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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

No matter how 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.

SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — but in every case, we prefer to receive the interview in the format in which it was recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer digital files that are uncompressed, 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.

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Parker, Harrison

Harrison Parker's History of Hawley Collection, ca.1970-1995
7 boxes (10.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 532

Named for Joseph Hawley, a local leader in the American Revolution, the town of Hawley was first settled in 1760 by residents of Hatfield, Massachusetts. Situated in Franklin County, Hawley was officially incorporated as a town in 1792. Today the town is host to a few small businesses, farms, and fewer than 500 residents.

The collection consists of copies of manuscripts, publications, and genealogical notes all related to the history of Hawley collected by researcher Harrison Parker.

Gift of the estate of Harrison Parker, June 2006
Subjects
  • Hawley (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • Parker, Harrison

Penchina, Claude M.

Claude M. Penchina Papers, 1963-2008
12 boxes (18 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 129

A solid state physicist, Claude M. Penchina joined the faculty at UMass Amherst in 1965, one year after completing his doctorate at Syracuse and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois. A productive researcher and prolific author, his research centered on opto-electronics, but over the years, he also contributed to fields as diverse as physics education, transportation research, and pediatrics.

The Penchina collection includes a range of correspondence, lecture notes, grant proposals, and manuscripts, reflecting every phase of Penchina’s career from graduate school through retirement. The collection includes valuable research notes and communications with other physical scientists, as well as a large quantity of material relating to Penchina’s interest in undergraduate education.

Gift of Claude M. Penchina, July 2005
Subjects
  • Physics--Study and teaching
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Physics
Contributors
  • Penchina, Claude M

Perry, Cynthia Shepard

Cynthia Shepard Perry Papers, 1946-2010
7 boxes (10.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 842
Image of Cynthia Shepard Perry, ca.1986
Cynthia Shepard Perry, ca.1986

An educator, diplomat, and expert on Africa, Cynthia Shepard Perry was the first recipient of a PhD from of the Program in International Education at UMass Amherst (1972). Born in Burnett, Indiana, in 1928, Perry was raising a family when she set a twenty-five year goal of earning doctorate and entering international service. One year after earning a bachelor’s degree at Indiana State University in 1967, she arranged for her first trip to Africa, leading a secretarial training project at the University of Nairobi, and over succeeding decades, her connections to the continent deepened dramatically. On faculty at Texas Southern University (1971-1982), Perry served as Associate Director of the university’s Peace Corps Program, which resulted in her leading educational projects in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and Kenya. In demand for the expertise she had gained, she worked as a consultant to the US Information Service in Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia and as Staff Development Officer at the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa. Having become a full professor and Dean of International Affairs, she left TSU in 1982 to take her first diplomatic post as an officer of the Africa Bureau of the US Agency for International Development, followed by successive appointments as Ambassador to Sierra Leone (1986-1989) and Burundi (1989-1993), as Honorary Consul General of Rwanda, and finally an appointment as U.S. Executive Director of the African Development Bank (1996-2001). Although officially retired, Perry remains active in supporting education and development in Africa from her home in Houston. Among many other awards she has received, Perry was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from UMass for her international work and was recognized by the Salute to Service Award.

A record of a life in international service in Africa, the Perry papers includes materials from Perry’s time as head of the African Development Bank and her two ambassadorial appointments, including speeches, some correspondence, and a handful of publications. The collection also includes a series of awards and plaques, some family photographs, and memorabilia.

Gift of Cynthia Shepard Perry, Oct., 2014
Subjects
  • Africa--Foreign relations--United States
  • Burundi--History
  • Sierra Leone--United States
  • United States--Foreign relations--Africa
Types of material
  • Memorabilia
  • Photographs

Photographic collections

Jack Dixon and camera

Jack Dixon and camera, 1929
Alton Blackington Collection

SCUA is a significant source for visual content, and thousands of digitized images are available for viewing online in our digital repository, Credo. Credo contains thousands of scanned images from our manuscript and photographic collections, representing photographers such as Jeff Albertson, James Baker, Alton Blackington, Burt V. Brooks, Lionel Delevingne, Roy Finestone, Clif Garboden, Diana Mara Henry, Nancy Palmieri, and Peter Simon, as well as over thousands of photographs documenting the history of the University of Massachusetts Amherst community. Although new content is being added to Credo daily, tens of thousands of other photographs are described through manuscript finding aids and have yet to be digitized. All can be viewed on site.

Digital copies of images from SCUA collections are available for a modest fee and modest publication fees may also apply for either commercial or scholarly use. Additional information about our collections can be obtained by contacting our reference staff.

Inventory of unscanned negatives

The Negatives Collection represents over 21,000 photo shoots (perhaps 500,000 images) undertaken by Campus Creative Services between 1954 and 2004. Each negative number represents a single photographic session and may include anywhere from a single image to thirty or more. Please note that the terms used in the inventory were supplied by Photo Services staff over many years and are not always accurate, and furthermore, not all images listed in these inventories were transferred to SCUA. You are always welcome to contact our archivists if you have any questions. Please use the reference number when requesting negatives.

Other UMass photo collections:

While the University Photograph Collection and Photo Center Negatives represent the largest collections of University-related photographs, there are several other smaller collections that visually document UMass.

Contact SCUA for more information about viewing the photographs in these collections.

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Protistology

History of Protistology

“The province of protozoa, reminiscent of the fertile crescent in the Middle East, straddles the highways of thought that run between the major continents of biology. Down these roads come caravans of concepts and analogies: ideas about hierarchies and taxonomies from one direction, convictions about the basic structures and functions of life from another, opinions about reproduction and development from a third, and theories of the origin and evolution of life’s forms from still another quarter. It is uncanny how these separate trains of thought intersect one another in the land of the single-celled organisms. There they interact, exchange views, and rearrange their loads before they disperse again to inform other regions of biology of their contents and conclusions. A complete history of protozoology must recognize the centrality of this terrain.”

Frederick B. Churchill. 1989. “Toward the History of Protozoology,” Journal of the History of Biology 22: 185-187.

Protistology (formerly called protozoology) is the scientific study of unicellular eukaryotes and their relatives — single cells as living organisms. Protists make up 57 of the 60 distinct “ultrastructural identities” of eukaryotes, with the macroscopic forms most familiar to us (plants, animals and fungi) nestled amongst the other three (Simpson and Patterson, 2007). An extraordinarily diverse assemblage of organisms, protists have distinctive genetic systems, numerous primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of symbiosis, and unique cytoskeletons, and they play important roles in food webs and as pathogens. Among them are some of the most serious human parasites, including the malaria parasites Plasmodium spp., Leishmania, Trypanosoma, Entamoeba and Trichomonas. Many protists, such as Chlamydomonas, Tetrahymena, and Dictyostelium, have become important experimental organisms in scientific and medical research.

What do the Protistology Collections include?

The Protistology collections at UMass focus on the unique aspects of protist biology, those not found in plants, animals and fungi, but which inform our understanding of the evolution of these macroscopic lineages. In addition to having the professional papers, lab notebooks and journals of some of the leading 20th century protistologists, the collection includes the world’s primary repository of light and electron micrographs of protists. Due to the ubiquity and diversity of protists, the collections cross a broad range of disciplines and methodologies, from evolutionary biology to ecology, physiology, medicine, and public health.

The growing number of collections include the papers of:

For further information, please contact the Archivists.

References

Simpson and Patterson, 2007. In Katz, L.A. and D. Bhattacharya, eds. Genomics and Evolution of Microbial Eukaryotes. Oxford

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Rand, Frank Prentice, 1889-

Frank Prentice Rand Papers, 1905-1976
5 boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Call no.: FS 083
Image of Frank Prentice Rand
Frank Prentice Rand

Playwright, poet, historian, student theater director and professor of English, University of Massachusetts.

Correspondence, speeches, lectures, drafts of writings, reviews, publicity material, programs and playbills, scrapbooks, grade books (1917-1959), newsclippings, memorabilia, and other papers, relating to Rand’s teaching career, his writing of poetry, plays, and history, and his activities, as a dramatic coach and director. Includes material relating to the dedication of Rand Theater.

Connect to another siteListen to oral history with Rand's wife:
Oral history, part 1
Oral history, part 2
Subjects
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
Contributors
  • Rand, Frank Prentice, 1889-
Types of material
  • Oral histories
  • Scrapbooks

Rare book collections

Votes for women, Enfield Collection

Votes for Women, ca.1919 (Enfield Collection)

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses approximately 40,000 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 developed strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the literature of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era and the works of an eclectic assortment of poets and writers. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to Cold War culture: 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.

search

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.

Notice: due to renovations in the library, much of SCUA’s collection of printed materials (books and periodicals) will be unavailable until further notice. Please contact our archivists to see whether we can assist.

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

Knox gelatin

The Collection

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.

Literary collections

Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press; records of the Cummington School for the Arts and Massachusetts Review; and 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 Charles Lamb, William Morris, and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers. We are stewards of the papers of several writers from New England and collect their works comprehensively, including Andrew Coburn, Mary Doyle Curran, Mary McGarry Morris, Raymond Mungo, Jodi Picoult, and Harvey Swados.

New England history and culture

Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard

Massachusetts Agricultural College postcard

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. The New England Yearly Meeting of Friends collection contains thousands of books, pamphlets, and periodicals relating to Quaker history from the seventeenth century to the present. With an emphasis on New England Quakerism, these collections include the libraries of Moses and Obadiah Brown and libraries amassed by several monthly and quarterly meetings. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Social change

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.

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Research guides

Hula cats

Postcard, Miriam Chrisman Papers

The SCUA staff have assembled a series of introductory guides to assist researchers in navigating through our collections. These guides provide a broad overview of our collections for the history of social change; labor, work, and industry; agriculture; and the regional history of New England, and intended for use in conjunction with the descriptions in UMarmot and our finding aids.

On the right side of this page, UMarmot includes a suite of menus to help you find what you need in our manuscript and archival collections: from top to bottom, you may search collections by entering terms in the search box; browse by general category using the drop down menu; browse our university archives; or browse all collections alphabetically by clicking on the appropriate letter.

We encourage researchers with more specialized interests or who require more in-depth work with our collections to consult with our staff.

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Research services

Using the collections

Football team, 1930s

MAC football team, 1930s

The collections held by Special Collections and University Archives are available at no cost to all researchers, regardless of affiliation.

In the reading room

  • How do I begin?
    • On your first visit, you will be asked to register and to provide name, institutional affiliation (when applicable), and current address, and to present a valid form of identification including a photograph
    • On each subsequent visit, you must sign in and out at the front desk
    • Upon leaving for the day, please notify the staff whether you are finished with your material or wish to place it on hold for a return visit
  • What may I bring into the reading room?
    • Pencil and paper, laptops, cellphones, and usb drives are all permitted: lockers are available to store anything else
    • Cell phones should be switched off or set to silent mode; calls may be taken in the adjacent elevator lobby
    • Smoking, food, and drink are not permitted
  • Care and handling of materials
    • Please use care in handling manuscripts and books to prevent damage
    • Use only a single box of manuscript or archival material at a time and preserve the existing arrangement of the files
    • You may photograph items for research purposes; please check with a staff member first
    • Scans and photocopies are made only by staff members in keeping with our copying policies

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