Literature and the arts play a vital role in the culture and traditions of New England. Western Massachusetts in particular has had a rich history of fostering writers and poets, musicians, dancers, and actors. The Department of Special Collections and University Archives seeks to document not only the lives and work of writers and performers in our region, but the creative and artistic process; showing not just the inspiration, but the perspiration as well.
- Arts and arts management
- Significant collections under the National Arts Policy Archive and Library include materials from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and the Arts Extension Service.
- SCUA houses significant collections for the poets Robert Francis, Madeleine de Frees, and Anne Halley, as well as small collections for William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. The records of the Massachusetts Review are an important literary resource.
- Prose writing
- Collections of note include the papers of writers William J. Lederer (author of The Ugly American, Nation of Sheep, and Their Own Worst Enemy), William Manchester (The Death of a President and American Caesar), Jodi Picoult (many novels from Songs of the Humpback Whale in 1992 to The Storyteller in 2013), Mary Doyle Curran (The Parish and the Hill).
- Journalists and photojournalists associated with traditional print and new media, including an important collection for the Liberation News Service, a media service for the alternative press, and the Social Change Periodicals Collection, which includes alternative and radical small press publications. The papers of Sidney Topol provide insight into the technical development of cable television.
- Literary criticism and linguistics
- The papers of literary scholars associated with the University; records of the Massachusetts Review.
- Performing arts
- The vibrant performing arts community in western Massachusetts is well represented in SCUA through groups ranging from the Arcadia Players Baroque music ensemble to theater troupes such as Double Edge Theater, the Valley Light Opera, and the New World Theater. Among the most significant national collections are the Roberta Uno Asian Women Playwrights Collection and the papers of African American expatriate actor and director Gordon Heath, while the James Ellis Theatre Collection includes nearly 8,000 printed volumes on the English and American stage, 1750-1915, along with numerous broadsides, graphics, and some manuscript materials. Musical collections include the papers of Philip Bezanson and Charles Bestor, the score collection of Julian Olevsky, and the Katanka Fraser Political Music Collection.
Within its holdings, SCUA houses collections of the published works of W.E.B. Du Bois, Robert Francis, Anne Halley, William J. Lederer, William Manchester, Thomas Mann, William Morris, Wallace Stevens, and William Butler Yeats, as well as the personal poetry libraries of Halley, Francis, and Stevens. The department also has an extensive collection of Science Fiction magazine fiction and Scottish literature.
Robert and Martha Perske Papers, 1964-2005.
Call no.: MS 772
While serving with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines during World War II, the teenaged Bob Perske became aware of the vulnerable and disabled in society and turned his life toward advocacy on their behalf. Studying for the ministry after returning to civilian life, Perske was appointed chaplain at the Kansas Neurological Institute, serving children with intellectual disabilities for 11 years, after which he became a full-time street, court, and prison worker — a citizen advocate — laboring in the cause of deinstitutionalization and civil rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those caught in the legal system. After Bob married his wife Martha in 1971, the two became partners in work, with Martha often illustrating Bob’s numerous books and articles. In 2002, Perske was recognized by the American Bar Association as the only non-lawyer to ever receive the Paul Hearne Award for Services to Persons with Disabilities.
The Perske Papers contains a fifty year record of published and unpublished writings by Bob Perske on issues surrounding persons with disabilities, along with correspondence, photographs, and other materials relating to the Perskes’ activism. The correspondence includes a particularly rich set of letters with a fellow advocate for persons with disabilities, Robert R. Williams.
- Mental retardation--Social aspects
- People with disabilities--Deinstitutionalization
- People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
- Perske, Martha
- Williams, Robert R.
Types of material
Each fall, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives sponsors a colloquium focusing on a topic in social change. Like SCUA’s collections, these colloquia cover a broad terrain, touching on a variety of issues in social justice, equality, and democracy.
Colloquia are free and open to the public.
November 3, 2014, from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Lower Level, W.E.B. Du Bois Library
“A Long and Winding Road: The legacy of the back-to-the-land communes of the 1960s,” will explore the nearly forty year history of some of the region’s best known communes: Montague Farm and Wendell Farms nearby in Massachusetts, and Packer Corners and Tree Frog Farms in neighboring southern Vermont. All were partners in the back-to-the-land movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s; all have survived into the current era. The colloquium’s four speakers, who have each spent much of the intervening years on or near one of the four farms, represent each of these idealistic enterprises, as well as offering their own specific views. What have they learned from their long years in service to their ideals? Was the altruism of the counterculture era borne out in the experiences they faced later? Would they recommend the route of alternative life to the youth and radicals of today?
The sources of inspiration that led to the creation of these communities and the evidence of their later influence are documented by SCUA. The Famous Long Ago archive was formed to collect, preserve, and make available materials relating to the communes at Montague Farm, Packer Corners, Johnson Pasture, Wendell Farm, and Tree Frog Farm. Collections range from from the papers of writers Steve Diamond, Raymond Mungo, and Jonathan Maslow to those of anti-war activists Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner; from the records of the Liberation News Service, the organization that spawned the farms, to the Alternative Energy Coalition, and Musicians United for Safe Energy, later enterprises of the region’s communal farmer-activists. It also includes the photographic collections of farm parent Roy Finestone, photojournalist Lionel Delevingne, and former head of a neighboring Montague ashram, Stephen Josephs.
Daniel Keller, filmmaker, farmer: Wendell Farm, Green Mountain Post Films
Verandah Porche, writer, teacher: Packer Corners Farm, Monteverdi Artists Collaborative
John Scagliotti, filmmaker, LGBT activist: Tree Frog Farm, Kopkind Colony
Susan Mareneck, artist, teacher, social worker: Early resident and longtime neighbor of Montague Farm, Montague Catholic Social Ministries
Timothy Miller, University of Kansas, scholar of intentional communities, author of The Hippies and American Values (1991), The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America (1998), The Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond (1999)
Verandah Porche, a forty-year resident of Packer Corners Farm (known to the reading public, through the works of Ray Mungo and others, as Total Loss Farm) works as a poet-in-residence, performer, and writing partner. Based in rural Vermont since 1968, she has published three volumes of poetry – Sudden Eden (Verdant Books), The Body’s Symmetry (Harper and Row) and Glancing Off (See Through Books) – and has pursued an alternative literary career, creating collaborative writing projects in nontraditional settings: literacy and crisis centers, hospitals, factories, nursing homes, senior centers, a 200 year-old Vermont tavern, and an urban working class neighborhood. Broad Brook Anthology, a play for voices, honors the lives of elders in her home town of Guilford, Vermont. Listening Out Loud documents her residency with Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut. Come Over is a CD of songs written with her neighbor Patty Carpenter, performed by the Dysfunctional Family Jazz band. She has read her work on NPR stations, in the Vermont State House, and at the Guggenheim Museum. In 1998 the Vermont Arts Council presented her with its Award of Merit, and Marlboro College, in 2012, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Susan Mareneck arrived in the Pioneer Valley in the mid 1960s, and spent her college years engaged in civil rights and anti-war activities, majoring Art and Political Science. After experiencing Montague Farm for several months in its early days, she settled into an unrenovated 18th century farmhouse in nearby Leverett, a building without heat or running water. Improving it slowly but concertedly over the years, she returned regularly to the house for vacations and summers, and has remained a neighbor of Montague Farm and a member of its extended family ever since. Decamping after several years for a graduate degree in art, and finally a move to New York, she spent 30 years making art and teaching it at the Spence School and the Convent of the Sacred Heart, on New York’s upper east side, before returning to western Massachusetts in 2009 to work full time with families in Turners Falls as Executive Director at Montague Catholic Social Ministries. Living three blocks from Ground Zero, Susan saw her world change forever on 9/11. Her turn from education to social work reflects her long interest in non-profits and the role of faith in social change. Her work in that area has included projects directed toward employment, racism, educational policy, and prisons. She has exhibited, lectured, and published in the visual arts and historic preservation, and remains active in organizing the local history of her town, North Leverett, Mass.
John Scagliotti is an Emmy Award-winning American film director, producer, and radio broadcaster. He has received honors for his work on documentaries about LGBT issues including Before Stonewall and After Stonewall. During the 1970s, Scagliotti was the News and Public Affairs Director of the pioneering radio station WBCN-FM in Boston. For his work in radio, he was awarded two Major Armstrong Awards. In the early 1980s, he attended New York University Film School and went on to create In the Life for PBS, the first gay and lesbian national television series in the United States. The Scagliotti-produced documentary film Before Stonewall (1985) won the Audience Award at L.A. Outfest and two Emmies. Scagliotti directed a companion piece, After Stonewall, which won a Golden Eagle and the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Scagliotti is openly gay. His partner for 24 years was the late, highly regarded journalist Andrew Kopkind. Together they produced the radio show The Lavender Hour. Scagliotti is a longtime resident of the Kopkind Colony, an activist community housed at Tree Frog Farm, a close neighbor to Packer Corners Farm in Guilford, Vermont. The Kopkind Colony holds an educational summer residency program for nonpartisan, independent journalists and community organizers. In addition, the Colony fosters public education through publication of its lectures and the hosting of open forums on contemporary issues held at Tree Frog Farm and in other educational centers around the country.
Daniel Keller, a founder of Wendell Farm, in Wendell Massachusetts, has lived there, keeping it a working organic farm, since its inception in 1969. In collaboration with Charles Light, a former communard of the Johnson Pasture and Montague Farm, Keller’s Green Mountain Post Films, with offices in nearby Turners Falls, has produced and distributed award-winning films for more than twenty-five years. GMP’s first documentary Lovejoy’s Nuclear War, released in 1975, about Montague Farm activist Sam Lovejoy, was one of the first films to question the nuclear energy policy of the United States. Since then GMP Films has continued to produce movies that explore social issues, Its films have been used as educational and organizational tools for activists working on peace, veteran, nuclear, environmental, and other related issues. GMP films include: The Last Resort (1978), and Save the Planet (1979), both on nuclear issues; The Secret Agent (1983), on Agent Orange; and Unknown Secrets (1990), on the reaction of artists and writers to the arrest, trial, and execution of accused spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. For Vietnam Experience Keller and Light teamed up with musician Country Joe McDonald to bring viewers closer to the reality of the Vietnam War. Cannabis Rising is an early investigation into the issues surrounding marijuana today so much in the news.
Timothy Miller is a longtime student of communal living, professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas, and author of The Hippies and American Values (1991), The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America (1998), The Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond (1999). His course offerings include a history of intentional communities in America; American religious history; and an overview of new and alternative religious movements in the United States. Miller’s major research focus is the history of intentional communities in America, especially in the twentieth century. For his work in this area, Professor Miller has been recognized by the Communal Studies Association as a distinguished scholar. Additional areas of research interest include American religious history, new and alternative religious movements in the United States, and religion in Kansas. Professor Miller also coordinates the Religion in Kansas Oral History Project. His most recent publications include The Encyclopedic Guide to American Intentional Communities (Richard Couper Press), Spiritual and Visionary Communities: Out to Save the World (Ashgate Publishing), as well as the second edition of The Hippies and American Values (University of Tennessee Press), and the second edition of Following In His Steps: A Biography of Charles M. Sheldon (University of Tennessee Press). Through Miller’s work on American communes, he has long been familiar with the extended farm family at the center of the current symposium. In a recent book review, taking in the larger field in which he is involved, he wrote, “…it can be safely said that Montague Farm has the best published record of any of the communes.”
Edward H. Abbe Papers, 1828-2004.
Call no.: MS 736
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1915 and raised largely in Hampton, Va., Edward Abbe seemed destined to be an engineer. The great nephew of Elihu Thomson, an inventor and founding partner in General Electric, and grandson of Edward Folger Peck, an early employee of a precursor of that firm, Abbe came from a family with a deep involvement in electrification and the development of street railways. After prepping at the Rectory and Kent Schools, Abbe studied engineering at the Sheffield School at Yale, and after graduation in 1938, accepted a position with GE. For 36 years, he worked in the Industrial Control Division in New York and Virginia, spending summers at the family home on Martha’s Vineyard. After retirement in 1975, he and his wife Gladys traveled frequently, cruising both the Atlantic and Pacific.
Ranging from an extensive correspondence from his high school and college days to materials relating to his family’s involvement in engineering, the Abbe collection offers an in depth perspective on an educated family. An avid traveler and inveterate keeper, Ed Abbe gathered a diverse assemblage of letters, diaries, and memorabilia relating to the history of the Abbe, Peck, Booth, Gifford, and Boardman families. The collection is particularly rich in visual materials, including albums and photographs, depicting homes, travel, and family life over nearly a century.
- Abbe family
- Boardman family
- Booth family
- Electrical engineers
- General Electric
- Gifford family
- Kent School--Students
- Peck family
- Rectory School--Students
- Yale University--Students
- Abbe, Edward H
- Abbe, Gladys Howard
- Abbe, William Parker
- Peck, Edward F
- Peck, Mary Booth
Types of material
- Letters (Correspondence)
Doris E. Abramson Papers, ca.1930-2007.
Call no.: FS 127
After earning her masters degree from Smith College in 1951, Doris Abramson (class of 1949) returned to UMass in 1953 to become instructor in the English Department, remaining at her alma mater through a long and productive career. An historian of theatre and poet, she was a founding member of the Speech Department, Theatre Department, and the Massachusetts Review. In 1959, a Danforth grant helped Abramson pursue doctoral work at Columbia. Published in 1969, her dissertation, Negro Playwrights in the American Theatre, 1925-1969, was a pioneering work in the field. After her retirement, she and her partner of more than 40 years, Dorothy Johnson, ran the Common Reader Bookshop in New Salem.
An extensive collection covering her entire career, Abramson’s papers are a valuable record of the performing arts at UMass, her research on African American playwrights, her teaching and directing, and many other topics relating to her diverse interests in literature and the arts.
- African-American theater
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Theater
- Abramson, Doris E.
William A. Adams Daybook, 1876-1878.
Call no.: MS 624 bd
During the 1870s, William A. Adams maintained a blacksmithing shop close to the intersection of Walnut and Hickory Streets in Springfield, Mass. His trade ran from farriery to repairing iron work, wheels, and wagons, and situated as he was near the southern end of Watershops Pond, one of the industrial centers of the city, his customers ranged from local residents to manufacturing firms, the city, and the Armory.
The Adams account book contains approximately 150 pages containing brief records of blacksmithing work for a range of customers located in the immediate area. Among the more names mentioned are the grocers Perkins and Nye, W. and E.W. Pease Co., J. Kimberley and Co., and Common Councilman William H. Pinney and J. W. Lull, all of whom can be located within a few blocks of Adams’ shop.
- Springfield (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Adams, William A
Types of material
Benjamin Akin Daybook and Ledger, 1737-1764.
Call no.: MS 204 bd
A tanner, currier, and shoemaker, Benjamin Akin was born into a prominent Bristol County family in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on May 18, 1715. With a prolific and well-connected family and successful in his own business endeavors, Akin attained some stature in Dartmouth. First appointed town clerk in 1745, he filled that office from 1754-1770 and again from 1776-1780, adding the title “Esq.” to his name by the 1760s. During the Revolutionary years, he served on the town’s public safety committee. He died on April 10, 1802.
The Akin ledger offers insight into the fortunes of an 18th-century artisan during the most productive years of his life, as well as into the structure of a local community in southeastern Massachusetts. The ledger includes accounts of with customers for tanning and currying of calf and sheepskin, day-book entries, and accounts with the Town of Dartmouth for services performed at Town Clerk.
- Dartmouth (Mass.)--History--18th century
- Akin, Benjamin, 1715-1802
- Akin, Eunice Taber, 1711-1762
Types of material
- Account books
Ebenezer Akin Account Book, 1842-1869.
Call no.: MS 220 bd
Businessman, town clerk, owner or part-owner of many ships, merchant, lawyer, and involved citizen in the town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Includes activities as town clerk, accounts for ships he may have owned, entries made as the executor of several estates, accounts of expenditures for clothing and incidentals, and accounts of lot purchases and loans. Also contains genealogical information about the Blossom family of Bridgewater and the family of Benjamin and Eunice Akin.
- Akin, Benjamin, 1715-1802
- Akin, Eunice
- Blossom family
- Clothing and dress--Prices--Massachusetts--Fairhaven
- Fairhaven (Mass.)--Economic conditions--19th century
- Fairhaven (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
- Hesper (Bark)
- Napoleon (Ship)
- William Rotch (Ship)
- Winthrop (Bark)
- Akin, Ebenezer, 1816-
Types of material
- Account books
- Inventories of decedents estates
Jeff Albertson Photograph Collection, ca.1966-2005.
Call no.: PH 057
Born in Reading, Mass., on Sept 13, 1948, Jeff Albertson was still a student at Boston University, working on the staff of the BU News, when he was hired as a photographer by the Boston Globe. Reflecting the youth culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s, his photographs earned him positions with several prominent Boston alternative media outlets. Covering news, music, and the political interests of his generation, he served as photo editor for the Boston Phoenix and associate publisher for the Real Paper, and his work appeared regularly in mainstream publications such as Rolling Stone, People, and Boston Magazine. After becoming photo editor for the Medical Tribune News Group and moving to New York City in the 1980s, he met and married Charlene Laino. In later years, he became involved in early efforts to create websites devoted to issues surrounding health. Albertson died in 2008.
As a photographer, Albertson covered a wide range of subjects, with particular focus on music and social change. The many thousands of prints, slides, and negatives in the collection include stunning shots of Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Young, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and John Lee Hooker, activists such as Abbie Hoffman, politicians, and public personalities. The collection also includes several photographic essays centered on poverty, old age, fire fighting in Boston, and prisoners in Massachusetts (among other issues) along with a wide array of landscapes and street scenes.
- Boston (Mass.)--Photographs
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements
- Simon, Peter
Types of material
Alford Marble Works Records, 1870-1873.
Call no.: MS 649 bd
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, the small town of Alford in far southwestern Massachusetts was the site of significant marble quarrying operations. Highly profitable for several decades, the quarries began to decline in profitability by mid-century when new sites became accessible by rail. By the early 1870s, the Alford Marble Works stood as one of the last quarries in the region to remain active.
The Alford Marble Works ledger includes pay and work records for quarrymen during its last years of operation. Although the Marble Works is sometimes recorded as suspending activity in 1872, it is clear from these records that their work continued through the end of 1873.
- Marble industry and trade--Massachusetts
- Sepulchral monuments--Massachusetts
- Alford Marble Works
- Association for Gravestone Studies
Types of material
- Account books