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Mission and history


Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College
Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange, and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.

Department history

African dancers
African dancers
From the Horace Mann Bond Papers

In 1931, nearly half a century after Librarian Henry Hill Goodell first authorized the permanent retention of the official records of Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Library established a College History Collection. Containing official records of the university’s administrators and faculty and reflecting the life of its students, the College History Collection grew steadily until in 1953, the Library dedicated a room named in honor of Dean William L. Machmer to serve as the first true home of the University Archives.

Goodell’s foresight in assembling the College archives coincided roughly with the university’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. As early as 1868 — just one year after the arrival of the first students — the college accepted the donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist (and state Adjutant General) Henry K. Oliver. By the time the college issued its first library catalog in 1875, rare books were a small, but notable part of the collections, closely focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. Included among the Library’s earliest acquisitions were the first London edition of William Bartram’s Travels Through North and South Carolina (1792), François Augier de Marigny’s The History of the Arabians (London, 1758), and early bee manuals by John Keys, The Practical Bee-Master (London, 1780) and The Antient Bee-Master’s Farewell (London, 1796) — both courtesy of Oliver. Each of these volumes remains part of the collections today.

David Axelrod, Class of 1965
David B. Axelrod, ca.1980, Class of 1965, poet, author of The Man who Fell in Love with His Chicken (1980)

From these beginnings, the collection of rare books and manuscripts has co-evolved with the university and its academic programs. In 1973, the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski marked an expansion of scope beyond into personal papers and organizational records of historical significance beyond the narrow confines of the university, and the arrival of the papers on W.E.B. Du Bois in that same year marked a turning point. The rare book and manuscript collections were merged with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

SCUA’s initial foray online came with a simple page on the library’s website in 1997, and by 2007, it had evolved into the UMarmot project, one of the earliest efforts to use freely-available software to create a comprehensive online archival catalog. SCUA launched its online digital repository, Credo in 2011, with the generous support of the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Available free to all researchers, Credo is now a robust and heavily used presence on the internet, containing hundreds of thousands of pages of content and dozens of complete collections, including every item in the papers of W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond.

Mile markers

Each of the library’s million-volume milestones has been celebrated by the addition of a special volume to SCUA’s collections:

One millionth volume:
Jonathan Edwards, A careful and strict enquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will; which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, vertue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Boston: S. Kneeland, 1754.
SCUA’s copy of this classic theological work on Free Will from the New Light minister from Northampton belonged to Rev. John Cleaveland of Ipswich, Mass., one of the subscribers. It is signed and dated by Cleaveland in several locations.
Two millionth volume:
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral. London: A. Bell, 1773.
A classic of American literature written by a young woman enslaved in Boston, and the first book published by an African-American woman. Gift of Randolph W. Bromery.
Three millionth volume:
James Baldwin, Gypsy and other poems, with etched portraits by Leonard Baskin. Northampton, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1989.
When Baldwin, a former faculty member at UMass Amherst, died unexpectedly, he was working with the great printer Leonard Baskin on a special volume of unpublished poems. Celebrating SCUA’s strengths in African American history literature and reflecting the fine-printing heritage in Massachusetts, SCUA’s copy includes a signed portfolio of etchings of Baldwin by Baskin, each signed. It is one of fifty copies bound specially by Daniel Gehnrich in leather and paste paper, made by Babette Gehnrich, over boards, and laid into a cloth traycase. Also laid in are Baskin’s proof, 1989, and touched proof, 1989, of two of the portraits. Gift of Lisa Baskin.
Four millionth volume:
The proclamation of emancipation of the President of the United States, to take effect January 1st, 1863. Boston: John Murray Forbes, 1862.
The first separate printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this volume was printed in miniature so that Union army troops in the south could more easily distribute it.

Learn more:

Morehouse, Ward, 1929-

Ward Morehouse Papers

120 boxes 180 linear feet
Call no.: MS 764

A writer, educator, and activist for human rights and social justice, Ward Morehouse was a prominent critic of corporate power and globalization. Raised in a family of progressive political economists and academics in Wisconsin, Morehouse began his research in international political economy while a student at Yale (BA 1950, MA 1953) and embarked on a standard academic career path. After teaching political science at New York University for a time, he became director of international education at the Center for International and Comparative Studies in 1963, building a particularly strong program in India. However in 1976, conservative opposition to his political views led Morehouse to leave for a new post as president of the Council on International and Public Affairs (CIPA), a human rights organization he had helped found twenty years before. Throughout, he remained an activist at heart. Galvanized by the 1984 industrial disaster in Bhopal, India, he organized the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, and went on to form or work with many other organizations seeking to resist corporate power and build democracy, including the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) and the Permanent People’s Tribunal, operating the radical Apex Press. Morehouse died in June 2012 at the age of 83.

The Morehouse collection is a massive archive documenting six decades of research, writing, and activism. A prolific writer and editor, Morehouse left a deep record of his activities, his research and writing on corporate power, and the full breadth of his commitments in labor relations, alternative economics, “people’s law,” and peace.

  • Anti-globalization movement
  • Bhopal Union Carbide Plant Disaster, Bhopal, India, 1984
  • Economics
  • India--Economic conditions
  • Apex Press
  • Center for International and Comparative Studies
  • Council on International and Public Affairs
  • Permanent Peoples' Tribunal
  • Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy

Morris, Mary McGarry

Mary McGarry Morris Papers

1958-2012 Bulk: 1987-2012
25 boxes 31.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 912

When her first novel, Vanished, was published in 1988, Mary McGarry Morris was immediately celebrated as a haunting and powerful writer of character-rich novels. A finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Vanished was followed by seven more acclaimed novels: A Dangerous Woman (1991; released as a feature film in 1993), Songs in Ordinary Time (1995; a selection of Oprah’s Book Club), Fiona Range (2000), A Hole in the Universe (2004), The Lost Mother (2005), The Last Secret (2009), and Light from a Distant Star (2011). Morris was born in Connecticut, grew up in Rutland, Vermont, and with her lawyer husband, Michael, has long lived—and raised five children—in Andover, Massachusetts. In her forties when Vanished was published after years of writing in near-secret, Morris has a gift for illuminating and shading the banalities, the urges, and the often fragile relationships that define and disrupt her characters’ lives and the fictional New England towns they inhabit. Her work has drawn comparisons to Steinbeck and McCullers.

The Mary McGarry Morris Papers consist of numerous drafts of her novels, including many handwritten pages and notes, as well as correspondence, book covers, clippings, and other material relating to the publication and promotion of her works. In addition, there are many early stories and some poems.

Gift of Mary McGarry Morris, 2016
  • Fiction--20th century--Stories, plots, etc
  • Fiction--21st century--Stories, plots, etc
  • Morris, Mary McGarry

Morris, William, 1834-1896

William Morris, The friendship of Amis and Amile

1 item 0.1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 362 bd

A leader in the English Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris translated the ancient French romance, Amis and Amile, in 1894, one of a number of romances he published in his literary efforts to restore the middle ages.

This holograph copy of Morris’s short story was prepared for the Kelmscott Press in 1894 and printed in a run of 500. The first American edition appeared later that year, published by Thomas Bird Mosher.

  • Kelmscott Press
  • Morris, William, 1834-1896
Types of material
  • Holographs (Autographs)

Mosely, Luther, 1807-

Luther Mosely Daybook

1 vol. 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 249 bd

Homeopathic physician from Arlington, Vermont. Daybook contains patients’ names, including many women, identification of some cases (such as vaccination, extraction of teeth, treatment of swellings, fractures, and burns, and the delivery of babies), methods of treatment (such as purges, bleeding, cupping, and the use of blistering ointments), prices for his services, and method and form of payment (including goods such as fruits, vegetables, meats, clothes, and services such as butchering and timbering). Also contains personal entries and notation of goods he sold such as poultry, leathers, and fabrics.

  • Arlington (Vt.)--Social conditions--19th century
  • Canfield family
  • Contraception--Vermont--Arlington--History--19th century
  • Hard family
  • Homeopathic physicians--Vermont--Arlington
  • Matteson family
  • Medicine--Practice--Vermont--19th century
  • Milligan family
  • Oatman family
  • Pessaries
  • Purdy family
  • Women--Medical care--Vermont--Arlington--19th century
  • Mosely, Luther, 1807-
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Daybooks

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (U.S.)

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Records

8 boxes 12 linear feet
Call no.: MS 853
Image of

A not for profit membership organization, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) provides representation for state and jurisdictional arts agencies at the national level. Incorporated in 1974, NASAA has been an important forum for directors, chairs, and staff of its member organizations, supporting their collective efforts to advance the arts as an essential public benefit. Working with the National Endowment for the Arts and other agencies, NASAA also helps to strengthen state arts agencies by supporting excellence in and access to the arts.

The NASAA collection includes important documentation of the founding and early operations of the organization, priorities and controversies over the years in arts management, and records of its annual meetings.

  • Arts management--United States
  • National Endowment for the Arts

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Portsmouth Branch (Portsmouth, N.H.)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Portsmouth Branch (Portsmouth, N.H.) Records

1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1006

The first New Hampshire branch of the NAACP was formed in Portsmouth in 1958, meeting initially in the home of its first president, the local businessman Thomas Cobbs. Growing steadily during the 1960s, the Portsmouth membership were engaged in addressing local concerns over discrimination in housing and employment and were stalwart supporters of the national civil rights struggle.

This small collection of records from a local New England branch of the NAACP consists of minutes of meetings between 1963 and 1966 and a relatively miscellaneous assortment of fliers and other materials from the national organization. Although the collection is slight, it includes records NAACP actions in Portsmouth and, notably, the minutes were kept by Betty Hill and her husband Barney, who became well known for their claim to having an encounter with a UFO.

  • African Americans--New Hampshire
  • Civil rights movements--New Hampshire
  • Discrimination in housing--New Hampshire
  • Cobbs, Thomas
  • Hill, Barney, 1922-1969
  • Hill, Betty (Eunice)
Types of material
  • Minutes (Administrative records)

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (U.S.)

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (U.S.) Records

84 boxes 91 linear feet
Call no.: MS 757
Image of Keith Stroup, ca. 1975
Keith Stroup, ca. 1975

Founded by attorney Keith Stroup in 1970, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is the nation’s oldest and most prominent organization advocating for an end to cannabis prohibition. A nonprofit public-interest advocacy group based in Washington, DC, NORML has lobbied at the state and federal levels for the elimination of penalties for the cultivation, possession, and responsible use of cannabis, and it has met with success in state-level efforts at decriminalization. Over the years, NORML has led a wide variety of educational initiatives and coordinated its activities with other organizations working for cannabis reform. More recently, NORML has become a significant voice in the struggle to legalize the therapeutic use of marijuana.

The records of NORML offer a perspective on more than forty years of grassroots advocacy in cause of drug policy legislation. Highly varied in nature, the records include organizational records, research files on marijuana and marijuana use, promotional materials prepared by NORML, and letters from persons incarcerated for possession. The collection is currently being received by SCUA with new additions expected in the near term.

  • Marijuana--Law and legislation
  • Marijuana--Physiological effect
  • Marijuana--Therapeutic use--Social aspects
  • Stroup, Keith, 1943-
Types of material
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Photographs
  • Videotapes

Natural Farmer

The Natural Farmer

26 items (digital)
Call no.: Digital

Published quarterly by the Northeast Organic Farming Association, The Natural Farmer is a widely circulated newspaper devoted to the support of organic farming. These files are made available courtesy of the editors, Jack Kittredge and Julie Rawson of NOFA Massachusetts.

  • Farming--United States
  • Organic farmers
  • Organic farming
  • Northeast Organic Farming Association

New England Agricultural Economics Council

New England Agricultural Economics Council Records

2 boxes 1 linear feet
Call no.: MS 031

After dissolution of the New England Research Council on Marketing and Food Supply in 1955, a group of agricultural economists from the six state universities in New England formed the New England Agricultural Economics Council to carry on with the mission of promoting education and research on economics and the social problems relating to the production, marketing, and consumption of agricultural products.

Concentrated on the first ten years of the NEAEC, the collection include organizational materials, correspondence, minutes and proceedings, financial records, and newsletters.

  • Agricultural economics--New England
  • Dairy products--Marketing--New England
  • Food industry and trade--New England
  • Food--Marketing--New England
  • New England Research Council on Marketing and Food Supply
Types of material
  • Newsletters