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Oral history

Class of 1889 in front of Durfee Greenhouse
Oral historian at the First National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, 1977. Photo by Diana Mara Henry

However rich our archival collections may be, there are always parts of the historical record that never make it onto the page. Memories, emotions, and attitudes are notoriously difficult to document, and there a variety of all-too human reasons that people choose not to write down every detail of their lives. As a result, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has been actively engaged in recording oral histories as a way of capturing a more complete record of the many voices and diverse experiences that comprise .

SCUA first ventured into oral historical work in the mid-1970s with efforts to document the history of the university prior to the massive expansion of the previous decade, and the department has subsequently engaged in oral historical projects to document the university’s 125th and 150th anniversaries. In the past decade, SCUA has extended its work to documenting the histories of persons represented in its collections and to a broader array of projects documenting the history and experience of social change and the people and cultures on New England. Furthermore, SCUA is the repository for hundreds of oral histories recorded by other people, ranging in scope from interviews with Franco-Americans in the 1980s, 20th century Argentine political figures, and former residents of the Quabbin towns in Western Massachusetts.

Many of SCUA’s oral histories are available online through our digital repository Credo. These include audio and video recordings and, in a few cases, they may be fully transcribed.

Supporting material

For donors of oral histories:

SCUA is happy to accept donations of oral histories that fit within its collection policy.

Although SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — we typically prefer to receive interviews in the format in which they were recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer uncompressed digital files, however we appreciate receiving a compressed derivative (e.g., mp3 for audio, mp4 for video). When available, transcripts in print and electronic form are a very valuable addition.

Learn more:

Clark, John G., d. 1972

John G. Clark Papers

1960-1969
7 boxes, 2 vols. 3.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 499
Image of John G. Clark and H. P. Hood milk truck
John G. Clark and H. P. Hood milk truck

With a life long interest in politics, John G. Clark of Easthampton, Massachusetts worked on a number of campaigns before running for office himself. He ran for state senator in 1958, but lost in the Democratic primary. Two years later he ran again, this time for state representative of the 3rd Hampshire District, and won. Clark served in the State House of Representative for eight years until he was appointed clerk of the district court in Northampton and chose not to run for reelection.

While this collection is small, it is packed with campaign materials, letters, position statements, speeches, and press releases that together offer a good sense of the political climate in Massachusetts during the 1960s, especially issues of local concern for Hampshire County. Four letters from a young neighbor written while serving in Vietnam provide a personal account of the war.

Subjects

  • Massachusetts--History
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975

Contributors

  • Clark, John G., d. 1972
Dalsimer, Susan

Susan Dalsimer Papers

1969-1970
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 578
Image of Steve Diamond, Ray Mungo, and Susan Dalsimer, ca.1969
Steve Diamond, Ray Mungo, and Susan Dalsimer, ca.1969

Famous Long Ago launched the literary career of Raymond Mungo with a splash, but even before the book had reached the shelves, he turned to his next project. In October 1969, Mungo began planning for a memoir of his life at the Packer Corners commune. Soon entitled Total Loss Farm, the book would become a classic in the literature of the 1960s counterculture. Signing a contract in November with E.P. Dutton, he worked with a young and sympathetic editor, Susan Stern (later Susan Dalsimer).

This small, but rich collection consists of a series of letters between Raymond Mungo and his editor at E.P. Dutton, Susan Stern, regarding his ideas on writing and life. Beginning in October 1969 with editorial commentary on Famous Long Ago and Mungo’s additions, the Dalsimer Papers offer insight into the development of Total Loss Farm from concept to printed page.

Gift of Susan Dalsimer, Nov. 2008

Subjects

  • Bloom, Marshall, 1944-1969
  • Communal living--Massachusetts
  • Communal living--Vermont
  • Diamond, Stephen
  • McLardy, Peter
  • Montague Farm Community (Mass.)
  • Mungo, Raymond, 1946- . Famous Long Ago
  • Mungo, Raymond, 1946- . Total Loss Farm
  • Nineteen Sixties
  • Packer Corners Community (Vt.)
  • Simon, Peter, 1947-

Contributors

  • Dalsimer, Susan
  • Mungo, Raymond, 1946-

Types of material

  • Photographs
Delevingne, Lionel

Lionel Delevingne Photograph Collection

ca.1975-1995
2 boxes 1 linear feet
Call no.: PH 047
Image of Joan of Seabrook
Joan of Seabrook

Born and raised in France, the photojournalist Lionel Delevingne studied education at l’Ecole Normale in Paris, but settled permanently in the United States in 1975. Based at first in Northampton, Mass., he became a prolific photographer of American social movements while working for the Valley Advocate and other publications, covering the early years of the Clamshell Alliance and the antinuclear movement in considerable depth. His work has been exhibited frequently and published widely in the mainstream and alternative press, including the New York Times, Le Figaro Magazine, Die Zeit, Newsweek, Washington Post Magazine, Mother Jones, and Vanity Fair.

The Delevingne collection includes remarkable visual documentation of the antinuclear movement of the 1970s and beyond, including some of the its most iconic images. Beginning with coverage of the Seabrook occupation, Delevingne covered the movement as it spread throughout the northeastern U.S. and internationally. The collection includes exhibition prints, prints for publication, and digitized images ranging in date from the mid-1970s through 1990s. Copyright in the images has been retained by Delevingne.

Subjects

  • Antinuclear movement--United States
  • Clamshell Alliance
  • Photojournalists
  • Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (N.H.)

Contributors

  • Delevingne, Lionel

Types of material

  • Photographs
Du Bois Fellowship Recipients

2016

John Hyland (English, University of Buffalo and Haverford College)
“The forest of melody: Black Diasporic Poetics and the Sounding of the Environment”
Nicholas T. Rinehart (English, Harvard University)
“‘These illegitimate children of my thought’: The dramatic work and criticism of W.E.B Du Bois”

2015

Nneka Dennie (Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst)
“Black Male Feminism and the Evolution of Du Boisian Thought, 1903-1920”
Crystal Webster (Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst)
“‘The Transfiguring Soul of Childhood’: Du Bois and the Social, Political, and Cultural Role of Black Children”

2014

Brandon Byrd (Assistant Professor of History, Mississippi State University and University of North Carolina)
“The Problem of Haiti as it Stands Today:” W.E.B. Du Bois on the U.S. Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934″
Donald Geesling (Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst)
“Black Song and the Talented Tenth: The Musical Imagination of W.E.B. Du Bois, 1902-1942”

2013

Horace D. Ballard Jr. (Public Humanities, History of Art, and American Studies, Brown University)
“Ethics and Aesthetics: Citizenship and Form”
Emahunn Raheem Ali Campbell (Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst)
“W.E.B. Du Bois’s Literary Interventions on Black Criminality”
Daniel Chard (History, UMass Amherst)
Exploring the history of ’60s-’70s radical groups allows Chard to investigate the origins of the first police institutions in the U.S. dedicated to domestic “counter-terrorism”

2012

J. Anthony Guillory (Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst)
“The Physical Uplift of Race”
Desmond Jagmohan (Government, Cornell)
“Creating Community, Cultivating Citizens, and Interrogating Jim Crow: The Political Thought of Booker T. Washington”

2011

Markeysha Davis (Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst)
“Daring propaganda for the beauty of the Human Mind’:
Redefinition and Reaffirmation of the New Black Self in Poetry and Drama of the 1960s and 1970s”
Ricky Fayne (English, Northwestern)
“‘The Shadow of a Mighty Negro Past’: Du Bois and the Re-memory of Africa in to the Black America”
Girls Club of Greenfield (Mass.)

Girls Club of Greenfield Records

1895-1995
21 boxes 27 linear feet
Call no.: MS 379

Founded in 1895, the Girls Club of Greenfield provides high quality early care and educational services to the girls of Franklin County, Massachusetts, and advocates for the rights of children and their families. During the school year, the Club offers diverse programming, ranging from an infant room and preschool to after school activities that promote teamwork, community spirit, social skills, and confidence. Since 1958, they have also operated a summer camp, Lion Knoll, in Leyden.

The records of the Girls Club of Greenfield include by-laws, annual reports, reports and meeting minutes of the Board of Directors, correspondence, and ledgers and account books. Also contains program files for daycare, summer camp, education worker programs, and others, personnel records, membership and committee lists, newsletters, press releases, ledgers, account books, scrapbooks, news clippings, photographs, slides, and artifacts.

Subjects

  • Girls--Massachusetts--Greenfield--Social conditions
  • Girls--Massachusetts--Greenfield--Social life and customs
  • Girls--Massachusetts--Greenfield--Societies and clubs--History
  • Greenfield (Mass.)--Social conditions
  • Greenfield (Mass.)--Social life and customs

Contributors

  • Girls Club of Greenfield (Greenfield, Mass.)

Types of material

  • Account books
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
Graphic Communications International Union. Local 48B

GCIU Local 48B Records

1952-1985
3 boxes 1.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 059

Local of the Graphic Communications International Union that represented over 1000 bindery workers in the Holyoke, Massachusetts area. Records include detailed minutes, shop reports, committee reports, reports of delegates sent to the Holyoke Central Labor Union and national conventions, copies of agreements, notes on contract negotiations, copies of three newsletters, and subject files that document activities as well as the emergence of factionalism within the union.

Subjects

  • Carrying on
  • Collective bargaining--Paper industry--Massachusetts --Holyoke--History--Sources
  • Holyoke (Mass.)--Economic conditions--Sources
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts--Holyoke
  • National Blank Book Co.--History
  • Old unionist
  • Paper industry workers--Labor unions--Massachusetts--Holyoke

Contributors

  • Graphic Arts International Union. Local 48B
  • International Brotherhood of Bookbinders. Local 48

Types of material

  • Newsletters
Hapgood, Beth

Beth Hapgood Papers

1789-2005
67 boxes 35 linear feet
Call no.: MS 434
Image of Beth Hapgood and members of the Brotherhood, ca.1969
Beth Hapgood and members of the Brotherhood, ca.1969

Daughter of a writer and diplomat, and graduate of Wellesley College, Beth Hapgood has been a spiritual seeker for much of her life. Her interests have led her to become an expert in graphology, a student in the Arcane School, an instructor at Greenfield Community College, and a lecturer on a variety of topics in spiritual growth. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Hapgood befriended Michael Metelica, the central figure in the Brotherhood of the Spirit (the largest commune in the eastern states during the early 1970s) as well as Elwood Babbitt, a trance medium, and remained close to both until their deaths.

The Hapgood Papers contain a wealth of material relating to the Brotherhood of the Spirit and the Renaissance Community, Metelica, Babbitt, and other of Hapgood’s varied interests, as well as 4.25 linear feet of material relating to the Hapgood family.

Subjects

  • Brotherhood of the Spirit
  • Channeling (Spiritualism)
  • Communal living--Massachusetts
  • Graphology
  • Hapgood family--Correspondence
  • Massachusetts--Social life and customs--20th century
  • Mediums--Massachusetts
  • Nineteen sixties--Social aspects
  • Occultism--Social aspects
  • Popular culture--History--20th century
  • Renaissance Community
  • Rock music--1971-1980
  • Warwick (Mass.)--History

Contributors

  • Babbitt, Elwood, 1922-
  • Boyce, Neith, 1872-1951
  • Hapgood, Beth--Correspondence
  • Hapgood, Charles H
  • Hapgood, Elizabeth Reynolds
  • Hapgood, Hutchins, 1869-1944
  • Hapgood, Norman, 1868-1937
  • Metelica, Michael
Heath, Gordon, 1918-1991

Gordon Heath Papers

1913-1992
44 boxes 22.75 linear feet
Call no.: MS 372 and 372 bd
Image of Gordon Heath, Paris
Gordon Heath, Paris

A multi-talented performer, the African American expatriate Gordon Heath was variously a stage and film actor, musician, director, producer, founder of the Studio Theater of Paris, and co-owner of the Parisian nightclub L’Abbaye. Born in New York City, Heath became involved in acting as a teenager and enjoyed a career that spanned post-World War II Broadway to the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s. In addition to his many roles on film and stage, he and his partner Lee Payant enjoyed success as recording artists in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Heath collection includes personal and professional correspondence, scrapbooks containing photos and clippings from assorted television and film productions in addition to songs, poetry, and reviews of plays or playbills from productions he attended. The Papers also contain art work, sheet music, personal and production photographs, and drafts of his memoirs.

Subjects

  • Abbaye (Nightclub : Paris, France)
  • African American actors--France--Paris--History
  • African American singers--France--Paris--History
  • African Americans in the performing arts--History
  • African-American theater--History--20th century
  • Baldwin, James, 1924-
  • Chametzky, Jules
  • Dodson, Owen, 1914-
  • Expatriate musicians--France--Paris--History
  • Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967
  • Musicians--United States--History
  • Nightclubs--France--Paris--History
  • Paris (France)--Intellectual life--20th century
  • Payant, Lee--Correspondence
  • Primus, Pearl
  • Rive gauche (Paris, France)--Intellectual life--20th century
  • Studio Theater of Paris
  • Theater--Production and direction--France--Paris--History

Contributors

  • Abramson, Doris E
  • Heath, Gordon, 1918-1991

Types of material

  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Scripts
  • Sheet music
  • Sketches
Holland, W. L. (William Lancelot), 1907-

W. L. Holland Papers

1922-2008
4 boxes 5.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 782
Image of W.L. Holland, 1938
W.L. Holland, 1938

Born in New Zealand in 1907, Bill Holland first traveled to Japan at the age of 21 to take part in the conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations, beginning over thirty years of association with the organization. During his time at IPR, Holland held a number of leadership positions, including Research Secretary (1933-1944), Secretary-General (1946-1960), and editor of its periodicals Far Eastern Survey and Pacific Affairs. He took leave from the IPR twice: to study for a MA in economics under John Maynard Keynes at Cambridge (1934) and, during the Second World War, to become acting director of the Office of War Information in Chungking, China. Founded on an internationalist philosophy as a forum to discuss relations between Pacific nations, the IPR was targeted under the McCarthy-era McCarran act during the 1950s, accused of Communist sympathies. After political pressure led the IPR to disband in 1960, Holland accepted a position on faculty with the newly created Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia (1961-1972), helping to lead that department to international prominence. He remained in BC until the death of his wife Doreen in 1990, after which he settled in Amherst to live with his only child, Patricia G. Holland. Holland died in Amherst in May 2008.

The Holland Papers are a dense assemblage of correspondence of Bill Holland, his wife Doreen, and their family, from his first trip abroad in the 1920s through the time of his death. Although largely personal in nature, the letters offer important insight into Holland’s travel in pre-war Asia, his work with the IPR, the war, and the of the 1950s. The collection also includes a wealth of photographs, including two albums documenting trips to Japan, China, and elsewhere 1929-1933.

Subjects

  • China--Description and travel
  • Japan--Description and travel
  • World War, 1939-1945

Contributors

  • Holland, Doreen P.
  • Institute of Pacific Relations

Types of material

  • Photographs