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.
People's Institute Records, 1896-1970.
Call no.: MS 026
Organization in Northampton, Massachusetts that met in members’ homes for the purpose of helping working people spend their evenings in valuable reading and discussion, and for furthering the culture of the home as well as the individual. The organization also sponsored flower garden competitions, an evening school for adults, a school for the household arts, an after school play program for children, a Golden Age club, and a day camp. Photocopied records include Board of Directors minutes, Directors’ reports, and correspondence.
- Northampton (Mass.)--Intellectual life--History
- Working class--Massachusetts--Northampton--Intellectual life--History
- Working class--Massachusetts--Northampton--Societies, etc. --History
- Home Culture Club (Northampton, Mass.)
- People's Institute (Northampton, Mass.)
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Polish Women's Club of Three Rivers Records, 1924-1994.
Call no.: MS 391
Polish-American women’s club located near Palmer, Massachusetts, that aims to encourage Polish women to become United States citizens and provide them with classes in the English language; to take an active part in local, state and federal politics; to support local Polish-owned businesses; to preserve and integrate Polish culture with those of other ethnicities present in the United States; to encourage higher education in the Polish-American community.
Includes meeting minutes (primarily in Polish), histories, anniversary programs, town and state citations, and government publications, documenting the activities, membership, and national recognition of the club over a period of seventy years.
- Americanization--History--20th century
- Palmer (Mass.)--Ethnic relations--20th century
- Palmer (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Poles--Cultural assimilation--Massachusetts--History--20th century
- Polish American friendly societies--Massachusetts--Palmer--History
- Polish Americans--Ethnic identity--History--20th century
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Palmer
- Polish Americans--Political activity--History--20th century
- Massachusetts Federation of Polish Women's Clubs
- Polish American Women Citizens Political Club of Three Rivers and Thorndike (Palmer, Mass.)
- Polish Women's Club of Three Rivers (Palmer, Mass.)
Types of material
Port of Dennis Enrollment Bonds Collection, 1889-1894.
Call no.: MS 290 bd
Bonds entered in application for a Certificate of Enrollment for commerce vessels at the port of Dennis in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Volume contains 200 bonds (80 of which are completed), that provide names of the managing owner(s), the name and weight of the vessel, the sum of the bond, and the master of the vessel, and document the commercial activities of some residents in the towns of Dennis, Yarmouth, and Harwich.
- Barnstable County (Mass.)--Commerce--History--19th century
- Barnstable County (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Dennis (Mass. : Town)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Dennis (Mass.)--Commerce--History--19th century
- Harwich (Mass.)--Commerce--History--19th century
- Harwich (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Ship registers--Massachusetts--Barnstable County--History
- Shipping--Massachusetts--Barnstable County--History--19th century
- Yarmouth (Mass.)--Commerce--History--19th century
- Yarmouth (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
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
Undertaker and Home Furnishings Dealer Account Book, 1881.
Call no.: MS 171 bd
Owner of business (identity unknown) who served in the vicinity of Wrentham, Massachusetts, as a purveyor of home decorating supplies and furnishings and as an undertaker. The account book includes records of goods for sale and services provided (repairing and upholstering furniture, packing bodies in ice, carrying to tomb, grave digging, etc.); forms of payment (cash, exchange of goods such as soap, eggs, tables, and chairs, and exchange of services); and lists of customers, including City Mills Felting Company, A.H. Morse, J.A. Guild, Joseph Hutchinson, Charles Scott, and Foster Smith.
- Undertakers and undertaking--Massachusetts--Wrentham
- Wrentham (Mass.)--History
Types of material
- Account books
United Congregational Church of Holyoke (Holyoke, Mass.) Records, ca.1830-1990.
Call no.: MS 787
The present day United Congregational Church of Holyoke is the product of complex history of growth and consolidation of five separate churches responding to the changing demographics and spiritual needs of the city. Established in 1799, the First Congregational Church in Holyoke was initially a small congregation perched above the floodplain south of the center of town, sharing preachers with the equally sparse population of Baptists until the establishment of the First Baptist Church in 1826. The First Congregational Church was finally erected in 1838, and ten years later, the Second Church was established in to serve the needs of the growing Protestant population in the city center, building their own church in 1853 as the mill economy was booming. Reaching out to the millworkers, members of the Second Church opened the Grace Mission in 1870, which spun off into its own church in 1896. Skinner Chapel was founded in 1909 as an addition to the Second Congregational Church, dedicated to the prominent Skinner family. Finally, the German Reformed Church was organized in 1892, though meetings were held years earlier. In the latter part of the twentieth century, however, declining memberships in each of these churches led to a series of mergers, beginning in 1961 when the German Reformed Church united with the First Congregational to become the First United Congregational Church. Grace Church and the First UCC merged in 1973 to become Grace United, and in 1996, Grace joined with the Second Congregational Church to become the present UCC of Holyoke.
The records of the UCC of Holyoke document over 200 years of the ecclesiatical history of an industrial city. In addition to records of membership, baptisms, marriages, and church governance, the collection includes valuable records of the women’s missionary society, the German Maenner Bund, and a long run of church newsletters that offer insight into the weekly course of events in the religious community. Materials relating to Skinner Chapel are part of the collections of Wistariahurst Museum.
- Congregational churches--Massachusetts--Holyoke
- Holyoke (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
- First Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- German Reformed Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Grace Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
- Second Congregational Church (Holyoke, Mass.)
Types of material
Wendell (Mass.). Treasurer Account book, 1794-1864.
Call no.: MS 090
A sparsely populated rural community in eastern Franklin County, Massachusetts, the town of Wendell was incorporated in 1781 after it was separated from the adjacent towns of Shutesbury and Erving. Primarily a farming community to the present day with only light manufacturing (particularly the manufacture of palm-leaf hats), Wendell remains one of the state’s least populous communities.
A standard double column account book, the Treasurer’s ledger from the town of Wendell was reviewed, settled, and approved annually by the selectmen. The transactions are the typical stuff of small town life in New England, recording taxes, payments for expenses relating to schools and maintenance of the poor, and during the Civil War, payments of bounty money for volunteers. Among the signatories are locally prominent figures such as Judge Joshua Green and the Treasurers Samuel Brewer, George W. Fleming, and Franklin Howe (and other members of the Howe family).
- Green, Joshua
- Wendell (Mass.)--History--19th century
- Brewer, Samuel
- Fleming, George W
- Howe, Franklin
- Wendell (Mass.). Treasurer
Types of material
- Account books
Yarn Finishers Union (Fall River, Mass.) Records, 1919-1922.
Call no.: MS 006
The Yarn Finishers Union was one of several autonomous craft bodies affiliated with the Fall River-based American Federation of Textile Operatives (originally known as the National Amalgamation of Textile Workers). Active in several shops — including Durfee Mills, Tecumseh Mills, Union Belt Co., O.B. Wetherell and Son, and Troy Cotton and Woolen Manufactory — the Yarn Finishers included membership from different segments of the work force, including rollers, quillers, and harness markers.
This slender collection documents two years of labor activism by the Yarn Finishers Union in Fall River, Mass. The minutebook begins in May 1919 as the Yarn Finishers voted to strike over low and unequal wages, particularly those to “girls,” and includes references to elections, financial issues such as the proposition to institute a minimum wage scale, and to settling disputes. The minutes continue through the end of a much quieter year, 1922. The second volume consists of a record of union dues collected, arranged loosely by craft.
- Fall River (Mass.)--History
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts
- American Federation of Textile Operatives
Types of material
Young Women's City Club Records, 1931-1981.
Call no.: MS 045
Known as Girl’s City Club until 1954, the Young Women’s City Club was a non-sectarian, self-governing, and largely self-supporting club in Northampton, Massachusetts, that developed educational and recreational opportunities for young women through programs, social events, volunteer services, and fund-raising activities. The club met regularly under the auspices of the People’s Institute until November 1979 when their rooms at James House were taken over by the Highland Valley Elder Service and the club relocated to the People’s Institute.
The records of the Young Women’s City Club document the growth and activities of the club from 1939 to 1981, with the exception of the decade 1961 to 1971. Consisting of photocopies of originals still held by the People’s Institute, the collection includes minutes of council and business meetings and scrapbook pages.
- Women--Societies and clubs--Massachusetts
- Young Women's City Club (Northampton, Mass.)