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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

However 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:

Antislavery

Antislavery Pamphlet Collection
1725-1911
(7.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 003

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.

Subjects
  • Abolitionists--Massachusetts
  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Slavery--United States
Contributors
  • American Anti-Slavery Society
  • American Colonization Society
Restrictions: Collection currently unavailable due to renovations in SCUA

Bajgier Family

Bajgier Family Papers
1925-1986
2 boxes (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 400
Image of Joseph and Martha Bajgier at Bell Market, Chicopee, 1937
Joseph and Martha Bajgier at Bell Market, Chicopee, 1937

On March 13, 1903, Joseph Michael Bajgier was born in Odrzykon, Poland, the youngest of three sons in a farming family. Schooled only through the third grade, Joseph served as a young man in the First Air Division of the Polish Army before following his older brother in emigrating to the United States in 1927. Settling in Chicopee, Mass., with its large and active Polish community, Bajgier began work as a slaughterer of pigs for a meat processing company, but within a few years, he had saved enough money to purchase a small grocery store in Longmeadow. In about 1935, he returned to Chicopee, purchasing a grocery and deli, Bell Market, that his family ran for 36 years. Bajgier was deeply involved in the local Polish community as a member of the Polish National Alliance, the Holy Name Society of St. Stanislaus Parish, and an organization of Polish veterans in exile (Stowarzyszenie Polskich Kombatantow). He and his wife Martha (Misiaszek) had two sons, Casimir and Edward

The Bajgier collection documents the lives of a Polish family in Chicopee, Mass., from the time of immigration through the 1970s. The core of the collection surrounds the life of Joseph Bajgier, and includes a number of documents and a diary from the time of his emigration in 1927, a fascinating series of letters from relatives in Turaszowka, Poland before and after the Second World War, and several photographs of the family and their business in Chicopee.

Subjects
  • Chicopee (Mass.)--Social life and customs
  • Polish Americans--Massachusetts
  • World War, 1939-1945
Contributors
  • Bajgier, Joseph M
Types of material
  • Photographs

Brinley Family

Brinley Family Papers
1643-1950
(4.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 161
Image of Deborah Brinley and infant son Francis, 1729<br />Copy by Charles U. Bond (1830)<br />after John Smibert
Deborah Brinley and infant son Francis, 1729
Copy by Charles U. Bond (1830)
after John Smibert

A prosperous family of merchants and landowners, the Brinleys were well ensconced among the social and political elite of colonial New England. Connected by marriage to other elite families in Rhode Island and Massachusetts — the Auchmutys, Craddocks, and Tyngs among them — the Brinleys were refined, highly educated, public spirited, and most often business-minded. Although many members of the family remained loyal to the British cause during the Revolution, the family retained their high social standing in the years following.

The Brinley collection includes business letters, legal and business records, wills, a fragment of a diary, documents relating to slaves, newspaper clippings, and a small number of paintings and artifacts. A descendent, Nancy Brinley, contributed a quantity of genealogical research notes and photocopies of Brinley family documents from other repositories. Of particular note in the collection is a fine nineteenth century copy of a John Smibert portrait of Deborah Brinley (1719), an elegant silver tray passed through the generations, and is a 1713 list of the library of Francis Brinley, which offers a foreshadowing of the remarkable book collection put together in the later nineteenth century by his descendant George Brinley.

Subjects
  • American loyalists--Massachusetts
  • Book collectors--United States--History--19th century
  • Brinley family
  • Brinley, George, 1817-1875--Library
  • Businessmen--Massachusetts--History
  • Businessmen--Rhode Island--History
  • Craddock family
  • Landowners--Massachusetts--History
  • Landowners--Rhode Island--History
  • Libraries--Rhode Island--18th century
  • Massachusetts--Economic conditions--18th century
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--19th century
  • Rhode Island--Economic conditions--18th century
  • Rhode Island--Genealogy
  • Rhode Island--Politics and government--19th century
  • Slavery--United States--History
  • Tyng family
  • United Empire Loyalists
Types of material
  • Deeds
  • Realia

Champion Family

Champion and Stebbins Family Account Books
1753-1865
8 vols. (2 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 228

Account books from the Champion and Stebbins families of Saybrook, Connecticut and West Springfield, Massachusetts, who were involved in various businesses and professional activities. Includes lists of accounts by surname, services rendered, methods of payment, entries for treatments and remedies, lists of patients, and lists of banking activities. Volumes were kept by Reuben Champion (1720-1777), Jere Stebbins (1757-1817), and Reuben Champion, M.D. (1784-1865).

Subjects
  • African Americans--Massachusetts--West Springfield--History
  • Agriculture--Economic aspects--Massachusetts--History
  • Atwood, Elijah
  • Barter--Massachusetts--West Springfield
  • Champion family
  • Connecticut River Valley--Economic conditions--18th century
  • Farmers--Massachusetts--History
  • General stores--Massachusetts
  • Homeopathic physicians--Massachusetts
  • Homeopathy--Materia medica and therapeutics
  • Medicine--Practice--Massachusetts--History
  • Physicians--Massachusetts
  • Pottery industry--Massachusetts--History
  • Saybrook (Conn.)--History
  • Shipping--New England--History
  • Stebbins family
  • West Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions
  • West Springfield (Mass.)--History
  • West Springfield (Mass.)--Social conditions
  • Women--Massachusetts--History
Contributors
  • Champion, Reuben, 1727-1777
  • Champion, Reuben, 1784-1865
  • Stebbins, Jere, 1757-1817
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Daybooks

Conte, Silvio O. (Silvio Oltavio), 1921-1991

Silvio O. Conte Papers
1950-1991
389 boxes (583.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 371

Massachusetts State Senator for the Berkshire District, 1950-1958, and representative for Massachusetts’s First District in the United States Congress for 17 terms, 1959-1991, where he made significant contributions in the areas of health and human services, the environment, education, energy, transportation, and small business.

Spanning four decades and eight presidents, the papers offer an extraordinary perspective on the major social, economic, and cultural changes experienced by the American people. Includes correspondence, speeches, press releases, bill files, his voting record, committee files, scrapbooks, travel files, audio-visual materials and over 5,000 photographs and slides.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
  • Massachusetts. Senate
  • United States--Politics and government--20th century
  • United States. Congress. House
Contributors
  • Conte, Silvio O. (Silvio Oltavio), 1921-1991
Types of material
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sound recordings

Delevingne, Lionel

Lionel Delevingne Photograph Collection
ca.1975-1995
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: PH 047
Image of Joan of Seabrook
Joan of Seabrook

Born and raised in France, the photojournalist Lionel Delevingne studied education at l’Ecole Normale in Paris, but settled permanently in the United States in 1975. Based at first in Northampton, Mass., he became a prolific photographer of American social movements while working for the Valley Advocate and other publications, covering the early years of the Clamshell Alliance and the antinuclear movement in considerable depth. His work has been exhibited frequently and published widely in the mainstream and alternative press, including the New York Times, Le Figaro Magazine, Die Zeit, Newsweek, Washington Post Magazine, Mother Jones, and Vanity Fair.

The Delevingne collection includes remarkable visual documentation of the antinuclear movement of the 1970s and beyond, including some of the its most iconic images. Beginning with coverage of the Seabrook occupation, Delevingne covered the movement as it spread throughout the northeastern U.S. and internationally. The collection includes exhibition prints, prints for publication, and digitized images ranging in date from the mid-1970s through 1990s. Copyright in the images has been retained by Delevingne.

Subjects
  • Antinuclear movement--United States
  • Clamshell Alliance
  • Photojournalists
  • Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (N.H.)
Contributors
  • Delevingne, Lionel
Types of material
  • Photographs

Drury, Luke, 1737-1811

Luke Drury Papers
1746-1831
4 boxes (3 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 258

Soldier in Revolutionary War and Shays Rebellion, later a state legislator and local politician from Grafton and Marlboro, Massachusetts. Drury’s papers contain family and business (farm and mill) correspondence, notes of hand, bills, receipts, and legal papers as well as records pertaining to the town of Grafton. Collection also includes papers of Timothy Darling and the Goulding, Place, and Sherman families.

Acquired from Cedric Robinson, 1989
Subjects
  • Grafton (Mass.)--History
  • Massachusetts--History
  • Shays' Rebellion, 1786-1787
Contributors
  • Darling, Timothy
  • Drury, Luke, 1737-1811
  • Goulding, Israel
  • Sherman, Thankful Temple
Types of material
  • Deeds

Foucher, Lynnette E.

Lynnette E. Foucher Cookbook Collection
1902-2000
429 items (8 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 684
Image of 1929 cookbook
1929 cookbook

Assembled by Lynnette E. Foucher, this collection consists chiefly of cookbooks produced by food companies between the 1920s-1970s. These cookbooks reflect the changing role of women in the home as well as new food trends and innovative technology. Taken together, the collection offers a glimpse into the way meal preparation changed in the U.S. during the second half of the twentieth century and how this change transformed the way we eat today.

Subjects
  • Convenience foods--United States--History--20th century
  • Cooking, American--History--20th century
  • Cooking--Social aspects
  • Diet--United States--History
  • Food--Social aspects
  • Women consumers--United States--History
  • Women in advertising--United States--History
Contributors
  • Foucher, Lynette E
Types of material
  • Cookbooks

Gay, Merrick, 1802-1866

Merrick Gay Account Books
1844-1849
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 242

A successful merchant from Gaysville, Vermont, Merrick Gay (1802-1866) operated a general store in his village for many years, later establishing a woolen factory. Gay served his community variously as postmaster, town clerk, and state senator.

These two daybooks document Gay’s business transactions with local individuals and firms and with the Town of Stockbridge and Narrows School District. The entries record the name of each customer, the method and form of payment (cash and goods), and Gay’s purchases, including labor costs for hauling freight.

Subjects
  • Barter--Vermont--Gaysville--History--19th century
  • Blanchard, Solomon, b. ca. 1816
  • Books--Prices--Vermont--History--19th century
  • Claremont Manufacturing Company--History
  • Freight and freightage--Rates--Vermont--History--19th century
  • Gaysville (Vt.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Gaysville (Vt.)--Rural conditions--19th century
  • Gaysville Forge Company--History
  • Gaysville Manufacturing Company--History
  • General stores--Vermont--Gaysville
  • Narrows School District--History
  • Stockbridge (Vt.)--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Waller, Israel
Contributors
  • Gay, Merrick, 1802-1866
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Daybooks
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