To spark researchers’ imaginations and to celebrate the legacy of innovation and the activist spirit, SCUA pursues an ambitious program of collecting materials of enduring historical value and offers strong support for research and learning. Through its collections, programs, public events, and exhibitions, SCUA promotes meaningful engagement with the broad record of social change in America, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the varied histories of the people of New England and the UMass Amherst community. We embrace the university’s historic role as a center of knowledge for the people of the Commonwealth and are committed to providing free and unfettered access to our holdings for all who wish to use them, using the highest professional standards and practices and the best technologies available.
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. Documenting the activities of the administration and faculty and the life of its students, this 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.
The timing of Goodell’s proposal to preserve the College archives coincided roughly with the Library’s first efforts to assemble a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. Although the campus had no separate library building until 1885, the College accepted several significant gifts of books, beginning as early as 1868, when the apiarist and state Adjutant General Henry K. Oliver donated twenty scarce volumes on bee culture, followed by other donations of important works in agriculture, history, and science. By the time the library published its first catalogue in 1875, rare books were a small, but distinctive part of the collections. 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 two 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. All remain part of the collections today.
From its initial focus on agriculture, horticulture, and the natural sciences, the Library soon extended its collections to encompass the history and culture of New England. With the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski in 1973, the Library began to acquire collections of personal papers and organizational records of historical significance. The rare book and manuscript collections were combined administratively with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Today, SCUA oversees a growing research collection of primary materials that includes rare books and manuscripts, historic maps, photographs, prints, and the official records of the campus at UMass Amherst.
Sesquicentennial oral history project
Marking the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the University of Massachusetts, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is conducting an oral history project to capture the many voices and diverse experiences that make up our campus community. The anniversary presents an opportunity to reflect on the real achievements — and real challenges — of public higher education over the past century and a half, and a chance to consider where we would like to be in the future.
Over the course of eighteen months, the staff of SCUA and our associates will conduct one hundred and fifty interviews with an array of administrators, faculty, students, alumni, and university employees, as well as selected members of the local community. As they are completed, the interviews will be made available to the public through this website and Credo, SCUA’s digital repository.
If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact the SCUA staff.
Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter Records, 1947-1973.
Call no.: MS 303
Minutes and correspondence of the Executive Committee, correspondence and general files of chairmen Philip Eddy, David E. Matz, and Donn Kesselheim, as well as correspondence, briefs, and clippings related to legal cases and inquiries undertaken by the chapter.
- Civil rights--Massachusetts
- Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Hampshire-Franklin County Chapter
- Eddy, Philip
- Kesselheim, Donn
- Matz, David E
Massachusetts Locales Collection, 1905-1989.
Call no.: MS 300
Materials, such as clippings, maps, and photographs, relating to Amherst, but also including items from other western Massachusetts towns. Topics covered include are Amherst writers such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, town history, trees and birds of Amherst, and Connecticut River Valley history.
- Amherst (Mass.)--History
Types of material
Massachusetts Agricultural Surveys, 1910-1965.
Call no.: MS 261
Studies were conducted by departments of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, Massachusetts State College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in conjunction with various other college departments and agencies of the state and federal governments. The surveys encompass a number of agricultural study areas such as land use, business and farm management, dairy farm and cost of milk production, tobacco and onion production, and poultry and livestock disease surveys. Supplemental statistical information and aerial photographs are also included.
- Land use--Massachusetts
Types of material
- Aerial photographs
Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Posters Collection, 1852-1860.
Call no.: MS 169
With one of the first agricultural fairs in the country taking place in Massachusetts in 1807, the state has a special place in the history of agricultural fairs in the United States. Twenty antebellum posters promoting agricultural fairs in western Massachusetts, primarily from agricultural societies in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties.
- Agricultural exhibitions--Massachusetts--Posters
- Agricultural exhibitions--Rhode Island--Providence--Posters
- Agriculture--Social aspects--Massachusetts--History
- Agriculture--Social aspects--Rhode Island--History
Types of material
Massachusetts Constitution Revision Collection, 1948-1965.
Call no.: MS 449
In the early 1960s the Council for Constitutional Reform, a nonpartisan citizen organization seeking to promote economical and efficient state government, called for a constitutional convention to convene in Massachusetts. The group cited the state’s national reputation for corruption and public immorality as reasons for amending the constitution, while others argued that the state’s problems, primarily governmental waste, a cumbersome state tax structure, and inefficient state agencies, could only be resolved by the legislature and governor. Opponents to the convention argued too that the cost of such a convention, in total more than $2 million, would only increase the financial burden of the state.
Correspondence and position statements arguing both sides of the debate offer insight into the politics of the 1960s as well as the public’s response to the political climate in the Commonwealth. Newspaper clippings trace the movement for constitutional reform from early proposals to the approval of four amendments during the November 1964 election.
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions--20th century
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Massachusetts. Constitution
Massachusetts Indian Association Stockbridge Auxiliary Records, 1886-1909.
Call no.: MS 151 bd
The Stockbridge Auxilliary of the Massachusetts Indian Association was formed by prominent local women in western Berkshire County who sought to aid in educational and missionary work for and among Indians, and to “abolish all oppression of Indians within our national limits.”
Records include minutes that document the group’s committees, meetings, dues, and contributions to Indians on reservations nation-wide, accounts, membership lists, and a letter.
- Indians of North America--Arizona--Social conditions
- Indians of North America--Government relations--History
- Indians of North America--Missions--History
- Indians of North America--Social conditions
- Indians, Treatment of--United States--History
- Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian
- Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian and Other Dependent Peoples
- Stockbridge Indians--Social conditions
- Carter, Henry J
- Massachusetts Indian Association. Stockbridge Auxiliary
Massachusetts Public Information Research Group Records, 1972-1989.
Call no.: MS 054
A non-profit, nonpartisan organization, MassPIRG is an advocate for the public interest in Massachusetts. Taking a stand on issues like public health, political corruption, consumer protection, and voting rights, MassPIRG uses the combined power of research, the media, grassroots organizing, and advocacy to initiate change that will improve the lives of citizens of the state.
Records of MassPIRG include reports on topics of research and investigation, issues of their publication, MassPIRG Reports, and documents relating to the establishment of Western Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (WMPIRG) on the UMass Amherst campus in 1972.
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Massachusetts Public Information Research Group
NOFA Massachusetts Records, 1988-2005.
Call no.: MS 461
A product of the back-to-the-land movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Northeast Organic Farming Association began as the vision of a New York City plumbing supplies salesman. Now an increasingly influential non-profit organization with chapters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, NOFA has “nearly 4,000 farmers, gardeners and consumers working to promote healthy food, organic farming practices and a cleaner environment.”
The MA NOFA collection of meeting minutes, financial records, correspondence, and publications from 1988 to 2003, documents maintenance and change in the structure of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, particularly concerning the Massachusetts chapter and the Interstate Council.
- Organic farming
- Organic gardening
- Sustainable agriculture
- NOFA Massachusetts