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
Maida L. Riggs Papers, 1932.
Call no.: FS 095
Maida Leonard Riggs, Class of 1936, taught women’s physical education at UMass before shifting to teacher preparation. Riggs was a beloved member of the UMass faculty for 28 years before her retirement. An adventurous spirit took Riggs around the globe: to Europe with the Red Cross during World War II; as a bicycling tour leader after the war; on a trek across Nepal at age 62; to Russia, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Uzbekistan. After retiring, Riggs, a self-described compulsive traveler, embarked on a more personal journey to explore her roots. Riggs transcribed over 250 letters by her pioneer great-grandmother, Mary Ann Clark Longley, and published them under the title A Small Bit of Bread and Butter: Letters from the Dakota Territory, 1832-1869, an absorbing and sometimes heartbreaking account of life on the frontier. An avid photographer, Riggs took advantage of any opportunity to use her camera. These images, particularly from World War II, tell as many stories as do her correspondence. Her book, Dancing in Paratrooper Boots, contains typed copies of her letters from her days as a Red Cross volunteer during the war.
The Riggs Papers are a rich documentary history of the World War II era, both in America and Europe, as well as an engrossing study (in transcripts) of the American frontier. Included with extensive correspondence and photographs are published and unpublished prose, and Lovingly, Lucy: Vignettes of a Pioneer Woman’s Life, an essay on Riggs’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Dodge Riggs. Additional items in the collection include handwritten journals, one detailing a trip to China and Japan in 1982, and Riggs’s photographs of young children at play taken for her book on child development, Jump to Joy: Helping Children Grow Through Active Play. Riggs also took her genealogical research seriously, meticulously charting her family’s 1638 immigration from England to Massachusetts. With camera in hand, she later traveled to England in search of more evidence of the Longley’s English roots.
- China--Description and travel
- Longley family
- Riggs family
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Alumni and alumnae
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Physical Education
- Women physical education teachers
- World War, 1939-1945
- World War, 1939-1945--Women
- Riggs, Maida L.
Types of material
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)
- Gravestones--New Jersey
- Gravestones--New York (State)
- Rotundo, Barbara
Types of material
Samizdat Collection, 1955-1983.
Call no.: MS 404
In the mid-1970s, the Center for the Study of New Russian Literature in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at UMass Amherst began collecting the self-published and underground literature of the Soviet Union as a means of documenting social and political dissent in the Communist state.
The Samizdat collection includes writings in several genres — chiefly fiction, poetry, drama, and literary, social, and political criticism — in handwritten, photocopied, and printed form, as well as photos, a passport application for Mikhail Baryshnikov, and memorabilia from an American production of one of the plays in the collection.
- Underground literature--Soviet Union
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
Jose A. Soler Papers, 1972-2014.
Call no.: MS 864
A scholar of labor studies and activist, José Soler was born in New York City to a Dominican mother and Puerto Rican father and has been an activist in the cause of Puerto Rican independence and human rights since the 1970s. While a student at the University of New Mexico (BA 1972), Soler emerged as a leader in the Chicano rights organization, the Brown Berets, and while living in Puerto Rico in the late 1970s, he joined the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. Soler has subsequently worked in the labor movement as a shop steward, union organizer with UAW District 65, and labor journalist. As a committed Marxist and prolific writer and editor, he has taken part in causes ranging from anti-imperialist work in the Caribbean and Central America to the anti-apartheid struggle, and he has served on the Executive Board of the US Peace Council. From 1993 until his retirement in 2015, Soler worked as Director of the Arnold M. Dubin Labor Education Center at UMass Dartmouth where he has continued to work on behalf of public education and human rights and national self-determination.
The Soler Papers chronicle over forty years of a life-long activist’s interests and participation in left-wing political, labor, and social justice movements. There is a particular focus on topics relating to socialism and the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico, anti-imperialist movements in South and Central America and Africa, and issues affecting Puerto Rican and Hispanic workers in the United States, New England, and the New York City area. Published and promotional materials such as periodicals, magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets make up the bulk of the collection, with extensive coverage of the concerns of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño, PSP), the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), as well as New Jersey chapters of the unions Communications Workers of America (CWA) and District 65, which eventually joined the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW).
- Communications Workers of America
- Labor unions--New York (State)--New York
- Partido Socialista Puertorriqueño
- United Automobile, Aircraft, and Vehicle Workers of America. District 65
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
Stonewall Center Records, 1962-2005.
Call no.: RG 030/2/6
Following a series of homophobic incidents on the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1985, the Program for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns was established as an administrative center in the Office of Student Affairs. Later renamed after the notorious riots in New York, the Stonewall Center has provided the campus and surrounding community with cultural and educational programming through speakers, films, video and book library, Speakers Bureau on LGBTQ issues, referrals and support, advocacy and community outreach.
The records of the Stonewall Center include documentation of day to day operations, including phone logs, memos, and budget information, as well as posters and press releases for events, publications, campus and external reports, training manuals, surveys, newspaper clippings, and ephemera such as banners, tee-shirts, and buttons.
- Gay college students--Massachusetts
- Gays--Services for
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns
- Stonewall Center
- Yeskel, Felice
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
The Department of Special Collections and University Archives and the Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst co-sponsor an annual colloquium to commemorate W.E.B. Du Bois. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of his birth (February 23), the departments invite a distinguished Speaker to discuss Dr. Du Bois’ life, work, and legacy.
- Performer: Brian Richardson and Pulse Ensemble Theatre
- Title: “A Man for All Times: W.E.B. Du Bois”
This year’s Du Bois Birthday Celebration features performances of “A Man for All Times: W.E.B. Du Bois,” performed by the Pulse Ensemble Theatre. The one-hour one-man show of the 95-year-long life of W.E.B. Du Bois unfolds in a gripping performance by Brian Richardson, and a moving script by writer/director Alexa Kelly. Learn more about Great Barrington’s native son, civil rights leader, and visionary of equality and democracy at this free performance by Pulse Theatre Ensemble.
Additional free performances will be held on Saturday, February 22, 7:00 p.m., at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and on Sunday, February 23, 10:00 a.m., at St. John’s Congregational Church, Springfield, Massachusetts.
- Speaker: Arthur McFarlane II
- Title: “The Life of W.E.B. Du Bois and Its Relevance to Today
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Envrionment
McFarlane, the great-grandson of W.E.B. Du Bois, will discuss the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, civil rights activist, co-founder of the NAACP, and the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard University.
- Speaker: Derrick Alridge
- Title: “Ideas Have Consequences: The Radical Pedagogy of W.E.B. Du Bois”
- Professor in the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Derrick Alridge is author of The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History, lead editor of Message in the Music: Hip Hop, History, and Pedagogy, and Distinguished Lecturer for the Association of the Study of African American Life and History. He is currently completing an intellectual history of Hip Hop as a social movement called The Hip Hop Mind: An Intellectual History of the Social Consciousness of a Generation (University of Wisconsin Press) and is conducting research for a book on the role of education in the civil rights movement.
An educational and intellectual historian, Alridge is associate editor of the Journal of African American History and served as Director of the Institute for African American Studies. Alridge’s areas of scholarship include the history of African America education, African American intellectual history and the history of ideas, and civil rights studies. His work has been published in the Journal of African American History, the Journal of Negro Education, and teh History of Education Quarterly, among others.
- Speaker: Bettina Aptheker
- Title: “W.E.B. Du Bois: Personal Stories/Political Reflections”
- Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies and History
University of California, Santa Cruz
Bettina Aptheker is Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies and History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she has taught for more than 30 years. Her most recent book is a memoir, Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech and Became a Feminist Rebel (2006). It contains many stories of her early friendship with W.E.B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois. Other major books include, The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis (1976; 2nd edition, 1999); Woman’s Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982) and Tapestries of Life: Women’s Work, Women’s Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989). She is the biographer of Shirley Graham Du Bois for Notable American Women, and is currently writing a critical essay on Graham Du Bois’ creative career as an opera composer, playwright, biographer, and novelist. She is also at work on a major research project: “Queering the History of the American Left: 1940s-1980s.”
- Speaker: Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
- Title: “The Many Lives of W.E.B. Du Bois in the New From Slavery to Freedom”
- Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies
Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham has been chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard since 2006. She also served as Acting-Director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute in the Spring 2008. A prolific author, she is co-editor with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of the African American National Biography (2008)—a multivolume-reference work that presents African American history through the lives of people, and she and Gates also co-edited African American Lives (2004), which served as the forerunner to the AANB. Professor Higginbotham was the editor-in-chief of The Harvard Guide to African-American History (2001) with general editors Darlene Clark Hine, and Leon Litwack. She also co-edited History and Theory: Feminist Research, Debates and Contestations (1997).
Professor Higginbotham is the author of Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church: 1880-1920 (1993), which won numerous book prizes, most notably from the American Historical Association, the American Academy of Religion, the Association of Black Women Historians, and the Association for Research on Non-Profit and Voluntary Organizations. Righteous Discontent was also included among the New York Times Book Review’s Notable Books of the Year in 1993 and 1994.
- Speaker: Howard Dodson
- Chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
New York Public Library
A scholar, historian, educator, curator, consultant, and lecturer, Howard Dodson, has committed his professional life to the retrieval, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of the history and culture of African and African American peoples.
Since 1984, Dodson has served as chief of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the world’s leading and most prestigious repository for materials and artifacts on black cultural life. Under Dodson’s leadership, the Schomburg Center has developed into the world’s most comprehensive public research library devoted exclusively to documenting and interpreting African diasporan and African history and culture.
Dodson’s books include Becoming American: The African American Journey (Sterling Publishing, Inc., 2009), In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience (National Geographic Press, 2004), Jubilee: The Emergence of African-American Culture (National Geographic Press, 2002), and The Black New Yorkers: Four Hundred Years of African American History (Wiley, 2000).
- Speaker: Arnold Rampersad
- Department of English, Stanford University
A distinguished biographer and literary critic, Arnold Rampersad is the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at Stanford University. A scholar of race and American literature and the Harlem Renaissance, Rampersad has written books on W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and most recently, Ralph Ellison. He has been elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and was a 1991 recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant.” He is a recipient of fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Professor Rampersad has recently published Ralph Ellison, a biography of the novelist (1914-1994). His other books include The Art and Imagination of W.E.B. Du Bois (1976); The Life of Langston Hughes (2 vols., 1986, 1988); Days of Grace: A Memoir (1993), co-authored with Arthur Ashe; and Jackie Robinson: A Biography (1997). In addition, he has edited several volumes including Collected Poems of Langston Hughes; the Library of America edition of works by Richard Wright, with revised individual editions of Native Son and Black Boy; and (as co-editor with Deborah McDowell) Slavery and the Literary Imagination. He was also co-editor, with Shelley Fisher Fishkin, of the Race and American Culture book series published by Oxford University Press. His teaching covers such areas as nineteenth and twentieth-century American literature; American autobiography; race and American literature; and African-American literature.
- Speaker:James Turner
- Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University
- Poster (pdf)
- Speaker: Clayborne Carson
- Stanford University, editor, Papers of Martin Luther King
- Press release (pdf)
- Speaker: Robert Hill
- UCLA, editor, Papers of Marcus Garvey
- Press release (Word file)
- Speaker: John H. Bracey
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Horace Clarence Boyer
- Music, UMass Amherst
- Esther Terry
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Phil Zuckerman, “Du Bois, Religion, and The Souls of Black Folk“
- Sociology, Pitzer College
- David Blight, “A Poet’s Sense of the Past: The Souls of Black Folk as History”
- History, Yale University
- Ernest Allen, “The Education of Black Folk: The Educational Philosophies of W.E.B. Du Bois”
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Gerald Friedman, “Reconstructing the Color Line: The New Economics of Race in the Post-bellum South”
- Economics, UMass Amherst
- Esther Cooper Jackson
- Co-founder, Freedomways
- James Jackson
- Editor, Daily Worker
- Abbott Simon
- Executive director, Peace Information Center and co-defendant with Dr. Du Bois
- Speaker: David Levering Lewis
- History, Rutgers University
- Speaker: Ruth Simmons
- President, Smith College
- Speaker: Ernest Allen
- Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst
- Speaker: Randolph W. Bromery
- President, Springfield College and former Chancellor, UMass Amherst
- Speaker: David Levering Lewis
- History, Rutgers University
- David Du Bois
- William Strickland
- Michael Thelwell
- Speaker: Herbert Aptheker
- Editor, Complete Published Works of W.E.B. Du Bois
- Listen to a recording of Aptheker’s lecture.