New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

2018 Annual Report

Oct 17, 2018

The Archives and Historical Records Committee has been focused this year on the completion of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Special Collections and University Archives at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at University of Massachusetts, Amherst (SCUA).

In February, the Memorandum of Understanding was approved by the Permanent Board and signed copies of the agreement were shared with Rob Cox at SCUA.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between New England Yearly Meeting and SCUA lays out the expected communication between the organizations as well as the documents and directions for transfers to SCUA. The Archives Committee looks forward to the on-going development of the work with SCUA to support the Yearly Meeting, our monthly and quarterly meetings, and researchers. The MOU specifies our agreement to an annual review of the understanding. We understand that relationships between organizations can change with time. The MOU may in the future be amended to address needed changes.

In particular, two areas are detailed in the MOU, as they were in our letter to monthly meetings regarding both what the deed of gift means regarding copyright and the rights of meetings to protect privacy of individuals for a period of time.

The Committee spent time in collaboration with Rachel Onuf, consulting archivist, and SCUA to detail what the nonexclusive copyright means for the donating meeting and for individuals who may have individually authored or created donated material. We worked to ensure that the Deed of Gift forms make clear the choices that Meeting have regarding copyright of the material they are transferring to SCUA.

Privacy has been another area with which the Committee has spent time to articulate policies and come to agreement with SCUA, to ensure the privacy of persons. The MOU provides for the closure of documents to research upon request for either 20 or 40 years upon donation.

With the completion of the MOU and the Collection Policy, we as a Committee turned our attention to working with meetings on the transfer of documents to SCUA. We focused on discerning what the Yearly Meeting needs for an archivist to support NEYM and the monthly meetings in this work. A proposed description for the work of an Outreach Archivist has been created and submitted to the Secretary.

A description of the work for an archivist has been written with a significant list of possible responsibilities, ranging from outreach to local meetings to liaising with other New England repositories that continue to hold meeting records. The committee will continue to work actively to further shape this position as well as to work with whomever fills this position to set annual priorities and actively support and contribute to the work.

In this coming year, we must transition from the use of our consulting archivist Rachel Onuf. While the committee agreed to take a year working with Rachel with restricted hours, in order to both support a balanced budget and to better understand the needs of this new position, as a committee we agree strongly that the needs of the Yearly Meeting may be better met by an Outreach Archivist working 4 to 5 days each month.

As Part of our agreement with SCUA, Rob Cox provides an annual report, which is included below.

As clerk, it is a pleasure to work with such a hard working Committee who come to our monthly meetings prepared with an enthusiasm for the work.

—Carol Forsythe, Clerk

Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst

Cataloging (books)

Over the past year, SCUA hired a short-term cataloger who catalogued nearly 2,000 books and pamphlets that arrived with the NEYM collection. The remainder of printed materials, primarily periodicals with some pamphlets, represent low-priority titles. The metadata department in the library is currently understaffed due to recent retirements (the search for a replacement is under way), and the uncatalogued titles are part of the queue for cataloging as time permits. The cataloged books are currently shelved in glass-fronted bookcases in our newly built seminar room.

Processing (manuscripts and archives)

We completed our general survey of the entire NEYM collection and have made inroads into clarifying and standardizing the naming. The boxes are now organized in archival order according to provenance (committee, meeting, or other source). During the survey we identified approximately 40 boxes of “miscellaneous” materials that will have to be interfiled with existing records, work we hope to begin this summer. We have delayed making a new finding aid available to the public until we have a better handle on this miscellany.

From here, our plan is to process (or re-process) the entire collection systematically, creating separate finding aids for each discrete segment of the archive: NEYM as a whole, each quarterly and monthly meeting, and other subcollections. We are currently processing the records of AFSC-Western Massachusetts (acquired separately), and have completed finding aids for several of the subcollections: the papers of Samuel Austin, Moses Brown, the Howland family, and Quaker miscellany collection, the Peck-Sisson-White family, the Slade family, and Sarah Swift; and the records of the Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave-Trade. A graduate student intern from UMass is currently at work on processing a collection from Henry Perry, head of AFSC-run Civilian Public Service Camps in New England during the Second World War. Perry’s papers were not identified in previous NEYM listings, but are a significant addition.


Our efforts in digitization thus far have been exploratory only, designed to set a baseline for future work. We have digitized selected portions of the papers of Samuel Austin, Moses Brown, the Howland family, Slade family, and Sarah Swift, as well as the Friends miscellany. Estimates derived from these explorations and previous projects will enable us to estimate the total cost of any larger-scale initiatives. Although we can continue digitization without external support, external funding will enable us to hire additional workers and thus speed the process. We have identified two potential funding sources to assist with a larger-scale project, but will wait to apply until we have completed some of our current mass digitization projects.

Preservation and conservation

SCUA received a donation from a Friend in Virginia and a small regrant from the Massachusetts State Historical Records Advisory Board that has enabled us to purchase additional supplies for rehousing the NEYM collection. We have already purchased boxes and folders for use as processing continues.

Our new conservator has prepared custom enclosures for a number of books and other items in the collection and we plan to create custom housing for selected volumes among the bound records in the collection according to need and as our budget permits.

New arrivals

We received an addition to the records of the Obadiah Brown’s Benevolent Fund, which we will begin to process shortly, and several monthly meetings have been in touch about adding to their collections. Durham (Me.) MM and Hartford MM have each contributed additional minutes and we have received books and other materials from Mount Toby MM and newsletters from several meetings.

—Rob Cox, SCUA

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

(508) 754-6760 - [email protected]