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Special Collections and University Archives
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Mission and history

Mission

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

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry, the production 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 Approaches to History

New Approaches to History Collection, 1967-1985
23 boxes (10.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 182

The collection documents the creation and content of a course entitled New Approaches to History, which relied almost exclusively on the use of primary sources in teaching undergraduates history at UMass.

The collection includes the course proposal, correspondence, syllabi, course assignments, and resources for three units: Salem witchcraft, Shay’s Rebellion, and Lizzie Borden.

Subjects
  • History--Study and teaching
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP)

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Records, 1992-2016
4 boxes (4.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 868
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) Records image

Originating in 1991, the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) was established “to create a global network for book historians working in a broad range of scholarly disciplines.” With more than 1,000 members, research interests include the composition and reception of books as well as their survival and transformation over time.

Records cover the earliest days of the organization’s development, including founding documents, and document a variety of their activities from hosting conferences and publishing a newsletter to promoting scholarship.

Subjects
  • Authors and readers
  • Authorship
  • Books--History
  • Publishers and publishing

Valley Women’s History Collaborative

Valley Women's History Collaborative Records, 1971-2008
15 boxes (10 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 531

During the early phases of second wave feminism (1968-1978), the Pioneer Valley served as a center for lesbian and feminist activity in western Massachusetts, and was home to over 400 hundred, often ad hoc, groups, such as the Abortion and Birth Control (ABC) Committee, ISIS Women’s Center, the Mudpie Childcare Cooperative, and the Springfield Women’s Center.

The records of the Valley Women’s History Collaborative document the activities of these groups as well as the efforts of the founders of the Women Studies program and department at UMass Amherst to preserve this history. Of particular value are the many oral histories conducted by the collaborative that record the history of women’s activism in the Pioneer Valley, especially as it relates to reproductive rights.

Subjects
  • Abortion--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Birth control--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History--20th century
  • Feminism--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--History
  • Feminists--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
  • Mary Vazquez Women's Softball League
  • Women--Massachusetts--Pioneer Valley--Political activity--History
Contributors
  • Valley Women's History Collaborative
Types of material
  • Oral histories

Antislavery

Antislavery Pamphlet Collection, 1725-1911
(7.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RB 003

The Antislavery Collection contains several hundred printed pamphlets and books pertaining to slavery and antislavery in New England, 1725-1911. The holdings include speeches, sermons, proceedings and other publications of organizations such as the American Anti-Slavery Society and the American Colonization Society, and a small number of pro-slavery tracts.

Subjects
  • Abolitionists--Massachusetts
  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Slavery--United States
Contributors
  • American Anti-Slavery Society
  • American Colonization Society

Barkin, Solomon, 1907-

Solomon Barkin Papers, 1930-1988
(11 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 100

Born in 1902, Solomon Barkin was an economist, education director for the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA ), and from 1968 to 1978 a professor at the University of Massachusetts and research associate at the Labor Center.

The bulk of the Barkin collection, over 10.5 linear feet, consists of bound notebooks containing speeches, typescripts, and printed versions of articles, book reviews, congressional testimony, forewords, and introductions — nearly 600 in all — written by Barkin. One box (0.5 linear foot) contains correspondence, bibliographies, tributes and awards, and a biography. Generally, the collection illustrates Barkin’s life as both a union organizer and an economist. His writings reflect his attempts to create “a system of trade union economics” as a counterpoise to standard “enterprise economics,” as well as his belief that labor should not be viewed as a commodity.

Subjects
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
  • Textile Workers Union of America
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Labor Relations and Research Center
Contributors
  • Barkin, Solomon, 1907-

Barton, Thomas

Thomas Barton Papers, 1947-1977 (Bulk: 1960-1974)
4 boxes (2 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 539
Thomas Barton Papers image
YPSL logo

In the early 1960s, Tom Barton (b. 1935) emerged as a leader in the Left-wing of the Young People’s Socialist League, the national youth affiliate of the Socialist Party. Deeply committed to the civil rights and antiwar struggles and to revolutionary organizing, Barton operated in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York and was a delegate and National Secretary at the 1964 convention in which tensions within YPSL led to its dissolution.

A small, but rich collection, the Barton Papers provide a glimpse into the career of a long-time Socialist and activist. From Barton’s entry into the Young People’s Socialist League in the latest 1950s through his work with the Wildcat group in the early 1970s, the collection contains outstanding content on the civil rights and antiwar movements and the strategies for radical organizing. The collection is particularly rich on two periods of Barton’s career — his time in the YPSL and Student Peace Union (1960-1964) and in the Wildcat group (1968-1971) — and particularly for the events surrounding the dissolution of YPSL in 1964, following a heated debate over whether to support Lyndon Johnson for president. The collection includes correspondence with other young radicals such as Martin Oppenheimer, Lyndon Henry, Juan McIver, and Joe Weiner.

Subjects
  • Antiwar movements
  • Civil rights movements
  • Communists
  • Revolutionaries
  • Socialist Party of the United States of America
  • Socialists--United States
  • Student Peace Union
  • Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
  • Wildcat
  • Young People's Socialist League
Contributors
  • Barton, Thomas
  • Gilbert, Carl
  • Henry, Lyndon
  • MacFadyen, Gavin
  • McIver, Juan
  • Oppenheimer, Martin
  • Shatkin, Joan
  • Shatkin, Norm
  • Verret, Joe
  • Weiner, Joe

Bascom, Eric

Eric Bascom Collection of Jazz Recordings, ca. 1940-1950
ca. 500 phonograph records (10 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 882
Eric Bascom Collection of Jazz Recordings image
David Stone Martin cover for Slim Gaillard and Bam Brown's 'Opera in Vout'

When he was fifteen or sixteen, Eric Bascom’s life changed forever when he saw renowned jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery perform. Though Bascom had been playing guitar himself since he was young, seeing Montgomery opened his eyes to a completely new way of playing guitar and a completely new approach to music. Since that time, Bascom has been an avid listener, collector, and practitioner of jazz. He is currently performing as the Eric Bascom Trio with Ed Brainerd and Genevieve Rose.

The Eric Bascom Collection of Jazz Recordings consists of hundreds of jazz 78 rpm records from the 1940s and 1950s, including a number of 78 books with beautifully illustrated covers. In addition to the records are player piano rolls, several of which were punched by Fats Waller, and a portable Walters Conley Phonola 78 record player.

Subjects
  • Bop (Music)
  • Jazz musicians
Contributors
  • Basie, Count, 1904-1984
  • Christian, Charlie, 1916-1942
  • Fitzgerald, Ella
  • Parker, Charlie, 1920-1955
Types of material
  • 78 rpm records
  • Piano rolls

Burgett-Irey family

Burgett-Irey Family Papers, 1832-2010 (Bulk: 1929-2008)
4 boxes (2 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 605

Born in 1908 to Louis and Sarah Kessel Burgett, Katherine grew up on the family farm outside of Oquawka, Illinois. In 1924 her parents purchased their own farm in Monmouth, which they later lost due to the devastating impact of the Depression on agriculture, and it was there that she first met her future husband, Kenneth Monroe Irey, a student at Monmouth College. The newlyweds moved to New Jersey in 1931 where Kenneth was transferred for work. As a chemical engineer, Kenneth enjoyed a successful career and comfortably supported his wife and two children. Retiring in 1970, he and Katherine spent their later years pursuing two passions: traveling and bird-watching. Kenneth and Katherine’s eldest daughter, June Irey Guild, spent most of her adult life in Massachusetts where she has married twice, raised six children, and operated her own business. During her retirement years, June focused on preserving her family’s history by collecting letters and recoding family narratives.

The Burgett-Irey Family Papers chronicle the changes that many twentieth-century American families experienced as the nation descended into an economic depression, entered into a world war, and emerged as one of the most powerful countries in the world. The collection, which will continue to grow, includes approximately 65 letters between Katherine Burgett Irey and her family. Most of the letters exchange family updates, particularly precious after Katherine relocated to New Jersey. Among the earliest letters is an account of Katherine and Kenneth’s first meeting described as “fast work,” since he asked her out on the spot. Also included are autobiographical writings by Kenneth describing his cross-country trip to California in 1927 and a brief history of his life and career.

Subjects
  • Bird watching
  • Burgett family
  • Irey family
  • Marriage--United States
  • Motherhood--United States--History--20th century
  • Mothers--United States--History--20th century
  • Women--United States--History--20th century
Contributors
  • Guild, June Irey
  • Irey, Katherine Burgett
  • Irey, Kenneth Monroe, 1905-1994
Types of material
  • Diaries
  • Letters (Correspondence)
  • Slides

Coffin, Robert L.

Robert L. Coffin Ornithological Journal, 1912-1922
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 593 bd

Robert L. Coffin (1889-1976) began a long association with the Massachusetts Agricultural College when he arrived on campus in 1912 to begin work as an assistant photographer for the East Experiment Station. His skill as a technical photographer and his artistic eye, however, soon made him a valuable commodity on campus and within a few years of his arrival, Coffin had branched out to work for a wide range of departments across campus and, in the late 1920s, for the US Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as well. An avid birder and naturalist, Coffin was particularly known for his nature photography, using a battery of different cameras to capture everything from scenic vistas to photomicrographs. Although he established a commercial photographic studio in Amherst in 1931, Coffin continued to accept a wide range of assignments at UMass, earning recognition as the unofficial campus photographer. He remained active almost to the time of his death in 1976 at the age of 86.

Containing the meticulously detailed records of an avid birder, the Coffin journal contains records of sightings and first and last occurrences of birds observed in the years 1912 and 1917-1922. The records in the journal reflect Coffin’s many birding trips in western Massachusetts, mostly in the Connecticut River Valley, however the journal also contains records from the Swift River Valley, the Harvard Forest, the Boston area, and the Connecticut coast. In a few cases, Coffin recorded the numbers of birds observed.

Subjects
  • Bird watching--Massachusetts
  • Birds--Massachusetts
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
Contributors
  • Coffin, Robert L
Types of material
  • Field notes
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