were a collections of rare books in beekeeping, including key works by Thomas Hill, John Keys, Daniel Wildman, Henry Eddy, from the late 17th through late 19th centuries. Works by Maria Sibylla Merian, John Curtis, Dru Drury, Johann Jakob Romer, Jacob l’Admiral
- Botany and Silviculture
- Important works on American botany by Frederick Pursh, Thomas Nuttall, Humphry Marshall’s Arbustrum Americanum, François André Michaux, early editions of Linnaeus
- Gardening and landscape design
- Three editions of Bernard M’Mahon’s American Gardener’s Calendar, William Cobbett, Alexander Jackson Davis, Humphry Repton, and others.
- Genetics, eugenics, animal breeding
- Essentially compete runs of Eugenics Quarterly, and key works in eugenics.
- Pomology, viticulture, and fruit culture
- William Prince, William Coxe, William Chorlton, et al.
Frances and Mary Allen Collection of Deerfield Photographs, 1900-1910.
Call no.: PH 001
Influenced by the arts and crafts movement, Frances and Mary Allen began taking photographs of their native Deerfield, Mass., in the mid-1880s. Displaying a finely honed pictorialist aesthetic, the sisters specialized in views of Deerfield and surrounding towns, posed genre scenes of life in colonial times, and the local scenery, earning a reputation as among the best women photographers of the period.
The Allen sisters photograph album contains ten gelatin developing out prints of street scenes in Deerfield, ca.1900-1910. Among these are two shots of the house they inherited from their aunt Kate in 1895, which thereafter became their home and studio.
- Deerfield (Mass.)--Photographs
- Women photographers--Massachusetts
- Allen, Frances
- Allen, Mary E. (Mary Electa), 1858-1941
Types of material
Antislavery Collection, 1725-1911.
Call no.: Rare Book Collections
The Antislavery Collection contains several hundred printed pamphlets and books pertaining to slavery and antislavery in New England, 1725-1911. The holdings include speeches, sermons, proceedings and other publications of organizations such as the American Anti-Slavery Society and the American Colonization Society, and a small number of pro-slavery tracts.
- Antislavery movements--United States
- Slavery--United States
- American Anti-Slavery Society
- American Colonization Society