The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses over 35,000 volumes reflecting an evolving history of collecting at UMass Amherst. Beginning in the late 1860s with a focus on agriculture and the natural sciences, SCUA has developed into a resource for the study of regional and local history in New England, emphasizing our varied cultural, social, religious, and political histories.
Beyond New England, SCUA has built strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the history of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to the culture of the Cold War: a growing collection of books printed in East Germany and one of the largest collections of materials in the United States from the Solidarity movement in Poland.
All books and periodicals held by SCUA are cataloged in the Library’s online catalog and summary descriptions of most major book collections, but not individual titles, are included in SCUA’s own online catalog, UMarmot.
Selected areas of collecting interest:
Agriculture, horticulture, natural history
The library holds key works in apiculture, entomology, gardening, landscape design, organic agriculture, pomology, sustainability, and viticulture, with numerous works in animal husbandry. Materials date back to the 16th century, however the strength of the collections lies in the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Cookery in New England
The collections of Beatrice A. McIntosh, Athena Savas, and Lynette Foucher, among others, include books, pamphlets, and ephemera relating to the culinary history of New England, including many thousands of cookbooks published by church and community organizations.
European history and culture
Diverse collections ranging from materials on Revolutionary-era Europe, 1789-1848 (the Binet and Brabançonne Collections); Anglo-American Political Economy; twentieth century German history (the Harold Gordon Collection on the Interwar period and the Hans Joachim Ring Collection on East German cinema); and Communist-era Poland (Basia Jakubowska Schlatner Solidarity Collection).
Gay and Lesbian Literature
The centerpiece extensive of our holdings is the collection of gay rights pioneer Barbara Gittings and her partner, Kay Tobin Lahusen, which includes books on the history of homosexuality in America, works by and about gay writers, gay activism, and related topics.
Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press, among others, as well as the poetry libraries of Francis, Wallace Stevens, and Anne Halley. Although the literary collections focus largely on New England writers, SCUA houses fine collections of the works of William Morris and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers.
New England history and culture
Local and regional histories, novels, and other writing about Massachusetts from the eighteenth century to the present. These include an array of election, ordination, installation, dedication, fast-day, mission, farewell, and funeral sermons; Fourth of July orations; and addresses to or by benevolent, cultural, and civic organizations in the Commonwealth. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Valuable collections for the history of antislavery in New England and politics of the left. The John P. Roche and Steven Siteman Collections focus on the American left from the late 19th century through the 1950s, with some European materials and materials from the political right.
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
Henry Gustave Reinsch Papers, 1942-1960.
Call no.: MS 527
Born in Germany in 1888, Henry Gustave Reinsch became an American citizen in 1912, serving in the military during the First World War, marrying an American girl, and starting a family. In 1942, however, two FBI agents showed up at Reinsch’s office, and a year later, Reinsch’s citizenship was revoked when he was accused by the U.S. government of living a double life — publicly loyal to America, privately loyal to Germany. Reinsch appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court and won. His citizenship was reinstated in 1945.
The Reinsch Papers contains newspaper clippings, personal and business correspondence, and official documents pertaining to both citizenship trials, that tell of uncommon wartime experiences.
- Citizenship, Loss of--United States
- Fascists--United States
- German Americans--Washington
- Silver Shirts of America (Organization)
- World War, 1939-1945--German Americans
- Reinsch, Bernice
- Reinsch, Henry Gustave
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Iona Mae Reynolds Papers, 1927-2002.
Call no.: FS 012
After receiving her B.S. from Massachusetts State College in 1941 and M.S. in microbiology from UMass in 1957, Iona Mae Reynolds embarked upon a teaching career of over 30 years in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, later serving as the school’s Assistant Director. In 1985 Reynolds was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for her service to the University as a faculty member and her many years on the associate alumni Board of Directors.
The Reynolds Papers include reunion materials, photographs, and writings, as well as a small collection of UMass memorabilia.
- Massachusetts State College--Alumni and alumnae
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Stockbridge School of Agriculture
- Reynolds, Iona Mae
Types of material
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
Hans Joachim Ring Collection of East German Cinema, 1945-1990.
Call no.: MS 566
Born in Germany on Aug. 4, 1934, Hans Joachim Ring was a film enthusiast with an encyclopedic knowledge of German cinema. During the Second World War, movie theatres became a refuge for the young boy, whose family was forced several times to flee due to Allied bombing. The hardships of post-war life cemented the role of film in his life and as he grew older, he became an ardent collector of materials relating to film.
The Ring Collection includes hundreds of programs, fliers, and handbills published by the official East German film distributors Progress Film-Vertrieb and the Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) and sold to patrons at theatres. This extraordinary assemblage includes several hundred programs covering the immediate post-war period (1945-1950) and hundreds more relating to films released up to and beyond the end of the Communist era. Offering insight into the evolution of graphic design in East Germany and the marketing of film, the collection is one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
- Children's films--Germany, East
- Motion pictures--Germany, East
- Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft
- Progress Film-Vertrieb
- Ring, Hans Joachim
Types of material
- Fliers (Printed matter)
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
Juan Mauricio Rugendas Letters, 1835-1845.
Call no.: MS 271
Born in Germany as Johann Moritz Rugendas, Juan Rugendas was a painter who spent much of his adult life working and traveling in South America. The collection includes a total of 4 poems and 192 personal letters received by Rugendas from four friends during the years 1835 to 1845. Rugendas received the bulk of these letters while living in Valparaíso, Chile, where he found political asylum, and in Lima, Peru from 1842 to 1844.
- Argentina--Description and travel
- Argentina--Social life and customs--19th century
- Painters--South America
- Bustamante, José Javier y Tomás
- Espinosa, Juan, 1804-1871
- Godoy, Juan Gualberto, 1793-1864
- Oro, Domingo de, 1800-1879
- Rugendas, Johann Moritz, 1802-1858
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Part of: Famous Long Ago Archive
Stephen L. Saltonstall Collection, 1962.
Call no.: PH 014
In the summer 1962, future Harvard student Steve Saltonstall became one of the early wave of white northerners who went into the Jim Crow south to work for civil rights. During that summer, he worked with SNCC to organize public accommodations in Cairo, Ill., and with an AFSC crew to help clear brush from a drainage ditch near Circle City, Missouri, encountering local resistance in both places. Saltonstall later became an attorney and currently practices in Vermont.
The Saltonstall collection consists of approximately sixty photographs taken by John Engel during his tour with an AFSC crew during the summer of 1962. While most of the images depict the crew’s work near Circle City, Missouri, six photos document a civil rights rally in Cairo, Ill. The images are available in digital form only.
- American Friends Service Committee
- Cairo (Ill.)
- Circle City (Mo.)
- Civil rights demonstrations--Illinois--Photographs
- Engel, John P
- Saltonstall, Stephen L
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