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Manuscript collections

Geisha, from the Benjamin Smith Lyman Papers

Geishas,
from Benjamin Smith Lyman Papers

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives collects and preserves textual, visual, and auditory materials of enduring historical value and makes them available to researchers at no charge.

The collections held by SCUA are rich and deeply interrelated, documenting four areas of historic and cultural interest: social change, New England, the University of Massachusetts, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Among the distinguished collections held by SCUA are the records of:

  • W.E.B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond (African American intellectuals and civil rights pioneers)
  • The Africa America Institute
  • The New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (350 years of Quaker history in the region)
  • The Hampshire Council of Governments (350 years of county-level governance in western Massachusetts
  • David Steindl-Rast (Benedictine monk, participant in interfaith dialogue, and student of the interaction between spirituality and science)
  • Kenneth R. Feinberg (attorney and public figure)
  • Congressman Silvio E. Conte and John Olver, Gov. Jane Swift, and state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (politicians)
  • The Clarke School for the Deaf, International Center for the Disabled, Elmer C. Bartels, Fred Pelka and Denise Kurath, Judi Chamberlin, Lucy Gwin (advocates for people with disabilities)
  • Benjamin Smith Lyman, William Smith Clark, and William Penn Brooks (natural scientists)
  • Mark H. McCormack and Sidney Topol (innovators)
  • William Lederer, Leonard Lewin, Jodi Picoult, Andrew Coburn, Mary McGarry Morris, Harvey Swados, Robert Francis, Charles Whipple (writers)
  • Carl Oglesby, Eric Mann and Lian Hurst, Raymond Mungo, Anna Gyorgy, Mary Wentworth, Randy Kehler, the Liberation News Service, and the Alternative Energy Alliance (activists)
  • Jeff Albertson, Burt Brooks, Alton H. Blackington, Lionel Delevingne, Thomas and Margaret Tenney, and Diana Mara Henry (photographers and photojournalists)

Information about all of our manuscript and photographic collections is included in UMarmot. Use the search box and menus to the right to navigate our collections and to locate collections of interest.

Learn more:

Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs

Massachusetts Agricultural Fairs Posters Collection, 1852-1860
19 items
Call no.: MS 169

With one of the first agricultural fairs in the country taking place in Massachusetts in 1807, the state has a special place in the history of agricultural fairs in the United States. Twenty antebellum posters promoting agricultural fairs in western Massachusetts, primarily from agricultural societies in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties.

Subjects
  • Agricultural exhibitions--Massachusetts--Posters
  • Agricultural exhibitions--Rhode Island--Providence--Posters
  • Agriculture--Social aspects--Massachusetts--History
  • Agriculture--Social aspects--Rhode Island--History
Types of material
  • Posters

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute Records, 1966-1993 (Bulk: 1975-1985)
3 boxes (3.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 889

Founded in 1968, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) is a statewide non-profit poverty law and policy center. Their mission is to advance economic, racial, and social justice through legal action, education, and advocacy, specializing in large-scale impact litigation and policy reforms in a wide range of poverty law fields. The MLRI Housing Unit was involved in several cases attempting to protect low-income and minority housing in urban settings in Massachusetts in the 1980s. In a 1982 case, Olga Ramos et al. v. Ernest Proulx et al., nine minority residents of Holyoke and two Hispanic non-profit service agencies sued Mayor Proulx and the City of Holyoke for discriminatory practices related to disproportionately demolishing housing in low income and minority neighborhoods. In Boston, MLRI joined as council for the plaintiffs in a 1981 case, Viviana Munoz-Mendoza, et al. v. Samuel R. Pierce, Jr., et al., where South End residents sued the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), claiming federal funds were being used to racially desegregate their neighborhood when a HUD grant for the Copley Place development did not make a thorough study of the impact on residential integration or address a long standing desire for low-income housing on an adjacent site known as Tent City.

The MLRI Records consist of legal records, memos, correspondence, and strategy related to litigation for fair housing practice in the Holyoke and Boston cases, Ramos v. Proulx and Munoz-Mendoza v. Pierce. Newspaper clippings, city statistics and reports, and other documents stemming from the discovery portions of the cases are also abundant.

Subjects
  • Boston (Mass.)--History
  • Discrimination in housing--Law and legislation
  • Holyoke (Mass.)--History
  • Housing--Law and legislation
Types of material
  • Legal documents

Metcalf, Frank

Frank Metcalf Papers, 1862-1866
1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 529

Of the six letters that make up this collection, five date from 1862-1863 and are addressed to Frank Metcalf, teacher and soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. These letters are from friends and family in New York, and relay local news, in particular updates on area schools and students. The final letter dated June 30, 1866 is from Hannah J. McLintock, to her brother, John.

Subjects
  • Education--New York (State)
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Contributors
  • McLintock, John
  • Metcalf, Frank
Types of material
  • Letters (Correspondence)

Miller, Cynthia

Cynthia Miller Papers, 1973-1995
6 boxes (2.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 869

Known in the psychiatric survivors’ movement as Kalisa, Cynthia Miller was a radical activist on behalf of the mentally ill. An ex-patient based in New York, she became a member of Project Release in the early 1970s, one of the first wave of organizations fighting for the civil rights of mental patients and combatting forced institutionalization, and was a contributor to Madness Network News and other publications. A poet, writer, and a committed feminist and out lesbian, she took part in civil disobedience to oppose electroconvulsive therapy, working with Judi Chamberlin, George Ebert, Leonard Roy Frank, and others.

Though varied and fragmentary, Cynthia Miller’s collection is a rich resource for study of the early history of the psychiatric survivors movement and the work of one activist in resisting psychiatric oppression. The collection contains some of Kalisa’s writings and correspondence along with ephemera and a varied collection of newspapers, newsletters, and other publications relating to Project Release and several other organizations that Kalisa supported, including the Mental Patients Liberation Front and the Alliance for the Liberation of Mental Patients.

Subjects
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Feminism
  • Mentally ill--Civil rights
  • Psychiatric survivors movement--New York (City)
Contributors
  • Alliance for the Liberation of Mental Patients
  • Chamberlin, Judi, 1944-2010
  • Mental Patients Liberation Front
  • Project Release
Types of material
  • Newsletters

Mission and history

Mission

Cattle judging at Mass. Agricultural College

Judging cattle at Mass. Agricultural College

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity, and positive social change, SCUA acts through its collections, 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:

New York City Draft Riot

New York City Draft Riot Letter, 1863
1 item (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 278

This letter, dated July 14, 1863 from New York, is addressed simply to “Brother.” The correspondent is unknown, as the letter is incomplete and consists only of a single sheet of paper. The subject of the letter is the ongoing draft riots in New York City, which began on July 13th and ended on July 16th. The rioters set fire to many businesses and homes, tore up railroad tracks and brought down telegraph lines during the three day ordeal.

Subjects
  • Draft Riot, New York, N.Y., 1863
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
Types of material
  • Letters (Correspondence)

Nichols, Reuben

Reuben Nichols, The adventures and ramblings of a sailor, 1840
1 vol. (0.1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 901 bd

The son of a Revolutionary War veteran from Fairfield County, Conn., Reuben Nichols went to sea as teenager and spent a quarter of a century sailing the Atlantic aboard merchant ships and privateers. After rising to become master of the New York and Savannah packets Exact and Angelique in the 1830s, he retired to a life on shore near Bridgeport.

This vigorous account of a life on the antebellum seas runs Nichols’ childhood hardships through a series of adventures at sea in war and peace. An observant and effective writer, Nichols describes voyages to western and northern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and South America during and after the War of 1812. During a colorful career, he took part in the operations of warships and privateers, witnessed attempted mutinies and desertions, rescued the abolitionist John Hopper from a mob in Georgia, and was drawn into the struggles for colonial liberation. His experiences aboard the privateer Kemp and descriptions of Haiti, Cape Verde, Spain, Gibraltar, Turkey, and Argentina are particularly evocative.

Acquired from William Reese, Mar. 2016
Subjects
  • Abolitionists--Georgia
  • Argentina--Description and travel--19th century
  • Aruba--Description and travel--19th century
  • Gibraltar--Description and travel--19th century
  • Haiti--Description and travel--19th century
  • Hopper, John, 1815-1865
  • Merchant ships--Connecticut
  • Mutiny
  • Privateering
  • Sailors--Connecticut
  • Spain--Description and travel--19th century
  • Stratford (Conn.)--History
  • Turkey--Description and travel--19th century
  • United States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations
Types of material
  • Autobiographies
  • Memoirs

Northampton Cutlery Company

Northampton Cutlery Company Records, 1869-1987
113 boxes (55.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 058

The Northampton Cutlery Company was among the major firms in a region known for high quality cutlery manufacture. Incorporated in 1871 with Judge Samuel L. Hinckley, its largest stockholder, as its first President, the company was located along the Mill River in Northampton, Massachusetts, where operations continued until its closing in 1987.

Records document company operations and technology used in the cutlery manufacturing process, as well as details about employment of immigrant and working class families in the region. Includes administrative, legal, and financial records; correspondence; personnel and labor relations files; and production schedules and specifications.

Subjects
  • Cutlery trade--Massachusetts
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History
Contributors
  • Northampton Cutlery Company

Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)

Northeast Organic Farming Association Records, 1977-2007
12 boxes (6.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 461

The Northeast Organic Farming Association began as the vision of a New York City plumbing supplies salesman and has grown into a large association supporting information-sharing, education, collaboration, and certification. Increasingly influential non-profit organization with chapters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, NOFA has “nearly 4,000 farmers, gardeners and consumers working to promote healthy food, organic farming practices and a cleaner environment.”

The NOFA collection includes records, publications, ephemera, photographs, and other materials from NOFA chapters in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, along with material from the Interstate Council. The collection includes information on NOFA’s conferences and programs, educational work, lobbying, and their initiatives in organic certification and organic land care.

Subjects
  • Agriculture--Massachusetts
  • Organic farming
  • Organic gardening
  • Sustainable agriculture
Contributors
  • NOFA Massachusetts
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