To spark imaginations and to celebrate the legacy of innovation and the activist spirit, SCUA pursues an ambitious program of collecting materials of enduring historical value and offers strong support for research and learning. Through its collections, programs, public events, and exhibitions, SCUA promotes meaningful engagement with the broad record of social change in America and innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the varied histories of the peoples of New England and the UMass Amherst community. We embrace the university’s historic role as a center of knowledge for the people of the Commonwealth and are committed to using the highest professional standards and practices and the best technologies available to provide free and unfettered access to our holdings for all who wish to use them.
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. Documenting the activities of the administration and faculty and the life of its students, this 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.
The timing of Goodell’s proposal to preserve the College archives coincided roughly with the Library’s first efforts to assemble a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. Although the campus had no separate library building until 1885, the College accepted several significant gifts of books, beginning as early as 1868, when the apiarist and state Adjutant General Henry K. Oliver donated twenty scarce volumes on bee culture, followed by other donations of important works in agriculture, history, and science. By the time the library published its first catalogue in 1875, rare books were a small, but distinctive part of the collections. 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 two 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. All remain part of the collections today.
From its initial focus on agriculture, horticulture, and the natural sciences, the Library soon extended its collections to encompass the history and culture of New England. With the acquisition of the records of the Valley Peace Center and the papers of ethnographer Jozef Obrebski in 1973, the Library began to acquire collections of personal papers and organizational records of historical significance. The rare book and manuscript collections were combined administratively with the University Archives in the early 1990s to form the current Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Today, SCUA oversees a growing research collection of primary materials that includes rare books and manuscripts, historic maps, photographs, prints, and the official records of the campus at UMass Amherst.
David Ledbetter Nanney Papers, 1948-2008.
Call no.: MS 592
The experimental ciliatologist David L. Nanney spent much of his career studying the protozoan Tetrahymena. Under Tracy M. Sonneborn at Indiana University, he completed a dissertation in 1951 on the mating habits of Paramecium, but soon after joining the faculty at the University of Michigan, he turned his attention to Tetrahymena. During his subsequent career in Ann Arbor (1951-1959) and at the University of Illinois (1959-1991), Nanney made a series of fundamental contributions to the cytology, genetics, developmental biology, and evolution of ciliates, influencing the work of other biologists such as Joe Frankel, Janina Kaczanowska, Linda Hufnagel, and Nicola Ricci. Since his retirement in 1991, Nanney has remained in Urbana.
The Nanney Papers include a dense run of professional correspondence with ciliatologists, geneticists, students and colleagues regarding his pioneering research on ciliates and other professional matters. Of particular note is an extensive correspondence with Sonneborn, accompanied by several biographical essays written after Sonneborn’s death, and a large body of correspondence of the controversial reorganization of the biological sciences departments at the University of Illinois in the 1970s. The collection also includes a selection of Nanney’s writings and a handful of photographs.
- Developmental biology
- Evolution (Biology)
- University of Illinois--Faculty
- Allen, Sally
- Bleyman, Lea K
- Corliss, John O
- Frankel, Joseph, 1935-
- Kaczanowski, Andrzej
- McKoy, J. Wynne
- Nanney, David Ledbetter, 1925-
- Nyberg, Dennis Wayne, 1944-
- Orias, Eduardo
- Ricci, Nicola
- Siegel, Richard
- Sonneborn, T. M. (Tracy Morton), 1905-
Charles H. Patterson Papers, 1930-1958.
Call no.: FS 089
For many years, Charles H. Patterson served as head of the Department of Language and Literature at Massachusetts Agricultural College. Born in Smithsonville, Ont., in 1863, Patterson received both a BA (1887) and MA (1893) from Tufts University before launching his teaching career. He joined the faculty at MAC as an assistant professor of English, in 1916, after 13 years at West Virginia University. A former professional actor, he taught courses in modern literature, with a particular interest in drama, and served as department chair for nearly a decade before his sudden death in 1933.
The Patterson Papers contain a small selection of correspondence and notes on English composition and literature as taught at Massachusetts Agricultural College. Most noteworthy, perhaps, is a draft of Patterson’s unpublished book, The Amazing Boucicault.
- Boucicault, Dion, 1820-1890
- Drama--Study and teaching
- Massachusetts Agricultural College--Faculty
- Massachusetts Agricultural College. Department of English
- Patterson, Charles H
Charles A. Peters Papers, 1853-1971 (Bulk: 1894-1920).
Call no.: FS 066
Born in Worcester, Mass., in 1875, Charles A. Peters studied chemistry under Charles Goessmann at Massachusetts Agricultural College, graduating with the class of 1897. After receiving his doctorate at Yale in 1901, he joined the faculty at the University of Idaho for several years before completing his education with two years of post-doctoral work in Berlin (1908-1910). Offered the chance to return to his alma mater in 1912, Peters became a cornerstone of instruction in chemistry, teaching courses for many years in quantitative analysis, inorganic chemistry, and analytical chemistry, and serving as chair of the department. Although he retired when he reached the mandatory age in 1945, Peters remained in Amherst. In 1970, he was presented a gold cane by the Amherst selectmen as the town’s oldest man. He died on Oct. 4, 1973, at the age of 99.
A small, but diverse collection, the Peters Papers include an interesting assortment of materials from the early years of Charles Peters’ association with the Massachusetts Agricultural College. In addition to an assortment of correspondence, primarily from the turn of the 20th century, the collection includes a series of notes taken during undergraduate classes in economic botany, horticulture, chemistry, agriculture, and organic chemistry, some teaching materials, and personal photographs.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of Chemistry
- Peters, Charles A
Types of material
Frank Prentice Rand Papers, 1905-1976.
Call no.: FS 083
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.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Department of History
- Rand, Frank Prentice, 1889-
Types of material
- Oral histories
The Department of Special Collections and University Archives houses over 35,000 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 built strength in several distinct areas, ranging from the history of social change to the extraordinary collection of Japanese rarities collected by the geologist Benjamin Smith Lyman during the Meiji era. Other noteworthy collections include those pertaining to the culture of the Cold War: 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.
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.
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
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.
Books by and about Robert Francis, Archibald MacLeish, William Manchester, William Lederer, and the Broadside Press, among others, as well as 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 William Morris and William Butler Yeats, signed first editions of works by Thomas Mann, and collections of French and Scottish writers.
New England history and culture
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. SCUA also collects works printed in small towns and rural districts of Massachusetts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
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.
Collection growth is the heart of any archive, and as an active, growing archive, SCUA welcomes donations of personal papers, organizational records, photographs, diaries and journals, books and pamphlets, and other materials relating to our major collecting interests. With the support of our friends and colleagues, SCUA has built substantial depth in documenting:
- The history and experience of social change in America
- Innovation and entrepreneurship
- The social, cultural, intellectual, and political history of New England
- The University of Massachusetts Amherst, its faculty, staff, students, and alumni
SCUA offers secure, permanent housing for collections, excellent access for researchers, and a stimulating intellectual environment. Please help us preserve our history for the future.
For further information, please contact the Head of Special Collections.
Donate to the University Archives
The University Archives welcomes assistance in preserving the memory of UMass Amherst, our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. We document all aspects of the University and its unique intellectual climate and history, with a particular interest in:
- Personal, professional, or family papers
- Correspondence from students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni
- Diaries, journals, or reminiscences
- Memorabilia from UMass Amherst, Mass. Agricultural College, and Mass. State College
- Histories of departments, centers, institutes, and programs
- Syllabi, selected lectures, and lecture notes
- Records of committees, university organizations, or events
- Unique research materials, such as field notes
- Photographs and artwork.
To discuss archiving your papers with the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, please contact the Head of Special Collections.
Roscoe Wilfrid Thatcher Papers, 1900-1934.
Call no.: RG 003/1 T43
The agronomist Roscoe Thatcher served as the last president of Massachusetts Agricultural College and the first when the institution changed its name to Massachusetts State College in 1931. Before coming to Amherst, Thatcher had extensive experience in both agricultural research and administration, having served as director of the agricultural station for the state of Washington, as professor of plant chemistry at the University of Minnesota (1913-1917), and as dean of the School of Agriculture and director of the Minnesota Experiment Station (1917-1921), and as director of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. Selected as President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1927, he helped expand the two year program in practical agriculture to become the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and oversaw curricular reform, orienting vocational training toward citizenship education. The student health service also started during his tenure. Thatcher resigned due to ill health in 1933. Although he returned to research in agricultural chemistry at the College in April 1933, he died in his laboratory on December 6, 1933.
Official and administrative correspondence, memos, and other papers, relating to Thatcher’s service as president of Massachusetts State College together with writing and biographical material.
- Massachusetts State College. President
- Thatcher, Roscoe Wilfrid, 1872-1933
Ray Ethan Torrey Papers, 1832-1983.
Call no.: FS 121
A plant morphologist and member of the Botany Department at Massachusetts Agricultural College, Ray Ethan Torrey was among the college’s most charismatic faculty members during the early twentieth century. Born in Leverett, Mass., and educated in the local public schools, Torrey graduated from MAC with the class of 1912, earning his PhD at Harvard six years later. After serving on the faculty of Grove City College and Wesleyan, he returned to his alma mater in 1919, where he remained for more than 36 years. A specialist in plant morphology and author or two widely used textbooks and numerous articles, Torrey’s introductory course in botany was among the most popular in the college. He was best known, however, for taking a broader, philosophical approach to science that encouraged students to explore the connections between philosophy, science, religion, and the humanities. Torrey died of leukemia in Boston on Jan. 16, 1956.
Correspondence, chiefly with former students and colleagues at other institutions; lecture notes and outlines; 27 pen and ink drawings; published writings and drawings; biographical material; class and laboratory notes taken by students; family and educational records (1832-1956); photographs, and other papers.
- Botany--Study and teaching
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Botany Department
- Torrey, Ray Ethan, 1887-
Types of material
- Pen and ink drawings
Ralph Van Meter Papers, 1919-1958.
Call no.: RG 003/1 V36
Ralph Van Meter, the first president of the University of Massachusetts after it changed its name from Massachusetts State College in 1947, spent nearly 40 years learning, teaching, and leading on the Amherst campus. A graduate of Ohio State University (B.S., 1917), he came to the Massachusetts Agricultural College as a specialist in Food Conservation in 1917, serving in the Pomology Department first as a professor, and then as the head from 1936 to 1948. The Board of Trustees appointed Van Meter as Acting President in 1947 and President in 1948. He was responsible for a number of innovations, including the creation of the position of Provost (first held by John Paul Mather) and the establishment of new schools of business administration and engineering.
Correspondence, memos, reports, clippings, and other papers, relating to matters at issue during Van Meter’s presidency of University of Massachusetts including the building program, World War II veterans, accreditation, and the university seal; together with published writings, biographical material, military records, and material from Van Meter’s inauguration as university president.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. President
- Van Meter, Ralph Albert, 1893-