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
SEIU Local 925 (Tufts University) Records, 1978-1980.
Call no.: MS 589
In October 1978 a group of clerical workers at Tufts united in an effort to organize their coworkers with Local 925, S.E.I.U. Isolated and scattered across campus, the clerical employees at the university greeted this call to unionize with support, hoping it would mean an improvement in salaries and in grievance procedures. By the summer of the following year, 60% of eligible employees signed authorization cards, more than required to vote on the issue, and an election early that fall was expected. Tufts administration, however, delayed the election by disputing the composition of the bargaining unit. Formal hearings took place from September through the end of the year, but instead of resolving the case, the Boston Labor Board referred it to Washington on January 25, 1980. Nine months later the election was finally held, but the results were not what were anticipated more than a year earlier. Rather than an easy victory to unionize, the majority of clerical staff at Tufts voted not to make Local 925 their exclusive bargaining representative. The administration’s anti-union campaign waged throughout 1979 and 1980 had a tremendous impact on the employees at the university, and a number of concessions made on wages, health insurance, and vacations further eroded support for organizing with Local 925.
The collection documents the efforts of Tufts clerical workers to unionize during 1978-1980. The group’s biweekly newsletter, Inside Tufts, written by the university’s employees and published by Local 925, offers an important behind-the-scenes look on two fronts: the issues and grievances of the clerical staff at Tufts and the reasons behind their decision to unionize. Materials relating to the efforts of other Boston-area institutions, in particular colleges and universities, are also included.
- Labor unions--Massachusetts
- Labor unions--Organizing
- Service Employees International Union. Local 925
Leon Shapiro Papers, 1939-1985.
Call no.: MS 127
Historian, author, Professor of Russian and Soviet Jewish History at Rutgers University, who helped arrange the escape of Jews from Europe during World War II and was active in several organizations concerned with the emigration of Soviet and Eastern European Jews to Palestine. Papers include biographical materials, correspondence, legal documents, writings, lecture and research materials, statistical data in the world Jewish population before and after World War II, oral history transcripts, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and four photographs.
- Europe, Eastern--Ethnic relations--History--20th century
- Israel--Emigration and immigration--History
- Jews, Soviet--History--Sources
- Jews--Europe, Eastern--History--Sources
- Jews--Soviet Union--History--Sources
- Occupational training for Jews--History--Sources
- Romania--Emigration and immigration--History
- Rutgers University--Curricula
- Rutgers University--Faculty
- Soviet Union--Ethnic relations--History
- World ORT Union--History
- Shapiro, Leon
Types of material
- Oral histories
Blake Slonecker Collection, 2008.
Call no.: MS 795
An historian of twentieth century social movements, Blake Slonecker received his doctorate at the University of North Carolina in 2009 and joined the history faculty at Waldorf College soon thereafter. In a dissertation examining the utopian impulses of the New Left (published in 2012 as A new dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the long sixties), Slonecker explored how the political and cultural activism of the 1960s helped reshape American political culture in the decade following.
In June 2008, Slonecker conducted oral historical interviews with four individuals who were part of the extended community centered on the Montague Farm and Packer Corners communes during the late 1960s: Tom Fels, Charles Light, Sam Lovejoy, and Richard Wizansky. In wide-ranging interviews, the former communards discuss topics ranging from the fraught politics of the era, political and cultural activism, gender roles and sexuality, and daily life on the communes.
- Amherst College
- Babbitt, Elwood, 1922-
- Bloom, Marshall, 1944-1969
- Brotherhood of the Spirit Community
- Clamshell Alliance
- Green Mountain Post Films
- Johnson Pasture Community (Vt.)
- Liberation News Service (Montague, Mass.)
- Montague Farm Community (Mass.)
- Musicians United for Safe Energy
- Packer Corners Community (Vt.)
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Fels, Thomas Weston
- Light, Charles
- Lovejoy, Sam
- Wizansky, Richard
Types of material
- Oral histories (document genres)
Social Change Collection, 1953-1980.
Call no.: MS 457
Miscellaneous manuscripts and documents relating to the history and experience of social change in America. Among other things, the collection includes material relating to the peace and antiwar movements during the 1960s, the conflict in Vietnam, and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
- Anti-imperialist movements
- Peace movements
- Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.)
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Massachusetts
Social Change Periodicals Collection, 1969-2006.
Call no.: MS 306
The Social Change Periodical Collection was created to bring together magazines, newsletters, and newspapers that deal with a variety of activist movements from different sources under one heading where they could be reviewed as a whole. Since the core of the collection was transferred from the Everywoman’s Center many of the periodicals deal with feminism and women’s issues. Other subjects represented in the collection include antiracism, antiwar, gay rights, political radicalism, and environmental activism.
- African Americans--Suffrage--Periodicals
- Central America--Politics and government--Periodicals
- Gay liberation movement--Periodicals
- Labor--United States--Periodicals
- Prisons--United States--Periodicals
- Radicalism--United States--Periodicals
Stonewall Center Records, 1962-2005.
Call no.: RG 030/2/6
Following a series of homophobic incidents on the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1985, the Program for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns was established as an administrative center in the Office of Student Affairs. Later renamed after the notorious riots in New York, the Stonewall Center has provided the campus and surrounding community with cultural and educational programming through speakers, films, video and book library, Speakers Bureau on LGBTQ issues, referrals and support, advocacy and community outreach.
The records of the Stonewall Center include documentation of day to day operations, including phone logs, memos, and budget information, as well as posters and press releases for events, publications, campus and external reports, training manuals, surveys, newspaper clippings, and ephemera such as banners, tee-shirts, and buttons.
- Gay college students--Massachusetts
- Gays--Services for
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Program for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns
- Stonewall Center
- Yeskel, Felice
John D. Strong Papers, 1938-1986.
Call no.: FS 019
John D. Strong was a professor of Physics and Astronomy from 1967 to 1975 and served as the head of the laboratory of astrophysics and physical meteorology. Strong, one of the world’s foremost optical scientists, was known for being the first to detect water vapor in the atmosphere of Venus and for developing a number of innovations in optical devices, ranging from improved telescope mirrors to anti-reflective coatings for optical elements and diffraction gratings. Born in Riverdale, Kansas in 1905, Strong received degrees from the University of Kansas (BA 1926) and the University of Michigan (M.S., 1928, Ph.D., 1930). After twelve years at CalTech and wartime research at Harvard on infrared systems, Strong became professor and director of the Astrophysical and Physical Meteorology Laboratories at Johns Hopkins University in 1946, where, among many other projects, he conducted research on balloon astronomy for the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Strong published hundreds of papers throughout his career and was author of Procedures of Experimental Physics, a standard physics textbook for many years. Strong served as president of the American Optical Association in 1959 and patented numerous inventions for optics in spectroscopy as well as golf (see US Patent no. 3720467). Strong passed away in 1992.
The Strong Papers contain forty years of research notebooks in experimental physics (1930-1970) centered on Strong’s years at Johns Hopkins (1946-1967), along with correspondence, printed publications by Strong for the ONR, and manuscripts for several textbooks (though lacking material on Procedures of Experimental Physics). Strong’s balloon work is documented by diagrams in his lab books and photographs of the Stratolab at John’s Hopkins, and an oral history of his life was made by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in 1985, a transcript of which is included in the collection.
- Institute for Man and the Environment
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
- Strong, John D
Jane Swift Papers, 1988-2008.
Call no.: MS 823
Just 36 years of age, Jane Swift became Acting Governor of Massachusetts in 2001, the first and only woman to hold that office, the youngest woman governor in US history, and the only one to give birth while in office. A native of North Adams, Swift served as a Republican in the state Senate from 1990-1996, becoming widely known for her role in passing the Education Reform Act of 1993. Defeated in a bid to represent the 1st District in the US Congress, she served in the William Weld administration before earning election as Lieutenant Governor in 1998, rising to the governorship three years later when Paul Cellucci resigned to become Ambassador to Canada. During her time in office, Swift, but her tenure is remembered both for her calm management of the fallout from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and for a series of controversies that ultimatley cost her political support. Trailing eventual nominee Mitt Romney in the 2002 Republican gubentorial primary, Swift abandoned her campaign. Returning home to Williamstown, where she has been involved in several educational initiatives, including serving as Director of Sally Ride Science, a lecturer in Leadership Studies at Williams Colege, and since July 2011, CEO of Middlebury Interactive Languages. She remains active in Republican politics.
Centered on her political career, Jane Swift’s Papers provide insight into her experiences as governor of Massachusetts with content ranging from policy briefings to topical files, technical reports, economic and budgetary information, correspondence, legal filings, and transition reports at the time of leaving office. The visual documentation of Swift’s time in office includes a wide range of photographs, videotapes, paraphernalia, and souvenirs. There is comparatively little material is available to document Swift’s time in the state senate.
- Massachusetts--Politics and government--1951-
- Massachusetts. Governor
- Republican Party (Mass.)
Types of material
Abel Turner, The Life and Travels of Abel Turner, 1839.
Call no.: MS 708 bd
As a young man in Foxcroft, Maine, Abel Turner was caught up in the evangelical revivals and converted to Free Will Baptism, becoming a minister by the age of 21. Beginning in the backwoods settlements, Turner spent the better part of a decade attempting to “convert sinners” in Piscataquis and Penobscot Counties and the in the Burned-Over District of New York state, from Utica to Penn Yan and Cattaraugus County.
Written for his wife, Abel Turner’s long and detailed autobiography is a remarkable record of a young Free Will Baptist minister’s labors during the Second Great Awakening. Beginning with his childhood in Maine and his conversion experience, the manuscript provides insight into Turner’s experiences preaching in the rough-hewn interior settlements of Maine and the Burned-Over District of New York from roughly 1821 through 1839. In addition to some wonderful commentary on evangelical religion in the heart of the Awakening and on Turner’s own spiritual development, the memoir includes fascinating descriptions of the towns and people he met along the way.
- Free Will Baptists (1727-1935)--Clergy
- Maine--History--19th century
- New York (State)--History--19th century
- Second Great Awakening--Maine--History
- Second Great Awakening--New York (State)--History
- Turner, Abel
Types of material