Sunday, April 08, 2007

Labor & Work-W.E.B. Du Bois Library

Western Massachusetts was an early and important center of both industrialization and the development of organized labor, and in recent years, it has experienced many of traumatic effects of deindustrialization and economic transformation. The Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library seeks to document the interrelated history of organized labor, the experience of work, and industry in New England.

At the heart of the SCUA holdings is a suite of collections documenting the organized labor movement in New England. The official records of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is a large and important collection and is joined by records for trades ranging from clothing and textile workers to carpenters, electrical workers, and granite cutters.

Of particular note is the John W. Bennett Labor History Collection, a large assemblage of labor-related realia and ephemera, including hundreds of badges, pins, watch fobs, lighters, and other artifacts distributed to union members at annual conventions and other union events. The collection is a unique resource for study of the iconography of organized labor and includes items from representative unions and locals ranging from the Knights of Labor in the 1870s to the present. While centering on New England, the Bennett Collection extends nationally.

Upon donating his collection, Dr. Bennett generously established an annual lectureship in labor history to be jointly sponsored by SCUA and the Labor Center at UMass Amherst, as well as a visiting research fellowship in labor history.

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