To spark imagination and 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 our collections, programs, public events, and exhibitions, SCUA promotes meaningful engagement with the record of social change in America and innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the histories and cultures of the peoples 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 using the highest professional standards and practices and the best available technologies to provide free and unfettered access to our holdings for all.
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.
The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses over 35,000 volumes reflecting an evolving history of collecting at UMass Amherst. Beginning in the late 1860s with a focus on agriculture and the natural sciences, SCUA has developed into a resource for the study of regional and local history in New England, emphasizing our varied cultural, social, religious, and political histories.
Beyond New England, SCUA has built strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the history of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to the culture of the Cold War: a growing collection of books printed in East Germany and one of the largest collections of materials in the United States from the Solidarity movement in Poland.
All books and periodicals held by SCUA are cataloged in the Library’s online catalog and summary descriptions of most major book collections, but not individual titles, are included in SCUA’s own online catalog, UMarmot.
Selected areas of collecting interest:
Agriculture, horticulture, natural history
The library holds key works in apiculture, entomology, gardening, landscape design, organic agriculture, pomology, sustainability, and viticulture, with numerous works in animal husbandry. Materials date back to the 16th century, however the strength of the collections lies in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Cookery in New England
The collections of Beatrice A. McIntosh, Athena Savas, and Lynette Foucher, among others, include books, pamphlets, and ephemera relating to the culinary history of New England, including many thousands of cookbooks published by church and community organizations.
European history and culture
Diverse collections ranging from materials on Revolutionary-era Europe, 1789-1848 (the Binet and Brabançonne Collections); Anglo-American Political Economy; twentieth century German history (the Harold Gordon Collection on the Interwar period and the Hans Joachim Ring Collection on East German cinema); and Communist-era Poland (Basia Jakubowska Schlatner Solidarity Collection).
Gay and Lesbian Literature
The centerpiece extensive of our holdings is the collection of gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings and her partner, Kay Tobin Lahusen, which includes books on the history of homosexuality in America, works by and about gay writers, gay activism, and related topics.
Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press, among others, as well as the poetry libraries of Francis, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Halley. Although the literary collections focus largely on New England writers, SCUA houses fine collections of the works of William Morris and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers.
New England history and culture
Local and regional histories, novels, and other writing about Massachusetts from the eighteenth century to the present. These include an array of election, ordination, installation, dedication, fast-day, mission, farewell, and funeral sermons; Fourth of July orations; and addresses to or by benevolent, cultural, and civic organizations in the Commonwealth. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Valuable collections for the history of antislavery in New England and politics of the left. The John P. Roche and Steven Siteman Collections focus on the American left from the late 19th century through the 1950s, with some European materials and materials from the political right.
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
Juan Mauricio Rugendas Letters, 1835-1845.
Call no.: MS 271
Born in Germany as Johann Moritz Rugendas, Juan Rugendas was a painter who spent much of his adult life working and traveling in South America. The collection includes a total of 4 poems and 192 personal letters received by Rugendas from four friends during the years 1835 to 1845. Rugendas received the bulk of these letters while living in Valparaíso, Chile, where he found political asylum, and in Lima, Peru from 1842 to 1844.
- Argentina--Description and travel
- Argentina--Social life and customs--19th century
- Painters--South America
- Bustamante, José Javier y Tomás
- Espinosa, Juan, 1804-1871
- Godoy, Juan Gualberto, 1793-1864
- Oro, Domingo de, 1800-1879
- Rugendas, Johann Moritz, 1802-1858
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Paul Samuel Sanders Papers, 1937-1972.
Call no.: FS 084
Methodist Clergyman; literary and religious scholar.
Correspondence, drafts of writings, notes for lectures and sermons, book reviews, course materials, class notes taken as a student, biographical material, and other papers, relating chiefly to Sander’s studies of English and religious literature, his teaching career at several colleges (including the University of Massachusetts) and church-related activities. Includes draft of an unpublished book on the Bible as literature; correspondence and organized material from his participation in Laymen’s Academy for Oecumenical Studies, Amherst Massachusetts (LAOS); and notebook of funeral records (1940-1957).
- Layman's Academy for Oecumenical Studies
- Methodist Church--Clergy
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of English
- Sanders, Paul Samuel
Types of material
Louise F. Shattuck Papers, 1881-2006.
Call no.: MS 563
A life-long resident of Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, and a third-generation Spiritualist, Louise Shattuck was an artist, teacher, and noted breeder of English cocker spaniels.
Shattuck’s work as a teacher, writer, artist, and dog breeder are documented in this collection through decades of correspondence and diaries, artwork, publications, and newspaper clippings. Of particular note are the materials associated with the Spiritualist history of Lake Pleasant, including three turn of the century spirit slates, samples of Louise’s automatic writing, a ouija board and dowsing rods, and an excellent photograph album with associated realia for the Independent Order of Scalpers, a Lake Pleasant.
- English Cocker spaniels
- Lake Pleasant (Mass.)--History
- Montague (Mass.)--History
- Shattuck, Louise F
- Shattuck, Sarah Bickford
Types of material
- Photograph albums
- Spirit slates
- Spirit writing
Sidney Topol Papers, 1944-1997.
Call no.: MS 374
An innovator and entrepreneur, Sidney Topol was a contributor to several key developments in the telecommunications industries in the latter half of the twentieth century. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts (1947) and an engineer and executive at Raytheon and later Scientific-Atlanta, Topol’s expertise in microwave systems led to the development of the first effective portable television relay links, allowing broadcasts from even remote areas, and his foray into satellite technologies in the 1960s provided the foundation for building the emerging cable television industry, permitting the transmission of transoceanic television broadcasts. Since retiring in the early 1990s, Topol has been engaged in philanthropic work, contributing to the educational and cultural life in Boston and Atlanta.
The product of a pioneer in the telecommunications and satellite industries and philanthropist, this collection contains a rich body of correspondence and speeches, engineering notebooks, reports, product brochures, and photographs documenting Sidney Topol’s forty year career as an engineer and executive. The collection offers a valuable record of Topol’s role in the growth of both corporations, augmented by a suite of materials stemming from Topol’s tenure as Chair of the Electronic Industries Association Advanced Television Committee (ATV) in the 1980s and his service as Co-Chair of a major conference on Competitiveness held by the Carter Center in 1988.
- Boston (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Cable television
- Electronic Industries Association
- Raytheon Company
- Topol, Sidney
Roberta Uno Collection of Asian American Women Playwrights' Scripts, 1924-2005.
Call no.: MS 345
Roberta Uno was the founder and long time artistic director of the New WORLD Theater at UMass Amherst, a theater in residence dedicated to the production of works by playwrights of color.
Established by Uno in 1993, the Asian American Women Playwrights Scripts Collection contains manuscripts of plays, but also production histories, reviews, and articles, along with biographies and audio and videotaped interviews with playwrights. Among the individuals represented are Brenda Wong Aoki, Jeannie Barroga, Marina Feleo Gonzales, Jessica Hagedorn, Velina Hasu Houston, Genny Lim, le thi diem thuy, Ling-Ai Li, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Nobuko Miyamoto, Bina Sharif, and Diana Son.
- Asian American women authors
- New WORLD Theater
- Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
- Scripts (Documents)
William Wheeler Papers, 1876-1930.
Call no.: RG 002/3 W54
The civil engineer William Wheeler was a member of the first graduating class of Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1871, and was one of its most prominent alumni of the nineteenth century. In 1876, Wheeler joined MAC President William Smith Clark and two other alumni of the college in helping to found the Sapporo Agricultural College in Japan (now Hokkaido University), succeeding Clark as president of SAP from 1877 to 1879. In later life, he was a successful hydraulic engineer and long-time trustee of MAC (1887-1929).
A small, tightly focused collection, the Wheeler Papers consist largely of letters written home by Wheeler while working at the Sapporo Agricultural College, 1876-1880. Typically long and descriptive, the letters include excellent accounts of travel in Japan and Wheeler’s impressions of Japanese culture, but they provide detailed insight as well into the work involved in establishing Sapporo Agricultural College.
- Clark, William Smith, 1826-1886
- Hokkaido (Japan)--Description and travel--19th century
- Hokkaido Daigaku
- Japan--Description and travel--19th century
- Massachusetts Agricultural College
- Penhallow, D. P. (David Pearce), 1854-1910
- Sapporo (Japan)--Description and travel--19th century
- Hudson, Woodward
- Wheeler, William, 1851-1932
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Walter B. Woodbury Photograph Collection, 1865-1866.
Call no.: PH 003
In the late 1850s and early 1860s, the pioneering British photographer Walter Woodbury captured images of Java, and especially its capital city Batavia (modern day Jakarta). Working in partnership with James Page, the two established a photographic firm that continued to produce and sell images long after Woodbury’s return to England in 1863.
Consisting of 42 albumen prints, the Woodbury Collection includes numerous images of the landscape and colonial buildings in Batavia, Buitenzorg (Bogor), and Surabaya. A few photographs capture images of the European community in Java, and local Javanese residents.
- Bogor (Indonesia)--Photographs
- Jakarta (Indonesia)--Photographs
- Java (Indonesia)--Photographs
- Surabaya (Indonesia)--Photographs
- Woodbury & Page
- Woodbury, Walter B. (Walter Bentley), 1834-1885
Types of material
- Albumen prints