Arlene Avakian arrived at UMass in 1972 as a graduate student working on the social history of American women, but quickly became a key figure in the creation of the university’s new program in Women’s Studies. As she completed her MA in History (1975) and EdD (1985), she helped in the early organization of the program, later joining the faculty as professor and program director. Through her research and teaching, she contributed to an engaging departmental culture in which the intersection of race, class, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality were placed at the center, building the program over the course of 35 years into the nationally-recognized Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Avakian has written and taught on topics ranging from the lives and experiences of Armenian American and African American women to culinary history and the construction of whiteness. She retired in May 2011.
Documenting the growth and development of Women’s Studies at UMass Amherst, the collection includes valuable material on the creation of the department (and Women’s Studies more generally), second- and third-wave feminism, and Avakian’s teaching and research. The collection includes a range of correspondence, memoranda, notes, and drafts of articles, along with several dozen oral historical interviews with Armenian American women. Also noteworthy is the extensive documentation of ABODES, the Amherst Based Organization to Develop Equitable Shelter, which established the Pomeroy Lane Cooperative Housing Community in South Amherst in 1994.
Born in December 1931, Friedrich Karl Azzola fled with his family to Germany in 1944. Settling in the state of Hesse, he earned a degree in chemistry at the University of Giessen and doctorate at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt in 1965. After five years in the chemical industry, he was called to the Fachhochschule Wiesbaden-Russelsheim as professor, teaching chemistry and materials science to engineers until his retirement in 1997. Beginning in the 1950s, Azzola earned a wide reputation for his research on gravemarkers and “cemetery culture,” publishing widely on Medieval and early modern monuments in Germany.
Part of the Association for Gravestone Studies Collection, the Azzola collection consists of a run of Friedhof und Denkmal (2000-2009, with a few earlier issues), along with a suite of offprints of articles and pamphlets by Azzola and others on cemeteries and gravemarkers.
Clairvoyant from youth, Elwood Babbitt developed his psychic abilities at the Edgar Cayce Institute, and by the mid-1960s, was well known in Western Massachusetts through his readings and lectures, often opening his home to other seekers. Charles Hapgood, a professor at Keene State College, worked closely with Babbitt studying the physical effects of the medium’s trance lectures, and by 1967, he began to take on the painstaking process of transcribing and copying them. With communications purporting to come from Jesus, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and the Hindu god Vishnu, among others, these lectures formed the basis for several books by Hapgood and Babbitt, including Voices of Spirit (1975) and Talks with Christ (1981). Babbitt ultimately established a non-profit, alternative school, the Opie Mountain Citadel, which was essentially run out of Babbitt’s home in Northfield.
The collection consists of proofs of publications, lectures, some correspondence, film reels, and transcripts of spiritual communications for which Babbitt was the medium.
Ebenezer Bailey was a wholesale shoe purchaser and distributor from Massachusetts. The collection comprises just over 100 items, the bulk of which are receipts for the purchase and sale of shoes and slippers, covering the period from 1852 to 1882.
On March 13, 1903, Joseph Michael Bajgier was born in Odrzykon, Poland, the youngest of three sons in a farming family. Schooled only through the third grade, Joseph served as a young man in the First Air Division of the Polish Army before following his older brother in emigrating to the United States in 1927. Settling in Chicopee, Mass., with its large and active Polish community, Bajgier began work as a slaughterer of pigs for a meat processing company, but within a few years, he had saved enough money to purchase a small grocery store in Longmeadow. In about 1935, he returned to Chicopee, purchasing a grocery and deli, Bell Market, that his family ran for 36 years. Bajgier was deeply involved in the local Polish community as a member of the Polish National Alliance, the Holy Name Society of St. Stanislaus Parish, and an organization of Polish veterans in exile (Stowarzyszenie Polskich Kombatantow). He and his wife Martha (Misiaszek) had two sons, Casimir and Edward
The Bajgier collection documents the lives of a Polish family in Chicopee, Mass., from the time of immigration through the 1970s. The core of the collection surrounds the life of Joseph Bajgier, and includes a number of documents and a diary from the time of his emigration in 1927, a fascinating series of letters from relatives in Turaszowka, Poland before and after the Second World War, and several photographs of the family and their business in Chicopee.
Hugh Baker served as President during most of the existence of Massachusetts State College, taking office in 1933, two years after it changed name from Massachusetts Agricultural College, and retiring in 1947, just as the college became the University of Massachusetts. A forester by training, Baker began his career as a professor, and later dean, in the College of Forestry at Syracuse University. In 1920, he left Syracuse to become Executive Secretary of the American Paper and Pulp Association, and for nearly a decade, he worked in the forestry industry. He returned to academia in 1930, when he resumed the deanship at the New York State School of Forestry. During his presidency at Massachusetts State College, Baker oversaw the construction of improved housing and classroom facilities for students, a new library, the expansion of the liberal arts curriculum, and a near doubling of student enrollment. Further, chapel services were reorganized to be voluntary, and a weekly convocation was initiated. Baker also founded popular annual conferences on recreation and country life.
The Baker Papers include correspondence with college, state, and federal officials, college suppliers, and alumni; speeches and articles; reports and other papers on topics at issue during Baker’s college presidency, 1933-1947, particularly the building program. Also included are several biographical sketches and memorial tributes; clippings and other papers, relating to Baker’s career as professor of forestry at several colleges, trade association executive, and college president.
James Baker was a member of the Brotherhood of the Spirit commune (later the Renaissance Community) in the early 1970s, and a key contributor to the Free Spirit Press, the commune’s publishing operation. Part promotion, information, and entertainment, the Free Spirit Press magazine ran for four issues in the winter and spring 1972-1973.
The Baker collection consists of the surviving materials from the production of Free Spirit Press concentrated heavily in the period between winter 1972 and summer 1974. Accumulated mostly while preparing a brochure for the commune, the manuscript material contains copies of the commune’s by-laws and membership rolls, comments from community members on how they wished to be represented, and a story board for the brochure and series of quotes from community members to be included. The second half of the collection contains hundreds of images, mostly 35mm negatives, taken of or by the commune and its residents. The images depict the production and distribution of Free Spirit Press and the commune band (Spirit in Flesh, later called Rapunzel), but they also include several rolls of film taken by commune members of major rock and roll acts of the era, including the Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull, Santana, Chuck Berry, Hot Tuna, and Fleetwood Mac.
Born in New York City in 1914, William Balamuth enjoyed a long career in protistology. Introduced to the field as a graduate student in Harold Kirby’s laboratory at the University of California Berkeley, Balamuth received his dissertation in 1939 for a study of regeneration in the heterotrichous marine ciliate, Licnophora macfarlandi. After several years at the University of Missouri and Northwestern, he returned to Berkeley in 1953 to replace his mentor. During the course of his career, Balamuth worked on fundamental issues in the biology of organisms ranging from parasitic amoebae to amoeboflagellates, publishing over 80 papers on culturing, nutritional requirements, cell cycling, and encystment. He died suddenly on June 10, 1981.
The Balamuth Collection consists of 114 drawings of ciliates prepared by William Balamuth for use in courses and publications between the 1930s and early 1960s, along with a handful of offprints of articles and scattered research notes.
The plant pathologist Walter M. Banfield joined the faculty at UMass Amherst in 1949 after service in the Army Medical Corps during World War II. A native of New Jersey with a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Banfield’s research centered on diseases affecting shade trees in the United States, and he is widely credited with identifying the origin of Dutch elm disease. As early as 1950, he emerged as a prominent advocate for the protection of open space and farmland, becoming a founder of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail. An avid hiker and canoeist, he remained in Amherst following his retirement. He died at age 95.
The Banfield Papers include records from his Army service, family records, and professional and family correspondence – particularly between Banfield and his wife Hertha whom he met in Germany during WWII. The professional correspondence documents Banfield’s commitment to land preservation, and include many applications for land to be set aside for agricultural or horticultural use. Banfield was also a talented landscape photographer, and the collection includes a large number of 35mm slides reflecting his varied interests, including images of Europe at the end of World War II and various images of landscape, trees, forests, and other natural features that he used in teaching.