Archives & Special Collections has long been the primary repository charged with collecting and preserving materials that document the history of Amherst College. Thanks to the early efforts by faculty such as “Doc” Hitchcock and William Seymour Tyler down to our current crew of professionally trained archivists and librarians, Amherst College has created a deep and rich archival collection. 

In preparation for the Bicentennial we have spent the past three years selecting, digitizing and describing as much of this material as possible. Even with our concerted efforts to put materials online, we barely scratched the surface of our vast holdings of manuscripts, photographs, publications, and objects. All our digitized materials are available through Amherst College Digital Collections (ACDC).

Amherst College Catalog 1822
First Catalogue, issued March 1822. 

Published Histories

Several books about Amherst College have been published over the past two centuries. Take a look at our College History Virtual Bookshelf for books that are freely available online.

Three new books are in the works for the Bicentennial celebrations. The first of these is already available for purchase: Amherst College: The Campus Guide by Blair Kamin '79.

Mastodon painting by Orra White Hitchcock
"Mastodon Maximus" classroom illustration by Orra White Hitchcock.

Bicentennial Digitization

To learn more about the behind-the-scenes work involved in digitization, “Welcome to the Bicentennial” on the Digital Programs department blog is a great place to start. You will also find detailed information on which archival collections were selected for digitization on the “Collection Overviews” page. 

Explore more in the Digital Programs blog:  “A Millennial in the Archives” shares the unique perspective of a current Amherst student working in the digitization lab; A collection of blog posts about the Bicentennial digitization work documents the experiences and observations of staff and students throughout the project.

Exploring College History

Our selections for digitization emphasized materials of the widest possible interest to our community (yearbooks, course catalogs, The Amherst Student) but we also try to illuminate lesser-known episodes in college history. Staff and student workers in the Archives began a department blog -- The Consecrated Eminence -- in November 2011 as a way to share stories we encounter in our daily work of collecting, organizing, and describing the materials in our care.

Highlights from our blog include:

Morgan Library interior in 1880
Morgan Library. Ca.1880.

Collection Descriptions and Finding Aids

While our blog is a means for us to call attention to collection materials at the micro-level, the bulk of our work as archivists is to organize large volumes of material and create finding aids to help researchers identify materials at the macro level. Finding aids are of necessity broad descriptions of groups of documents rather than item-level descriptions or detailed abstracts of their contents. 

For instance, the “Dean of Faculty. Public Minutes.” finding aid is very bare-bones, with just enough information to enable us to physically locate the volumes a researcher might require:

Faculty Meeting Minutes Finding Aid Screenshot

The finding aid tells us that records for 1825-1827 are a single volume stored in Box 1, folder 5 of this collection, but it tells us nothing about the contents of that volume. Fortunately, you can explore that record book (and others) yourself, thanks to our Bicentennial digitization efforts: Faculty Records, 1825-1827.

An archive as old and rich as ours is made up of hundreds of separate collections, each with its own finding aid. Take a look at our Collections and Finding Aids page to see just how vast our collections truly are.

Amherst College Olio 1889