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
Barbara Rotundo Photograph Collection, ca.1970-2004.
Call no.: PH 050
A long-time member of the English Department at the University of Albany, Barbara Rotundo was a 1942 graduate in economics at Mount Holyoke College. After the death of her husband, Joseph in 1953, Rotundo became one of the first female faculty members at Union College, and after earning a master’s degree in English at Cornell University and a doctorate in American Literature from Syracuse University, she served as an associate professor of English at the University of Albany, where she founded one of the first university writing programs in the United States. Avocationally, she was a stalwart member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, helping to broaden its scope beyond its the Colonial period to include the Victorian era. Her research included the rural cemetery movement, Mount Auburn Cemetery, white bronze (zinc) markers, and ethnic folk gravestones. Her research in these fields was presented on dozens of occasions to annual meetings of AGS, the American Culture Association, and The Pioneer America Society. In 1989, after residing in Schenectady for forty-six years, she retired to Belmont, NH, where she died in December 2004.
Consisting primarily of thousands of color slides (most digitized) and related research notebooks, the Rotundo collection is a major visual record of Victorian grave markers in the United States. The notebooks and slides are arranged by state, with an emphasis on the eastern states, and white bronze (zinc) markers also are represented in photographs and a separate research notebook. The collection also includes several rare or privately published books.
- Cemeteries--New York (State)
- Sepulchral monuments--New Jersey
- Sepulchral monuments--New York (State)
- Sepulchral monuments--Pennsylvania
- Rotundo, Barbara
Types of material
Sagendorph Woolen Company Daybook, 1885-1887.
Call no.: MS 430
Daybook contains daily transactions between the Sagendorph Woolen Company of East Brookfield, Massachusetts and other businesses, local residents, and the company’s labor force. These detailed entries present a dynamic picture of the company’s manufacturing operations ranging from the purchase of raw materials to the sales of finished products.
- Carding (textiles)
- East Brookfield (Mass.)--History
- Textile construction processes and techniques
- Textile industry--Massachusetts--History
- Textile manufacturers--Massachusetts
- Textile materials
- Yarn-making processes and techniques
- Sagendorph Woolen Company
Types of material
Gilbert Smith and Gilbert Smith, Jr. Account Books, 1798-1846.
Call no.: MS 205 bd
Gilbert Smith was a shoemaker and doctor from New Marlborough, Massachusetts, and his son Gilbert Jr. was a prosperous farmer from Sheffield, Massachusetts. Includes merchandise sales, labor accounts, lists of boarders, and documentation of the sale of homemade butter and cheese to local merchants, as well as trade with the substantial rural black community of the region.
- African Americans--Massachusetts--Economic conditions--19th century
- Agricultural laborers--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- Agricultural wages--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- Dairy products--Massachusetts--Marketing--History--19th century
- Family--Economic aspects--Massachusetts--History--19th century
- Farmers--Massachusetts--Sheffield--History--19th century
- New Marlborough (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Sheffield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Smith, Gilbert, 1801-
- Smith, Gilbert, d. 1804
Types of material
- Account books
Building upon the activist legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects primary materials relating to individuals and groups devoted to the political, economic, spiritual, and social transformation of American society. Our intent in taking such a broad collecting scope is to view social change as a totality, rather than as isolated movements and to document how ideas about one set of social issues informs other issues, and how social causes cross-pollinate, organizationally and conceptually. By preserving a record of these activities, SCUA makes it possible for future scholars, activists, and members of the community to continue to engage with the ideas that have motivated so many.
Although our interests extend to any endeavors that reflect the efforts of individuals and groups promote social change, the collections in SCUA provide particularly valuable documentation of the movements for peace, social justice, and racial equality, environmentalism, labor activism, intentional communities, and gay rights.
View our brochure on documenting social change (pdf).
Significant collecting areas
- Antinuclear movement
- New England has been a hotbed of activity for the antinuclear movement, spawning groups such as the Clamshell Alliance, the Citizens Awareness Network, the Renewable Energy Media Service, and the Musicians United for Safe Energy.
- Antiracism and civil rights
- The Du Bois Papers document the lifelong commitment of W.E.B. Du Bois to addressing issues of racial and social injustice in the twentieth century, but SCUA houses a number of other collections that address various aspects of “the problem of the twentieth century,” and the varied approaches to its resolution. See also our research guide for African American history.
- Community organizations and charities
- SCUA houses the records of civic organizations involved in relief work, community assistance, and social justice.
- Collections relating to the history of the environment in New England and of environmentalism in the broad sense. SCUA is also interested in documenting the hsitory of land use, organic farming and sustainability, and similar topics.
- Intentional Communities
- Communes seemed to spring up everywhere in New England during the 1960s, but communes of various sorts have been part of our landscape for two centuries. In both its printed and manuscript collections, SCUA documents a wide variety of approaches to communal living and the cultural legacy of communes. The Famous Long Ago Archive focuses intensively on documenting a cluster of related communes in Massachusetts and Vermont, including the Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm.
- Labor activism
- For more detailed information, see our research guide on Labor, work, and industry
- Peace Collections
- Among the department’s collections documenting peace and antiwar movements, SCUA holds the records of several regional peace centers, the AFSC Western Massachusetts branch, and a number of peace activists.
- Political activism
- As part of its collections on political life and culture, SCUA houses collections for individuals and organizations working within the political system or against it, and several relating to Socialism and Communism and Cold-War era Eastern Europe.
- Social Justice
- Social justice is a catchall term that captures the complex relationships between and among a wide variety of movements for economic justice, social and civic equality. In addition to the other collecting areas listed elsewhere on this page, SCUA documents gay rights, Animal rights, prison issues, and social reform in its various guises.
Author Tom Fels and media artist Mark Tribe will speak on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., in Room 2601 on Floor 26, of the Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst. The event, “Peace and War: Assessing the Legacies of Sixties Activism Today,” marks the completion of the eighth annual Social Change Colloquium.
Longtime independent writer and researcher Tom Fels’ new book Buying the Farm: Peace and War on a Sixties Commune (UMass Press, 2012) explores the long history of Montague Farm, north of Amherst, one of the era’s iconic experiments in social change. Before drawing his own conclusions about it in the book, he recounts the farm’s many early contributions to the counterculture, and later the farm’s devolution at the hands of competing farm-family factions, inviting us to question the balance between idealism and effectiveness. “For today’s young,” says Tom Hayden, author of The Long Sixties, “the economic future is far more bleak and global warming an unprecedented threat. Out of necessity, many will be searching for meaningful forms of communal self-sufficiency, healthful food, and renewable energy. Tom Fels’ captivating and profound reflection on one earlier commune, Montague Farm, founded in the 1960s, offers hard-learned reflections, some practical, some eternal, from a time when communes were the chosen path of many.” In the first hour of the colloquium Fels will read from Buying the Farm. There will be a question and answer period following the reading.
Mark Tribe is part of the next generation to be inspired by sixties activism. His Port Huron Project (2006-2009) is a series of reenactments of protest speeches from the New Left movements of the Vietnam era. Enacted at the site of the original event, each speech was delivered by an actor or performance artist. Videos of these performances have been screened on campuses, exhibited in art spaces, and distributed online as open-source media. As Julia Bryan-Wilson wrote in Artforum, in January 2008, “More than just recovering the past, these re-speaking projects use archival speeches to ask questions about the current place of stridency and forceful dissent, and the possibilities of effective, galvanizing political discourse.” In bringing the words of Cesar Chavez, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, and others to the public through contemporary media, Tribe, in this portion of his work, creatively recycles earlier activism to relate it to issues of today. In the second hour of the colloquium, Tribe will show and discuss some of his work.
Delevingne will discuss the mass media’s role in the nuclear power issue and his own responsibility before and after the Three Mile Island accident and Chernobyl disaster. Anna Gyorgy will discuss citizen action and democracy, with international examples based on her work with the Clamshell Alliance, and, more recently, with the strong German anti-nuclear/pro-solar movements.
New England was an epicenter of the antinuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Sparked by the proposed construction of nuclear power plants in Montague, Massachusetts, and Seabrook, New Hampshire, a grass-roots movement blossomed in the region, drawing on a long tradition of non-violent political protest. Shortly after arriving in the United States from his native France in 1975, the photojournalist Lionel Delevingne began covering the antinuclear movement, including the history of civil disobedience and occupation at Seabrook, the aftermath of the Three Mile Island disaster, and other protests from New York to South Carolina and Europe.
Delevingne is the co-author of Drylands, a Rural American Saga (University of Nebraska Press, 2011); Northampton: Reflections on Paradise (Nouveau Monde Press, 1988); and Franco-American Viewpoints (Nouveau Monde Press/Wistariahurst Museum, 1988). His work has been exhibited frequently in the U.S. and abroad and published widely in the mainstream and alternative press, including the New York Times, Newsweek, Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, Le Figaro Magazine, and Die Zeit. Delevingne has participated in many award-winning projects sponsored by National Endowment of the Arts/Humanities (NEA), Massachusetts Endowment for the Humanities, University & College Designers Association (UCDA), University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
Anna Gyorgy was active in the early movement against nuclear power, and is the author-editor of the classic work NO NUKES: Everyone’s Guide to Nuclear Power (South End Press, 1979/1981). She is in the process of returning to the U.S. after 25 years abroad, where she has since 1999 coordinated the multi-lingual website project: “Women and Life on Earth” (www.wloe.org).
The related exhibit “To the Village Square” includes some of the movement’s most memorable images, shot by Delevingne, along with materials drawn from the rich anti-nuclear collections held in the UMass Amherst Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives.
Why These Stories Need to be Told in their Variety, their Intensity and their Honesty” (Nov. 10)
Social justice activist Tom Weiner will give a talk on his recently published book Called to Serve: Stories of Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft. The book is the fruit of years of extensive interviews with chapters for people who made different choices among the available options: to serve, to resist, to leave the country, to become a conscientious objector, or to find a way around the draft altogether as well as a chapter for those who loved, counseled and supported. His presentation will include several of his interview subjects who will share parts of their testimonies. Weiner recently donated the tapes of the interviews and the transcripts to Special Collections and University Archives.
On Friday, October 1, Steve Lerner will talk about his new book Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States. The event will be held from 1.30-3pm in the Gordon Hall, 418 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst.
Across the United States, thousands of people, most of them in low-income or minority communities, live next to heavily polluting industrial sites. Many of them reach a point at which they say “Enough is enough.” In Sacrifice Zones, published by MIT Press in 2010, Steve Lerner tells the stories of twelve communities, from Brooklyn to Pensacola, that rose up to fight the industries and military bases causing disproportionately high levels of chemical pollution.
Steve Lerner is research director of Commonweal and the author of Eco-Pioneers: Practical Visionaries Solving Today’s Environmental Problems.
This event is co-sponsored by the Political Economy Research Institute’s Environmental Working Group and Special Collections & University Archives
On Thurs. October 28, Amy Bass will talk on “Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars? The 1968 Olympics and the Creation of the Black Athlete,” in Room 803, Campus Center, UMass Amherst. The event is co-sponsored by the Feinberg Family Lecture Series organized by the UMass Amherst Department of History, and is free and open to the public.
Amy Bass is professor of history at the College of New Rochelle. She is the author of Not the Triumph But the Struggle: 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete and Those About Him Remained Silent: The Battle over W. E. B. Du Bois. She is the editor of In the Game: Race, Identity, and Sports in the Twentieth Century. Bass has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from Stony Brook University. Her research interests include African American history, modern American culture, identity politics, and historical theory and methodology. She has served as research supervisor for the NBC Olympic unit at the Atlanta, Sydney, Salt Lake, Athens, and Torino Olympic Games.
Dr. Bass’s talk will explore the black power protest at the Mexico City Olympic Games by Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968. Their moment on the victory dais effectively linked American sports and racial politics in the U.S. She will examine how the black power protest in Mexico became the defining image of the 1968 Olympics. She will also explore how the Olympic Project for Human Rights mobilized black athletes to assume a new set of responsibilities alongside their athletic prowess, forcing Americans, and the world, to reconsider the role of sports within civil rights movements.
- Raymond Mungo
- Raymond Mungo was a key figure in the literary world of the late 1960s counterculture. A founder of the Liberation News Service — an alternative press agency that distributed news reflecting a left-oriented, antiwar, countercultural perspective — Mungo moved to Vermont during the summer of 1968 and settled on a commune. A novelist and writer, his first book, Famous Long Ago: My Life and Hard Times With Liberation News Service (1970) is considered a classic account of the countercultural left, and his follow-up Total Loss Farm (1971), based on his experiences on the Packer Corners commune, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Mungo has written several novels, screenplays, dozens of essays, and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles during a literary career of more than four decades. For the past ten years, he has worked as a social worker in Los Angeles, tending primarily to AIDS patients and the severely mentally ill.
- Todd Gitlin
- While a college student in the early 1960s, Todd Gitlin rose to national prominence as a writer and theorist of the New Left. A president of Students for a Democratic Society in 1963-1964, he was a central figure in the civil rights and antiwar movements, helping to organize the first national mobilization against the war in Vietnam, the March on Washington of 1965. After receiving degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of California Berkeley, Gitlin joined the faculty at Columbia University, where he is currently Professor of Journalism and Sociology and Chair of the doctoral program in Communications. Over the past thirty years, he has written extensively on mass communication, the media, and journalism. The author of twelve books, Gitlin is today a noted public intellectual and prominent critic of both the left and right in American politics, arguing that pragmatic coalition building should replace ideological purity and criticizing the willingness of those on both sides to use violence to reach ends to power.
- Talk II:
- Thurs, Oct. 29, 2009, 4 p.m., Blake Slonecker, Assistant Professor of History at Waldorf College, will present a talk, “Living the Moment: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the New Left, 1967-1981.
- Junius Williams
- Writer and activist.
- Parker Donham
- Journalist and former press secretary for Eugene McCarthy
- Tom Hayden
- Fmr President of Students for a Democratic Society
For nearly fifty years, Tom Hayden’s name has been synonymous with social change. As a founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society in 1961, he was author of its visionary call, the Port Huron Statement, the touchstone for a generation of activists. As a Freedom Rider in the Deep South in the early 1960s, he was arrested and beaten in rural Georgia and Mississippi. As a community organizer in Newark’s inner city in 1964, he was part of an effort to create a national poor people’s campaign for jobs and empowerment.
When the Vietnam War invaded American lives, Hayden became a prominent voice in opposition, organizing teach-ins and demonstrations, writing, and making one of the first trips to Hanoi in 1965 to meet with the other side. One of the leaders of the street demonstrations against the war at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, he was one of eight organizers indicted — and eventually acquitted — on charges of conspiracy and incitement.
After the political system opened in the 1970s, Hayden organized the grass-roots Campaign for Economic Democracy in California, which won dozens of local offices and shut down a nuclear power plant through a referendum for the first time. He was elected to the California state assembly in 1982, and the state senate ten years later, serving eighteen years in all, and he has twice served on the national platform committee of the Democratic Party.
- Johnny Flynn, Tim Koster, Sheila Lennon, Karen Smith
As part of its annual Colloquium on Social Change, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives of UMass Amherst presents a panel discussion and readings from a new book, Time it Was: American Stories from the Sixties, a set of short memoirs written by people who participated in a wide variety of Sixties-era movements and events. Join us for speakers Johnny Flynn (American Indian Movement), Sheila Lennon (Woodstock), Tim Koster (Draft Lottery “Winner” and Conscientious Objector), and Karen Manners Smith, who spent five years in a religious cult.
For students, the readings and discussion provide an opportunity to hear stories that move beyond Sixties mythology towards an appreciation of the real — but no less exciting — experiences of young people in that tumultuous era. Non-students and members of the Five College and surrounding communities will find this panel discussion a chance to reconnect with their own memories of the period.
- Eric Mann and Lian Hurst Mann
- Labor/Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles
- Flier announcing the event (pdf)
- Carl Oglesby
- Writer, antiwar activist, former President of SDS
- Tom Fels
- Curator, writer, fmr resident of Montague Farm Commune
- Catherine Blinder
- Activist, writer, fmr resident of Tree Frog Farm Commune
- Flier announcing the event (pdf)
Arvo A. Solander Papers, 1930-1958.
Call no.: MS 587
Graduating from Harvard in the thick of the Great Depression, Arvo A. Solander worked as a civil and sanitary engineer for a variety of state and federal agencies, including the Civil Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the 1930s, as opportunity arose, he filled positions as a road engineer, in the design and construction of water and sewage plants, in pollution control, as a safety engineer in the shellfish industry, and in mosquito control, taking jobs throughout Massachusetts and as far away as Tennessee. After using his talents as an officer in the Sanitary Corps during the Second World War, based primarily in Arkansas, Solander returned home to Massachusetts and opened a private engineering office in South Hadley. He worked as a civil engineer and surveyor until his death in January 1976.
The Arvo Solander Papers consists of twenty-four bound volumes documenting thirty years of varied work as an engineer, including his contributions to the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. Within the bound volumes are a wide range of reports, typescripts, sketches and diagrams, graphs, contracts and design specifications, photographs, and postcards.
- Civil engineers
- Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)
- Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)
- Roads--Design and construction
- Sanitary engineers
- Sewage disposal plants--Design and construction
- United States. Federal Civil Works Administration
- Westfield State Sanatorium
- World War, 1939-1945
- Wrentham State School
- Solander, Arvo A
Types of material
Southeast Asia Collection, 1925-1986.
Call no.: MS 407
The Southeast Asia Collection highlights the regional wars from the 1970s to the 1980s, including a series on Southeast Asian refugees in America, along with materials on regional economic development, especially in the Mekong River Basin. The collection contains hundreds of reports on agricultural and industrial projects in the region, examining everything from the impact of electrification on village life in Thailand to a description of a Soviet-built hospital in Cambodia in 1961, to an assessment of herbicide in Vietnam in 1971.
Collected primarily by Joel Halpern and James Hafner, the collection includes background, field, and situation reports by U.S. Operations Missions and U.S. Agency for International Development; reports, publications, statistics, and background information from other U.S. government agencies, governments of Laos and Thailand, and the United Nations; correspondence, reports, and reference materials of nongovernmental organizations; reports and essays by individuals about Southeast Asia; news releases and newspapers; published and unpublished bibliographies; and interviews with U.S. military personnel. Most material comes from governmental and organizational sources, but there are papers by, and debriefs of, numerous individuals.
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975
- Hafner, James
- Halpern, Joel Martin
Sidney Topol Papers, 1944-1997.
Call no.: MS 374
An innovator and entrepreneur, Sidney Topol was a contributor to several key developments in the telecommunications industries in the latter half of the twentieth century. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts (1947) and an engineer and executive at Raytheon and later Scientific-Atlanta, Topol’s expertise in microwave systems led to the development of the first effective portable television relay links, allowing broadcasts from even remote areas, and his foray into satellite technologies in the 1960s provided the foundation for building the emerging cable television industry, permitting the transmission of transoceanic television broadcasts. Since retiring in the early 1990s, Topol has been engaged in philanthropic work, contributing to the educational and cultural life in Boston and Atlanta.
The product of a pioneer in the telecommunications and satellite industries and philanthropist, this collection contains a rich body of correspondence and speeches, engineering notebooks, reports, product brochures, and photographs documenting Sidney Topol’s forty year career as an engineer and executive. The collection offers a valuable record of Topol’s role in the growth of both corporations, augmented by a suite of materials stemming from Topol’s tenure as Chair of the Electronic Industries Association Advanced Television Committee (ATV) in the 1980s and his service as Co-Chair of a major conference on Competitiveness held by the Carter Center in 1988.
- Boston (Mass.)--Social conditions--20th century
- Cable television
- Electronic Industries Association
- Raytheon Company
- Topol, Sidney
UBCJA Massachusetts State Council Records, 1892-1980.
Call no.: MS 015
One of the largest building trade unions in the U.S., the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America was established in 1881 by a convention of carpenters’ unions. An early member of the American Federation of Labor, the Brotherhood began as a radical organization, but beginning in the 1930s, were typically aligned with the conservative wing of the labor movement.
The records of the Massachusetts State Council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America contain reports and other information generated during the union’s annual conventions as well as copies of the constitution and by-laws, handbooks, and histories of the union.
- Carpenters--Labor unions
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America