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Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

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. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History 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.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included 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 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. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

Learn more:

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Quaker History Collection
1783-1950
1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 926

During the early twentieth century, the library at the Moses Brown School (formerly the Friends Boarding School) became an informal repository for Quaker manuscripts reflecting the history and work of the Society of Friends. Most of these materials were later transferred for custody to the school’s governing body, the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

This miscellaneous assortment of letters was apparently set aside by the staff at the Moses Brown School due to their historical content and preserved in the “vault.” Many of the letters appear to have been retained as good examples of Quaker expression of family and friendly bonds or as documentation about significant periods in Quaker history, particularly the Gurneyite-Wilburite controversy of the 1840s, and several touch on Quaker involvement in the antislavery and peace movements. Of special note are four interesting letters from the Quaker minister and social reformer, Elizabeth Comstock, written during and just after the Civil War; a series of nine lengthy letters from a visiting English minister Isaac Stephenson, traveling through New England meetings; a substantial series of letters from prominent Friend Samuel Boyd Tobey; and three letters from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Sarah F. Tobey regarding attempts to connect Stowe with Alexander T. Stewart in hopes of raising funds for her plans for the education of women.

Gift of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, 2016
Subjects
  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Gurney, James Joseph
  • Society of Friends--History
  • Wilbur, John,
Contributors
  • Comstock, Elizabeth L.
  • Stewart, Alexander Turney, 1803-1876
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
  • Tobey, Samuel Boyd, 1805-1867

New WORLD Theater

New WORLD Theater Records
1979-2010
41 boxes (61.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 025/F2/N4
Image of Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002
Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002

New WORLD Theater was founded at UMass Amherst in 1979 by Roberta Uno with the mission of presenting innovative works of theater by contemporary artists of color, with the goal of fostering creative communities, promoting cultural equity, and embracing diverse cultural backgrounds, social engagement, and a commitment to justice. For more than thirty years New WORLD Theater produced many dozens of plays and other dramatic works representing new voices in the theater, as well as plays from the traditional multicultural repertory, and they have supported the arts through performance residencies, conferences and colloquia, and a variety of initiatives aimed at the diverse communities they serve, youth, and theater professionals. New WORLD Theater has contributed significantly to national conversations on cultural equity. After more than three decades of acclaim and recognition, New WORLD Theater was closed by UMass Amherst in summer 2010.

The bulk of the New WORLD Theater collection consists of administrative records documenting the day-to-day activities of the theater, however, it also contains an extensive and exceptionally rich archive of taped interviews, conferences, and theatrical productions. Taken together, the audiovisual material traces the history of New WORLD through the words and performances of artists who both contributed to and benefited from the theater.

Subjects
  • African Americans--Drama
  • American drama--Minority authors
  • Asian Americans--Drama
  • Ethnic groups--United States--Drama
  • Hispanic Americans--Drama
  • Minorities--United States--Drama
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
Contributors
  • New WORLD Theater
  • Page, Priscilla
  • Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
  • Audiovisual materials
  • Sound recordings

Nichols, Reuben

Reuben Nichols, The adventures and ramblings of a sailor
1840
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 901 bd

The son of a Revolutionary War veteran from Fairfield County, Conn., Reuben Nichols went to sea as teenager and spent a quarter of a century sailing the Atlantic aboard merchant ships and privateers. After rising to become master of the New York and Savannah packets Exact and Angelique in the 1830s, he retired to a life on shore near Bridgeport.

This vigorous account of a life on the antebellum seas runs Nichols’ childhood hardships through a series of adventures at sea in war and peace. An observant and effective writer, Nichols describes voyages to western and northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and South America during and after the War of 1812. During a colorful career, he took part in the operations of warships and privateers, witnessed attempted mutinies and desertions, rescued the abolitionist John Hopper from a mob in Georgia, and was drawn into the struggles for colonial liberation. His experiences aboard the privateer Kemp and descriptions of Haiti, Cape Verde, Spain, Gibraltar, Turkey, and Argentina are particularly evocative.

Acquired from William Reese, Mar. 2016
Subjects
  • Abolitionists--Georgia
  • Argentina--Description and travel--19th century
  • Aruba--Description and travel--19th century
  • Gibraltar--Description and travel--19th century
  • Haiti--Description and travel--19th century
  • Hopper, John, 1815-1865
  • Merchant ships--Connecticut
  • Mutiny
  • Privateering
  • Sailors--Connecticut
  • Spain--Description and travel--19th century
  • Stratford (Conn.)--History
  • Turkey--Description and travel--19th century
  • United States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations
Types of material
  • Autobiographies
  • Memoirs

Northampton Cutlery Company

Northampton Cutlery Company Records
1869-1987
113 boxes (55.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 058

The Northampton Cutlery Company was among the major firms in a region known for high quality cutlery manufacture. Incorporated in 1871 with Judge Samuel L. Hinckley, its largest stockholder, as its first President, the company was located along the Mill River in Northampton, Massachusetts, where operations continued until its closing in 1987.

Records document company operations and technology used in the cutlery manufacturing process, as well as details about employment of immigrant and working class families in the region. Includes administrative, legal, and financial records; correspondence; personnel and labor relations files; and production schedules and specifications.

Subjects
  • Cutlery trade--Massachusetts
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • Northampton Cutlery Company

Obear, Clark H.

Clark Hopkins Obear Diaries
1845-1888
4 vols. (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 601

A resident of New Ipswich, N.H., Clark Obear was an ardent supporter of the temperance and antislavery movements, and was deeply involved in the affairs of his church and community. A teacher in Hillsborough County schools, Obear also worked as a farmer and insurance agent, and served in public office as a deputy sheriff, a Lieutenant Colonel in the militia, a fence viewer and pound keeper, and for several years he was superintendent of schools. Obear and his wife Lydia Ann (Swasey) had two children, Annabel and Francis.

The four diaries in this collection contain brief, but regular entries documenting Clark Obear’s daily life in New Ipswich, N.H. during the middle years of the nineteenth century. Despite their brevity, the diaries form a continuous coverage of many years and offer details that provide a compelling sense of the rhythms of life in a small New Hampshire village. Of particular note, Obear carefully notes the various lectures he attends in town and the organizations of which he is part, including reform movements like temperance and antislavery.

Acquired from Benjamin Katz, Apr. 2009
Subjects
  • Abolitionists--New Hampshire
  • Antislavery movements--New Hampshire
  • New Ipswich (N.H.)--History
  • Temperance--New Hampshire
Contributors
  • Obear, Clark H.
Types of material
  • Diaries

Perreault, Alida

Alida Perreault Papers
1906-1957 (Bulk: 1928-1933)
2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 808
Image of

Alida Capistrant was the eleventh of twelve children in a large French-Canadian family in South Hadley, Massachusetts, born on July 24, 1914. Her parents both immigrated from Quebec in 1885. On September 30, 1895, they were married in South Hadley. The Capistrant family rented their home until 1912 when they purchased their first house in South Hadley. Alida had an active social life as a teenager and considered attending college or university, but did not pursue any further education until about 1943, when she studied at the Providence Hospital School of Nursing in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Two years later she married James Perreault and the couple had two children, a daughter, Marcia (Perreault) Matthieu, and a son, David James Perreault. They lived in South Hadley until 2003, when they moved to Chandler, Arizona, to be near their daughter. Alida Perreault died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease on April 7, 2006, and James died in 2008. Both are buried in Saint Rose Cemetery in South Hadley next to Alida’s family.

Alida’s correspondence during her high school years (1928-1932) reveal a young woman with a substantial network of friends and family. The bulk of the collection consists of letters from several friends, including two potential romantic interests. Letters document daily activities, family happenings, and later Alida’s interest in a career as a nurse and her leadership role in the South Hadley Women’s Club.

Gift of Danielle Kovacs, 2014
Subjects
  • Capistrant family--Correspondence
  • Family--Massachusetts--History
  • High school students--Massachusetts
  • South Hadley (Mass.)--History
  • Williston Northampton School (Easthampton, Mass.)
Contributors
  • Fogg, Esther
  • McEwan, William
  • Mitkiewitcz, Freddie A.
Types of material
  • Correspondence
  • Greeting cards
  • Invitations

Pierrefeu, Yann de

Yann de Pierrefeu Diaries
1927-1938
3 boxes (1.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 815
Image of Yann de Pierrefeu, ca.1935
Yann de Pierrefeu, ca.1935

Marie Alphonse Leopold Jehan Tudor Dedons “Yann” de Pierrefeu was born in 1905, the eldest of four children born into a distinguished family and heir to a French marquisate. After attending the Groton School and Harvard, Pierrefeu settled in Cape Ann, marrying Ellen Hemenway Taintor in 1930.

A dedicated, if idiosyncratic diarist, Pierrefeu left a large number of dense and often impenetrable volumes that can be part dream book, part imagination, and part quixotic engagement with the turbulent events of the 1930s. Laden with references to the Oz novels and replete with nicknames and apparently coded language, the diaries offer glimpses into Pierrefeu’s social life and marriage, and his reactions to the Great Depression, national politics, history, and the growing crises in Europe and Asia.

Acquired from Ben Katz, Mar. 2014
Subjects
  • Depressions--1929
  • Dreams
  • Pierrefeu, Ellen Taintor
Types of material
  • Diaries
  • Photographs

Roche, John P.

John P. Roche Collection
1886-1965
324 items
Call no.: RB 008

A political scientist, writer, and government consultant, John P. Roche was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 7, 1923, the son of a salesman. A liberal Social Democrat and fervent anti-Communist, Roche spent his academic career at Haverford College and Brandeis and Tufts Universities, writing extensively on American foreign policy, constitutional law, and the history of political thought in America, and maintaining a strong interest in the history of the American left. During the 1960s and early 1970s, he served as an adviser to the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

The Roche Collection consists of over 300 publications pertaining to the political left in the United States, with a smaller number of works from the radical right and from European Socialists and Communists. Concentrated in the years spanning the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the McCarthy hearings, many of the works were produced by formal political parties in response to particular political campaigns, current events, or social issues, with other works geared primarily toward consciousness raising and general political education on trade unionism, fascism, war and peace, American foreign policy, and freedom of speech and the press.

Gift of John P. Roche, 1964
Subjects
  • Communism
  • Fascism
  • Pacifism
  • Socialism
  • United States--Foreign policy--20th century
  • World War, 1939-1945
Contributors
  • Coughlin, Charles E. (Charles Edward), 1891-1979
  • Roche, John P.
Restrictions: Collection currently unavailable due to renovation in SCUA

Shapiro, Leon

Leon Shapiro Papers
1939-1985
15 boxes (8.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 127

Historian, author, Professor of Russian and Soviet Jewish History at Rutgers University, who helped arrange the escape of Jews from Europe during World War II and was active in several organizations concerned with the emigration of Soviet and Eastern European Jews to Palestine. Papers include biographical materials, correspondence, legal documents, writings, lecture and research materials, statistical data in the world Jewish population before and after World War II, oral history transcripts, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and four photographs.

Subjects
  • Europe, Eastern--Ethnic relations--History--20th century
  • Israel--Emigration and immigration--History
  • Israel--History--1948-1967
  • Jews, Soviet--History--Sources
  • Jews--Europe, Eastern--History--Sources
  • Jews--Migration--History
  • Jews--Population--History
  • Jews--Soviet Union--History--Sources
  • Occupational training for Jews--History--Sources
  • Palestine--History--1929-1948
  • Romania--Emigration and immigration--History
  • Rutgers University--Curricula
  • Rutgers University--Faculty
  • Soviet Union--Ethnic relations--History
  • World ORT Union--History
Contributors
  • Shapiro, Leon
Types of material
  • Oral histories
  • Photographs
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