Grossmann Gallery exhibit features diaries and journals from University Archives & Special Collections in the Healey Library

IMG_6238Diaries and journals offer a unique lens through which to study and experience historical and historic events and time periods. A current display in the Walter Grossmann Gallery in the Joseph P. Healey Library, entitled “WINDOWS TO THE PAST: Diaries and Journals from University Archives & Special Collections,” uses the writings of three individuals to reflect on life in Massachusetts and in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century.

This display serves as a companion exhibit to another display in the Grossmann Gallery entitled “‘A PERSONAL MANIFESTO … OF SORTS’: The Diaries of Carol McEldowney,” which explores the life of activist, writer, and women’s self-defense educator Carol McEldowney. Read about that exhibit here.


William A. Cowles, circa 1862

The first individual featured in “WINDOWS TO THE PAST” is William A. Cowles. Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1834, Cowles served two tours of duty with the 42nd Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers during the Civil War. He married Josephine Lewis of Quincy in 1858 and the couple had two daughters. The Cowles family later moved to Billerica, Massachusetts. William Cowles died on September 15, 1905. The Cowles papers in University Archives & Special Collections consist primarily of the journals that Cowles kept while serving his first tour of duty in New Orleans. Included in the display, along with those journals, are a ration book and a music book, newspaper clippings, photographs, and a printed history of the 42nd Regiment. View a fuller description of the Cowles Papers here. Select materials from this collection have also been digitized and are online here.

Also featured in the display are diaries and other materials from the Albert D. Healey collection. Healey (no known connection to Joseph P. Healey) was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on April 27, 1888, and moved to Dorchester in 1902. Healey began recording his personal diary in January of 1903 and ended it in 1908, his last year at Harvard College. According to Healey, he intended to “write a sort of diary in which I shall state the most important happenings of my life every day for a year” and “it is very probably that I shall not finish it, because I seldom finish such things after starting them, and if I should finish probably nobody will ever see it.” The collection contains a number of diaries, a sketch book, poetry and a short story draft by Healey, among other materials, many of which are included as part of the display. View a fuller description of the Healey collection here.

Wedding of Robert and Arabella Bellamy (photo contributed to the Mass. Memories Road Show by Robert Severy), September 24, 1913

Wedding of Robert and Arabella Bellamy (photo contributed to the Mass. Memories Road Show by Robert Severy), September 24, 1913

And finally, a number of materials related to Robert Bayard Bellamy are on display as part of “WINDOWS TO THE PAST.” Bellamy was a civil engineer and surveyor who held several positions with the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s. Included as part of the Bellamy Family Papers in University Archives & Special Collections, donated by Robert Bayard Severy, the Robert Bellamy papers include personal correspondence between Bellamy and his wife, Arabella (or Belle), during the Depression when Robert was forced to leave the area to find work. Also included are a number of household expense journals and personal diaries by Bellamy, including a copy of his diary from 1926 to 1951. In his diary from 1893, which is included in this display, Bellamy, then in his early teens, describes life in Dorchester, his school, attempts with friends to find the best spots in the city for sledding in the winter and fishing in the summer, and a train trip through western Massachusetts. View a fuller description of the Bellamy Family Papers here.

From remembrances of wartime to reflections on daily life, these diaries, journals, and sketchbooks present multifaceted entry points for exploring Massachusetts history and life.

Visit “WINDOWS TO THE PAST” in the Grossmann Gallery on the 5th floor of the Healey Library at UMass Boston. The exhibition will run through the spring of 2016.

For questions about these collections or to schedule a research appointment, please email or call 617-287-5469.

To learn more about all of the exhibits currently on display in the Grossmann Gallery, click here.

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email

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