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.
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 Watch Company Band Engagement Book, 1878-1883.
Call no.: MS 364
Band of musicians who worked at the Waltham Watch Company in Waltham, Massachusetts. Engagement book itemizes engagement dates and locations, and membership (including recent immigrants), and includes information about rehearsals, business meetings, and payment.
- American Watch Company--Employees--Recreation
- American Watch Company--Employees--Social life and customs
- American Watch Company--History
- Brass bands--Massachusetts--Waltham
- Industrial recreation--Massachusetts--Waltham
- Waltham (Mass.)--Social conditions--19th century
- American Watch Company. Band
- South Side Brass Band (Waltham, Mass.)
Types of material
- Appointment books
Amherst Growth Study Committee Records, 1971-1974.
Call no.: MS 543
In May 1971 Otto Paparazzo Associates announced their plans to develop 640 acres of land in East Amherst upon which a proposed 2,200 residential units, a commercial center, and a golf course would be built. Concerned about unnatural growth of the community and about the effect such a development would have on the environment, a group of residents formed the Amherst Growth Study Committee within a few months of the announcement. Despite these concerns, the Zoning Board of Appeals issued a formal permit for construction in December 1971, which the AGSC immediately appealed. Even though the group was unable to overturn the zoning board’s decision, they did achieve their ends, in part, when state and town agencies prevented the project from moving forward due to an overloaded sewage system. More importantly, the group increased public awareness about growth and housing in the town of Amherst.
Records include notes from AGSC meetings, correspondence, and newspaper clippings documenting coverage of the story in local papers.
- Amherst (Mass.)--History
- Amherst (Mass.)--Politics and government
- Amherst Growth Study Committee, Inc
Association for Gravestone Studies Book Collection, 1812-2005.
Call no.: RB 004
Founded in 1977, the Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) is an international organization dedicated to furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. Based in Greenfield, Mass., the Association promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives. To raise public awareness about the significance of historic gravemarkers and the issues surrounding their preservation, the AGS sponsors conferences and workshops, publishes both a quarterly newsletter and annual journal, Markers, and has built an archive of collections documenting gravestones and the memorial industry.
The AGS Books Collection contains scarce, out of print, and rare printed works on cemeteries and graveyards, epitaphs and inscriptions, and gravemarkers, with an emphasis on North America. The AGS Books Collection also includes the AGS publication, Markers. The collection is divided into three series: Series 1 (Monographs and Offprints), Series 2 (Theses and Dissertations), and Series 3 (Markers).
- Sepulchral monuments
- Association for Gravestone Studies
Ebenezer Bailey Papers, 1852-1882.
Call no.: MS 448
Ebenezer Bailey was a wholesale shoe purchaser and distributor from Massachusetts. The collection comprises just over 100 items, the bulk of which are receipts for the purchase and sale of shoes and slippers, covering the period from 1852 to 1882.
- Business records--Massachusetts
- Dearborn, J. J
- Lynn (Mass.)--History
- Shoe industry--Massachusetts--Lynn
- Shoe industry--New England--History--19th century
- Bailey, Ebenezer
Types of material
- Receipts (Financial records)
Hugh Potter Baker Papers, 1919-1951.
Call no.: RG 003/1 B35
Hugh Baker served as President during most of the existence of Massachusetts State College, taking office in 1933, two years after it changed name from Massachusetts Agricultural College, and retiring in 1947, just as the college became the University of Massachusetts. A forester by training, Baker began his career as a professor, and later dean, in the College of Forestry at Syracuse University. In 1920, he left Syracuse to become Executive Secretary of the American Paper and Pulp Association, and for nearly a decade, he worked in the forestry industry. He returned to academia in 1930, when he resumed the deanship at the New York State School of Forestry. During his presidency at Massachusetts State College, Baker oversaw the construction of improved housing and classroom facilities for students, a new library, the expansion of the liberal arts curriculum, and a near doubling of student enrollment. Further, chapel services were reorganized to be voluntary, and a weekly convocation was initiated. Baker also founded popular annual conferences on recreation and country life.
The Baker Papers include correspondence with college, state, and federal officials, college suppliers, and alumni; speeches and articles; reports and other papers on topics at issue during Baker’s college presidency, 1933-1947, particularly the building program. Also included are several biographical sketches and memorial tributes; clippings and other papers, relating to Baker’s career as professor of forestry at several colleges, trade association executive, and college president.
- Clock chimes--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- College buildings--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- Massachusetts State College--Anniversaries, etc
- Massachusetts State College--Buildings
- Massachusetts State College--History
- Massachusetts State College--Student housing
- Massachusetts State College. President
- Massachusetts State College. School of Home Economics
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- Old Chapel (Amherst, Mass.)--History
- Student housing--Massachusetts--Amherst--History
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--History
- Baker, Hugh Potter, 1878-
J. William Belanger Papers, 1932-1986.
Call no.: MS 117
A leader in organized labor, William Belanger began as an organizer for the AFL’s United Textile Workers in 1932, eventually becoming the New England Regional Director and International Vice President of the TWUA and in 1958, the first President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
The Belanger Papers provide insight into the long career in labor activism, and include correspondence, writings, subject files, and printed materials. Of particular interest is a series of four oversized scrapbooks that cover Belanger’s career from 1934 through his final position as Director of the Massachusetts Department of Employment Security. These are especially enlightening on labor’s political activities, the CIO’s success in thwarting anti-labor referenda in 1948, and the efforts to expel Communists from the labor movement.
- Elections--Massachusetts--History--20th century
- Labor leaders--New England--Biography
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950
- New England--Economic conditions--20th century
- Textile Workers Organizing Committee
- Textile Workers Union of America
- Textile industry--Massachusetts
- Textile workers--Labor unions--New England
- Belanger, J. William, 1907-1986
Types of material
John W. Bennett Labor Collection, ca. 1880-2000.
Call no.: MS 443
Labor historian John W. Bennett has researched the history of the labor movement since his days as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts (Class of 1952). A born collector, he began accumulating memorabilia associated with unions, drawn to their potential as a visual record of labor iconography and self-representation.
Extending back to the 1880s, the Bennett Collection includes examples from around the country, but with a particularly strong representation of New England unions between the mid-1930s and mid-1970s.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Bennett, John W
Types of material