Special Collections and University Archives
UMass Amherst Libraries

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Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 1717-2003

3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 719

Miscellaneous Manuscripts is an artificial collection that brings together single items and small groups of related materials. Although the collection reflects the general collecting emphases in SCUA, particularly the history of New England, the content ranges widely in theme and format.

  • Massachusetts--Economic conditions--18th century
  • Massachusetts--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Massachusetts--History
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government
  • Massachusetts--Social conditions--18th century
  • Massachusetts--Social conditions--19th century
  • Massachusetts--Social conditions--20th century
Types of material
  • Account books
  • Correspondence
  • Photographs


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

A steward of the past for generations to come, SCUA inspires discovery and advances scholarship through astute 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 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. As the official record of the activities of the university’s administrators and faculty and a reflection of 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.

Goodell’s initiative to assemble the College archives coincided roughly with the Library’s first efforts to build a collection of rare books to support its educational mission. Although the College had no separate library until 1885, its administrators nevertheless accepted several significant gifts of books, beginning with the 1868 donation of twenty scarce volumes on bee culture from the apiculturist and state Adjutant General Henry K. Oliver. By the time the library published its first catalog in 1875, rare books formed a small, but notable part of the collections, focused on the primary academic interests of the early college: agriculture, horticulture and botany, and the natural sciences. 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. All remain 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 collections of rare books and manuscripts have evolved in concert with the evolution of the university and its academic programs. 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, 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 combined administratively 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, but by 2007, 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, thanks to generous support from the Verizon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. The papers of W.E.B. Du Bois led SCUA’s way into the digital realm, followed by the papers of Horace Mann Bond, and then dozens of of other collections.

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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David Ledbetter Nanney Papers, 1948-2008

13 boxes (6.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 592
David Ledbetter Nanney Papers image
Tracy M. Sonneborn

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)
  • Protozoans--Genetics
  • Tetrahymena--Genetics
  • 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-

New England Homestead Farm Accounts Collection, 1883-1884

2 vols. (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 113

The New England Homestead, a magazine published in Springfield, Massachusetts from 1842 to 1969, conducted a contest in 1884 to which farmers submitted notebooks recording their farm accounts for the one year period, April 1, 1883 to March 31, 1884.

The collection includes bound and unbound farm accounts submitted as entries to the contest contest. The Library holds The New England Homestead, 1842-1850 on microfilm, and 1894-1968 in bound volumes.

  • Agriculture--Accounting--Competitions--New England
  • Agriculture--Economic aspects--New England--History--19th century
  • Agriculture--New England--Accounting--History--19th century
  • Contests--New England
  • Farm management--Competitions--New England
  • Farm management--New England--History--19th century
  • Farmers--Competitions--New England
  • Farmers--New England--Economic conditions--19th century
  • New England--Economic conditions--19th century
  • New England Homestead

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Quaker History Collection, 1783-1950

1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 926

During the early twentieth century, the library at the Moses Brown School (formerly the Friends Boarding School) became an informal repository for Quaker manuscripts reflecting the history and work of the Society of Friends. Most of these materials were later transferred for custody to the school’s governing body, the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

This miscellaneous assortment of letters was apparently set aside by the staff at the Moses Brown School due to their historical content and preserved in the “vault.” Many of the letters appear to have been retained as good examples of Quaker expression of family and friendly bonds or as documentation about significant periods in Quaker history, particularly the Gurneyite-Wilburite controversy of the 1840s, and several touch on Quaker involvement in the antislavery and peace movements. Of special note are four interesting letters from the Quaker minister and social reformer, Elizabeth Comstock, written during and just after the Civil War; a series of nine lengthy letters from a visiting English minister Isaac Stephenson, traveling through New England meetings; a substantial series of letters from prominent Friend Samuel Boyd Tobey; and three letters from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Sarah F. Tobey regarding attempts to connect Stowe with Alexander T. Stewart in hopes of raising funds for her plans for the education of women.

  • Antislavery movements--United States
  • Gurney, James Joseph
  • Society of Friends--History
  • Wilbur, John,
  • Comstock, Elizabeth L.
  • Stewart, Alexander Turney, 1803-1876
  • Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
  • Tobey, Samuel Boyd, 1805-1867

New WORLD Theater Records, 1979-2010

41 boxes (61.5 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 025/F2/N4
New WORLD Theater Records image
Photo by Edward Cohen, 2002

New WORLD Theater was founded at UMass Amherst in 1979 by Roberta Uno with the mission of presenting innovative works of theater by contemporary artists of color, with the goal of fostering creative communities, promoting cultural equity, and embracing diverse cultural backgrounds, social engagement, and a commitment to justice. For more than thirty years New WORLD Theater produced many dozens of plays and other dramatic works representing new voices in the theater, as well as plays from the traditional multicultural repertory, and they have supported the arts through performance residencies, conferences and colloquia, and a variety of initiatives aimed at the diverse communities they serve, youth, and theater professionals. New WORLD Theater has contributed significantly to national conversations on cultural equity. After more than three decades of acclaim and recognition, New WORLD Theater was closed by UMass Amherst in summer 2010.

The bulk of the New WORLD Theater collection consists of administrative records documenting the day-to-day activities of the theater, however, it also contains an extensive and exceptionally rich archive of taped interviews, conferences, and theatrical productions. Taken together, the audiovisual material traces the history of New WORLD through the words and performances of artists who both contributed to and benefited from the theater.

  • African Americans--Drama
  • American drama--Minority authors
  • Asian Americans--Drama
  • Ethnic groups--United States--Drama
  • Hispanic Americans--Drama
  • Minorities--United States--Drama
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • New WORLD Theater
  • Page, Priscilla
  • Uno, Roberta, 1956-
Types of material
  • Audiovisual materials
  • Sound recordings

James Robinson Newhall Account Book, 1851-1883

1 vol. (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 177 bd

Prominent lawyer, judge, and author from Lynn, Massachusetts. Includes services as lawyer and judge (such as selling stocks, writing wills, mortgage notices, and lien certificates, and acting as administrator of estates), mention of various court cases, family members, and prominent townspeople. Also contains personal records pertaining to a rental property, and the sale of his book, History of Lynn.

  • Curtin, Martha
  • Green, Benjamin F
  • Guardian and ward--Massachusetts--History--19th century
  • Hazeltine, Phebe
  • Hilton, John
  • Judges--Massachusetts--Lynn--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Lawyers--Massachusetts--Lynn--Economic conditions--19th century
  • Lindsay, James N
  • Merritt, Charles
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary--History
  • Munroe, James
  • Newhall, James R. (James Robinson), 1809-1893. History of Lynn
  • Practice of law--Massachusetts--Lynn--History--19th century
  • Rent charges--Massachusetts--Lynn--History--19th century
  • Rental housing--Massachusetts--Lynn--History--19th century
  • Usher, Roland
  • Vennard, John C
  • Newhall, James R. (James Robinson), 1809-1893
Types of material
  • Account books

Otis Company Records, 1846-1847

2 folders (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 310

The Otis Company of Ware, Massachusetts, was founded in 1839 and became a major producer of textiles, including checks, denims, and cotton underwear. At the height of their operations, the company operated three mills with a workforce of over 1,300.

The collection contains correspondence between Otis agent Henry Lyon and the firms of Parks, Wright & Co. (1846-47) and Wright, Whitman & Co. (1847), both of Boston. It includes bills, invoices, letters, and memos, covering orders for such goods as lamp glasses, patent starch, whale oil, gas pipes, bales of cotton, pot and pearl ashes, fish glue, sour flour, fire buckets, potato starch, tar, sheet copper, and indigo.

  • Mills and milling--Massachusetts--Ware
  • Textile industry--Massachusetts
  • Ware (Mass.)--History
  • Otis Company

Robert and Martha Perske Papers, 1964-2005

13 boxes (19.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 772
Robert and Martha Perske Papers image
Bob and Martha Perske with their dog, Wolfie, 2004

While serving with the U.S. Navy in the Philippines during World War II, the teenaged Bob Perske became aware of the vulnerable and disabled in society and turned his life toward advocacy on their behalf. Studying for the ministry after returning to civilian life, Perske was appointed chaplain at the Kansas Neurological Institute, serving children with intellectual disabilities for 11 years, after which he became a full-time street, court, and prison worker — a citizen advocate — laboring in the cause of deinstitutionalization and civil rights of persons with disabilities, particularly those caught in the legal system. After Bob married his wife Martha in 1971, the two became partners in work, with Martha often illustrating Bob’s numerous books and articles. In 2002, Perske was recognized by the American Bar Association as the only non-lawyer to ever receive the Paul Hearne Award for Services to Persons with Disabilities.

The Perske Papers contains a fifty year record of published and unpublished writings by Bob Perske on issues surrounding persons with disabilities, along with correspondence, photographs, and other materials relating to the Perskes’ activism. The correspondence includes a particularly rich set of letters with a fellow advocate for persons with disabilities, Robert R. Williams.

  • Mental retardation--Social aspects
  • People with disabilities--Deinstitutionalization
  • People with disabilities--Legal status, laws, etc.
  • Perske, Martha
  • Williams, Robert R.
Types of material
  • Photographs
Jack Dixon and camera
Jack Dixon and camera, 1929
Alton Blackington Collection

SCUA is a significant source for visual content, and thousands of digitized images are available for viewing online in our digital repository, Credo. Credo contains thousands of scanned images from our manuscript and photographic collections, representing photographers such as Jeff Albertson, James Baker, Alton Blackington, Burt V. Brooks, Lionel Delevingne, Roy Finestone, and Diana Mara Henry, as well as over 13,000 photographs documenting the history of the University of Massachusetts Amherst community. Although new content is being added to Credo daily, tens of thousands of other photographs are described through manuscript finding aids and have yet to be digitized. All can be viewed on site.

Digital copies of images from SCUA collections are available for a modest fee and modest publication fees may also apply for either commercial or scholarly use. Additional information about our collections can be obtained by contacting our reference staff.

Inventory of unscanned negatives

The Negatives Collection represents over 21,000 photo shoots (perhaps 500,000 images) undertaken by Campus Creative Services between 1954 and 2004. Each negative number represents a single photographic session and may include anywhere from a single image to thirty or more. Please note that the terms used in the inventory were supplied by Photo Services staff over many years and are not always accurate, and furthermore, not all images listed in these inventories were transferred to SCUA. You are always welcome to contact our archivists if you have any questions. Please use the reference number when requesting negatives.

Other UMass photo collections:

While the University Photograph Collection and Photo Center Negatives represent the largest collections of University-related photographs, there are several other smaller collections that visually document UMass.

Contact SCUA for more information about viewing the photographs in these collections.

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