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.
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
American Friends Service Committee Records, 1975-2005.
Call no.: MS 459
Established in 1968 in response to the war in Vietnam, the AFSC office in western Massachusetts did not limit its focus to draft and military counseling, instead the organization broadened its focus over time to include educational and outreach programs for a variety of peace and socal justice issues. Today the chapter focuses on economic justice, campaigns against U.S. military intervention, and actions to combat racism and classism. With an emphasis on serving the community of western Massachusetts, the program is equally committed to calling attention to issues of both national and local importance. Recent campaigns range from ending the war in Iraq and supporting peace in Columbia to preventing the construction of a new jail in Chicopee.
The collection consists chiefly of subject files that together provide a picture of the various issues in which the western Massachusetts AFSC was involved. Topics range from the organization’s earliest focus, the Vietnam War, to the first Gulf War, landlord/tenant relations, immigration, and landmines. The collection also includes materials relating to public figures, some of whom traveled to the region to speak.
- Massachusetts--Economic conditions
- Peace movements--Massachusetts
- Social justice--Massachusetts
- American Friends Service Committee. Western Massachusetts
Communist Party of Massachusetts Collection, 1942-1954.
Call no.: MS 538
Documenting Communist Party activities in Massachusetts during the 1940s-1950s, this small collection consists of pamphlets, broadsides, and election materials, which cover issues such as housing, freedom of speech, McCarthyism, and the war in Korea.
- Communism--United States--History
- Communist Party of Massachusetts
Massachusetts AFL-CIO Directly Affiliated Local Unions Records, 1930-1980.
Call no.: MS 044
This small collection provides background on labor unions in Massachusetts that, lacking a national scope, join the AFL-CIO as Directly Affiliated Local Unions (DALUs). Taken together, these records provide some basic information on the names and descriptions of companies that have agreements with DALUs, the numbers of union members involved, the occupations represented, and jurisdiction.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts AFL-CIO
Massachusetts Association of Extension Home Economists Records, 1930-1990.
Call no.: MS 346
Established first as the Home Demonstration Agents’ National Association in 1934 and later as the National Association of Extension Home Economists, the group defined their mission as providing encouragement and opportunities for members to improve their skills as home economists and adult educators.
The collection consists of the records of the organization’s Massachusetts affiliate, and includes award applications, minutes, correspondence, newsletters, and membership files.
- Home economics extension work--Massachusetts
- Home economics--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Association of Extension Home Economists
Massachusetts Bay Colony Warrants Collection, 1743-1767.
Call no.: MS 089
Warrants issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony authorizing the sale of the real and personal estate of the Town Constable for taxes owed by the town in which the Constable had not collected or paid. The Massachusetts towns represented in the collection include Brimfield, Greenwich, Sheffield, Somers, Suffield, and Westfield.
- Real property--Massachusetts--18th century
- Taxation--Massachusetts--18th century
Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test Records, 1953-1959.
Call no.: MS 082
Established to conduct poultry tests and research, the Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc. was located adjacent to the UMass campus in order to take advantage of the professional skills of the staff and students in the Poultry Department. Scientific data were collected for a number of variables including rate of growth, rate of feathering, age of maturity, and egg production and hatchability.
Records consist of minutes, financial documents, correspondence, and test results.
- Poultry industry--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc
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 Federation of Polish Women's Clubs Records, 1949-1995.
Call no.: MS 465
The Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women’s Clubs was formed in 1931 when Kolo Polek of Boston and Mrs. Frances Siluk as President hosted delegates representing 26 Polish women’s organizations in Massachusetts. The group’s object was to unite women’s clubs in the state whose members were of Polish birth or descent for civic, cultural, and educational purposes, and to foster an understanding of Polish culture.
The collection includes the organization’s newsletters and convention programs from the late 1940s through the mid 1990s.
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts
- Women--Massachusetts--Societies and clubs
- Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women's Clubs