The University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst Libraries Unveil New Name and Fund for Special Collections and University Archives

Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy announced on Friday, Oct. 22, a new name for the University’s Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA): “In acknowledgment of its growth and development, today we are announcing a new era for Special Collections and University Archives,” said the Chancellor. “To ensure its mission is aligned with a continued focus on building innovative programming around its exceptional collections, SCUA will now be recognized as a UMass research center, the Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center.”

The Chancellor said the new name recognizes SCUA as a unique hub for research: it has become internationally known as a repository and resource for understanding global social change movements and the activists that drive them; for exploring innovation and entrepreneurship; and for better understanding the life and culture of New England. 

“The Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center will serve as a front door—an open door—through which we welcome communities that see themselves reflected in our collections, spaces, and services,” said Sarah Hutton, interim dean of libraries. 

In being named for Rob Cox, who died in May 2020 at age 61, the center highlights the value of intellectual exploration and its potential to improve lives, and the continuing growth of SCUA’s unique collections, which support such exploration and action.  

Under Cox’s leadership from 2004 to 2020, the SCUA team expanded the archives into an exceptional repository, with fully 75% of current SCUA materials acquired during Cox’s tenure. Cox began by building on the papers of W. E. B. Du Bois, one of the department’s most distinguished collections. Guided by Du Bois’s ability to see the interconnections that underlie social change movements, and inspired by Du Bois’s long life and evolving philosophy represented in the collection, Cox put into practice two approaches to collecting: acknowledging and documenting the overlap of social change movements and collecting “whole lives, whole communities.”  

“The research center increases visibility for the university, for Special Collections and University Archives, and the stories and experiences that drove Rob’s work,” said Aaron Rubinstein, head of the Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center. “High-profile collections that came to the University under Rob’s leadership--such as Daniel Ellsberg, Ken Feinberg, Brother David Steindl-Rast, Mark McCormack the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, as well as the stories of hundreds of other people and organizations--and many exciting collaborations and partnerships, all position the research center for future success as we continue building upon Rob’s groundbreaking vision and approach.” 

The University Libraries also announced the Robert S. Cox Special Collections Fund. While the Robert S. Cox Research Center will be supported through the existing resources of the university and the libraries, the Robert S. Cox Fund will allow SCUA to channel additional resources into projects and collections that advance both the mission of the research center and Cox’s legacy. The university’s goal is to create a one-million-dollar endowment, ensuring SCUA can continue to innovate and champion the histories of those activists and groundbreakers whose stories have been overlooked or marginalized. 

The Libraries’ Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center is home to distinguished manuscript collections documenting the history of social change in America, including the papers of W. E. B. Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond. The Robert S. Cox Research Center inspires discovery through the collection and curation of cultural heritage materials for the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond, contributing to the vital conversation between past and future. As part of a community dedicated to the values of diversity, social equity and positive social change, the Robert S. Cox Research Center acts through its collections, services, programs, and exhibitions to promote free inquiry; the production, exchange and preservation of knowledge; and joy in learning.