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Mission and history

Mission

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.

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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

However 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.

Although SCUA accepts materials in most audio and video formats — cassette, reel to reel, RDAT, VHS, Betacam, or digital — we typically prefer to receive interviews in the format in which they were recorded and in the highest quality available. When possible, we prefer uncompressed digital files, 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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Massachusetts

Massachusetts Locales Collection

1905-1989
3 boxes 1.5 linear feet
Call no.: MS 300

Materials, such as clippings, maps, and photographs, relating to Amherst, but also including items from other western Massachusetts towns. Topics covered include are Amherst writers such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, town history, trees and birds of Amherst, and Connecticut River Valley history.

Subjects
  • Amherst (Mass.)--History
  • Massachusetts--History
Types of material
  • Maps
  • Photographs

Massachusetts AFL-CIO

Massachusetts AFL-CIO Records

1902-1995
72 boxes 64 linear feet
Call no.: MS 369

Formed in 1887 as the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Labor, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO currently represents the interests of over 400,000 working people in the Commonwealth. Like its parent organization, the national AFL-CIO, the Mass. AFL-CIO is an umbrella organization, a union of unions, and engages in political education, legislative action, organizing, and education and training.

The official records of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO provide insight into the aims and administrative workings of the organization. These includes a nearly complete run of proceedings and reports from its conventions since 1902, except for a five year gap 1919-1923, minutes and agendas for the meetings of the Executive Council, and the President’s files (1982- ). The collection is particularly strong in the period since about 1980.

Subjects
  • Labor unions--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • AFL-CIO
  • Massachusetts AFL-CIO

Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc.

Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test Records

1953-1959
1 box 0.25 linear feet
Call no.: MS 082
Image of Terry B. Kinney at groundbreaking, July 1954
Terry B. Kinney at groundbreaking, July 1954

An early example of cooperative research between industry and academia, the Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc. was founded in 1954 to conduct tests to improve poultry productivity. Taking advantage of the professional skills of the staff and students in the Poultry Science Department at UMass Amherst, the Test facility was located adjacent to campus and over its five year course of operations, gathered scientific data on a number of variables, including rate of growth, rate of feathering, age of maturity, and egg production and hatchability.

The records of the Broiler Test consist of minutes, financial documents, correspondence, and test results.

Gift of Thomas W. Fox, 1987
Subjects
  • Chickens--Breeding
  • Poultry industry--Massachusetts
  • Turkeys--Breeding
Contributors
  • Massachusetts Chicken and Turkey Broiler Test, Inc
Types of material
  • Photographs

Massachusetts Review

Massachusetts Review Records

1959-2013
49 boxes 73 linear feet
Call no.: MS 555

The Massachusetts Review is an independent quarterly of literature, the arts, and public affairs. Co-founded by Jules Chametzky and Sidney Kaplan in 1959 to promote eclectic, nontraditional, and underrepresented literary and intellectual talent, the Review has been an important venue for African American, Native American, and feminist writers and poets, mixing new and established authors.

The records of the Massachusetts Review document the history and operations of the magazine from its founding to the present, including general correspondence and nearly complete editorial files for published works. The collection also includes a small number of audio recordings of MR2, a radio show hosted by Review editor David Lenson with interviews of writers, artists, and cultural critics.

Subjects
  • Criticism--20th century--Periodicals
  • Literature--20th century--Periodicals
  • Poetry--20th century--Periodicals
Contributors
  • Abramson, Doris E
  • Chametzky, Jules
  • Massachusetts Review

Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education

Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education Records

1985-2006.
6 boxes 9 linear feet
Call no.: MS 513

Founded in 1982, the Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education (MWPHE) is a non-profit organization open to current and prospective women administrators in public higher education in the Commonwealth. Founded in 1982, the MWPHE serves as a support network, enhances professional development, encourages and promotes upward mobility, and addresses issues affecting Massachusetts public higher education and the status of women within the system.

The MWPHE records include administrative files and correspondence that document the organization’s work since its founding.

Subjects
  • Education, Higher--Massachusetts
  • Women educators--Massachusetts
Contributors
  • Massachusetts Women in Public Higher Education

Massachusetts. Metropolitan District Commission. Water Division

Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission, Water Division Maps

1959-1972
1 drawer 0.2 linear feet
Call no.: MS 100

To meet the growing needs for potable water in the Boston metropolitan region, the Massachusetts state legislature ordered the evacuation of the relatively sparsely populated towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, as well as portions of other adjoining towns such as New Salem, to make way for the construction of a massive reservoir. Over the course of almost two decades, the population of the towns was systematically relocated, the houses moved or razed, and bed of the future reservoir was stripped of trees and brush. The last remaining residents of the region were removed in 1938 and the four primary towns were officially disincorporated as the dam was completed and the waters began to rise.

The numbered blueprint sheets and index that make up this collection offer a detailed depiction of the Swift River Valley towns at the time the state government was seizing land for the Quabbin Reservoir. Apparently surveyed between 1932 and 1938, the maps were prepared by the Metropolitan District Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a Quabbin Reservoir Real Estate Survey in 1959 and then revised in 1972.

Subjects
  • Dana (Mass.)--Maps
  • Enfield (Mass.)--Maps
  • Greenwich (Mass.)--Maps
  • New Salem (Mass.)--Maps
  • Prescott (Mass.)--Maps
  • Quabbin Reservoir (Mass.)--Maps
Contributors
  • Massachusetts. Metropolitan District Commission. Water Division
Types of material
  • Maps

Massachusetts. Treasurer and Receiver General

Massachusetts Bay Warrants Collection

1743-1767
6 folders 0.15 linear feet
Call no.: MS 089

On the eve of the Seven Years War in the Province of Massachusetts, town constables shouldered an array of public responsibilities, including announcing town meetings, serving writs for the town clerk, and collecting local taxes. Although they received a commission for the taxes collected, constables were also held personally responsible for any taxes unpaid, authorized by writ of the Provincial Treasurer and enforced by County Sheriffs.

The warrants in this collection, nearly all printed forms completed in manuscript, were issued by the Treasurer and Receiver General of Massachusetts Bay Province, William Foye or his successor Harrison Gray, authorizing the Hampshire County Sheriff, Oliver Partridge, or Deputy Sheriffs Moses Miller or Ephraim Williams, to attach the goods of local constables in arrears: Brimfield, Greenwich, Sheffield, and Westfield, Mass., along with Somers and Suffield, now part of Connecticut. In instances where the taxes were not delivered, the Sheriff was empowered to “levy by Distress and Sale of the Estate real and personal” of the constable to make up the unpaid difference.

Subjects
  • Brimfield (Mass.)--History
  • Greenwich (Mass.)--History
  • Sheffield (Mass.)--History
  • Somers (Conn.)--History
  • Sufffield (Conn.)--History
  • Taxation--Massachusetts--18th century
  • Westfield (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • Massachusetts. Treasurer and Receiver General
Types of material
  • Warrants

University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst Records

1863-2011
ca.7,500 linear feet
Call no.: RG 001-190
Image of MAC postcard
MAC postcard

Established in western Massachusetts in 1863 as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a national research university and the flagship campus of the state’s five-campus University system. UMass, one of the founding members of the Five College Consortium established in 1965, offers reciprocal student access among the University and Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges. The University currently enrolls approximately 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and offers 87 bachelors degree programs, 6 associates, 73 masters, and 51 doctoral programs in 10 schools and colleges.

The Archives of the University of Massachusetts Amherst document the institutional memory of the campus and serve as the largest and most comprehensive source of information on the history and cultural heritage of the University. As the collective memory of the university, the repository contains official records and items having historical value such as records of governance, policy, operation of administrative offices, departments, research, programs, and publications. Unpublished materials in the Archives include photographs, films, memorabilia, administrative records of major university offices, and the papers of presidents, trustees, administrative officers, and members of the faculty.

Please note that collections for individual faculty members, administrators, and students, as well as selected groups and administrative units at the University are listed separately in UMarmot. The Concordance to the Archives is an alphabetical listing of University departments, centers, groups, and other units, providing call numbers, when appropriate. Researchers may also wish to consult the online guide to UMass Amherst collections. Digital UMass includes a growing number of oral histories and digitized collections of papers and organizational records. YouMass is a wiki devoted to the history of the University and its predecessors, the Massachusetts Agricultural College and Massachusetts State College.

Subjects
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts Agricultural College--Students
  • Massachusetts State College
  • Massachusetts State College--Faculty
  • Massachusetts State College--Students
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst--Students
Types of material
  • Photographs