Finding Aids, Collection Descriptions, and Research Assistance

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston has nearly 300 collections. The finding aids to these collections provide detailed information about our materials (that is, the actual letters, photographs, maps, organizational records, diaries, audiotapes, videotapes, etc.). Some of the materials described in the finding aids are available online, and links to these are included within the finding aid. In other cases, particular records of interest may be scanned and sent to a researcher for a fee. Please contact Archives staff to make a research appointment or to learn more about our collections.

The collections in University Archives & Special Collections are divided into two broad categories:

  1. University Archives constitutes the official records, publications, and photographs of the University of Massachusetts Boston, as well as materials documenting preceding institutions such as the Boston Normal School and Boston State College.
  2. Special Collections includes collections that reflect the University’s urban mission and strong support of community service, and contains records of social welfare organizations, community organizations and alternative movements, and local history, as well as collections that document issues related to war and social consequence. Also contained in the department’s Special Collections is a selection of rare and special books.

For additional assistance or to schedule a research visit, please contact us at

The collections in University Archives & Special Collections are further divided into a range of more specific sub-categories, listed below, that can assist in browsing and searching. Archives staff have also created several Research Guides (see below) to assist researchers.

Selected Collection Categories

Activism Cuban Activists Archive School Desegregation
Arts Dorchester Social Welfare
Bicycling Environment Transportation
Boston Harbor/Boston Harbor Islands Gardens/Green Spaces UMass Boston
Boston Normal School Joiner Center/Joiner Institute Urban Planning
Boston State College Labor Vietnam War
Community Organizations Poetry War and Social Consequences

Finding aids for all collections are in PDF format and may be found through the various search tools of our digital collections site. In addition, bibliographic records for all of the monographs in the department and some collection-level descriptions of the archival and manuscripts collections appear in the library’s online catalog.

The following overview of our collection is intended to help orient researchers to the range of materials in University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston.

Archival and Manuscript Collections

Areas of concentration include social welfare agencies, community organizations and alternative movements and local history.

The records of local nineteenth- and early twentieth-century private social welfare and charitable organizations provide us with a history of the work of these agencies and of the people they served. The agencies include orphanages, settlement houses, and social welfare institutions in the Boston area.

In Boston, as in other urban centers, people often respond to the social issues and conditions of the day by organizing into voluntary community-based organizations. The community can be defined as either a geographical community (responding to an issue in a neighborhood for instance) or as a community of shared interest responding to contemporary social issues. Our collections document these aspects of the recent and contemporary history of Boston, its citizens and its neighborhoods.

A collection of books, publications, ephemera, and family papers primarily about the Dorchester section of Boston, its citizens and its neighborhoods, has been established from contributions of Dorchester residents and organizations. Our collections document the history of Dorchester as a twentieth-century urban community and how it has responded to changes in mid- and late twentieth-century society. Other local history collections document various aspects of Boston history, with notable collections related to the Boston Harbor Islands and Boston bicycling history.

Explore our archival and manuscript collections (Finding Aids).

UMass Boston & Boston State College

The University Archives provides various printed and archival material for the study of the history, policies, and programs of UMass Boston. This includes catalogs (1966-), yearbooks (1969-), the student newspaper (1965-), and doctoral dissertations, master’s theses, reports, and monographs published by many departments, programs, and institutes of the university.

Boston State College merged with UMass Boston in 1982. The department has a collection of college records, photographs, and publications relating to the history of Boston State, including catalogs (1953/54-1980/82), yearbooks (1917, 1927-1982), and newspapers (1954-1981).

Explore Our Collections Related to UMass Boston’s History (Finding Aids).

William Joiner/Institute Center Collections

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston has curatorial responsibility for the material acquired by the William Joiner Institute (formerly the William Joiner Center) as part of its mission to study the effects of the Vietnam War on our society, as well as the study of war and social consequences more broadly. The collections of archives, manuscripts, photographs, and videos primarily explore veterans’ issues and experiences.

Explore the Joiner Center/Institute collections and collections related to war and social consequences.

Special Collections Books

There are approximately 6,000 titles in the Special Collections. A large portion of the collection consists of costly or out-of-print books on fine arts. The remainder range from a late Aldine edition to video art and is composed mostly of first editions, rare, and finely printed books. Of special note is a collection of the work of German author Jakob Wasserman, the Anais Nin collection of twentieth-century poetry, and the Amado Alonso collection of Spanish language literature. In the graphic arts the collection contains more than 100 contemporary prints by regionally and nationally known printmakers, and collections of photographic portraits by Lotte Jacobi and Elsa Dorfman. There is also a set of early twentieth-century readers collected by Boston State College Professor Miriam Kallen. All items are individually cataloged in UMBrella, the library’s online discovery tool.

Research Guides

Archives staff have developed a number of Research Guides to assist researchers.

For additional assistance or to schedule a research visit, please contact us at

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