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Center for Lowell History, UMass Lowell Archives and Special Collections

Our History

Early Special Collections at UMass Lowell 

The Connector, November 20, 1986.1

The University of Massachusetts (known at the time as Lowell Technical Institute) Alumni Library was built in 1950 and housed a large collection under Director of Libraries, Dr. Howard K. Moore. As the collection developed, a Special Collection of rare books and archives began growing, largely through the efforts of librarian Joseph Kopyzinski. It expanded even more as the library became a Congressional Depository for US Government Documents in 1952 as a part of the US Federal Depository Library Program which sought to expand access to government documentation to the American public.2  In 1976, the Alumni Library was renamed to the Martin J. Lydon Library to honor a former Lowell Tech President.3 The Lydon Library continued to serve as the center for the university’s special collection. In 1986, Martha Mayo, a Special Collections Librarian and Professor at UMass Lowell, wrote an article for “The Connector” describing the various collections focused on Lowell, including the Boston and Maine Railroad Historical Society Collection, the Lowell Historical Society, the Middlesex Canal Association Collection, the Proprietors of the Locks and Canals Co., and several more.4 Collections also included those of the predecessors of UMass Lowell: the Lowell Normal School (Lowell State College) and Lowell Technological Institute. These collections are still housed at the Center for Lowell History.  

Shift to the Center for Lowell History 

 The Connector, 23 January 1989.5

The growing collection of Lowell history began needing more space of its own. In 1980, the Lowell Historic Preservation Committee published the first volume of their 8-year plan to preserve the cultural and historic importance of Lowell’s architecture and city. This plan included the Lowell Heritage Park, the Boott Cotton Mills, and advocated for the reuse of many historic sites. One such site was a traditional boarding house located on French Street. The listed objectives for this building were to preserve and maintain the building as authentic 19th-century architecture as well as “develop an adaptive use for the interior that both assists in interpretation of the boarding house life and also provides a community place designed to both celebrate and sustain Lowell’s sense of its own heritage.”6 Around 1985, the Committee invited the University to this new cultural center. The move would provide about three times the space the collection had at the Lydon Library.7 The Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center (named for the Executive Director of the Historic Preservation Committee) was completed in the summer of 1988 and the collection officially moved over in 1989. The UMass Special Collections was then renamed to the Center for Lowell History (CLH).  The CLH still provides in-depth resources for all researchers regarding the diverse cultures and vast heritage of the City of Lowell. 


1 Mayo, Martha, “Special Collections at the University,” The Connector, 20 November 1986. (accessed June 15, 2023).

2 Rodgers, Samuel V, New Government Documents Librarian on Campus, Memorandum, 09 September 1980, Box 8, Folder 20, University Archives, Library, Center for Lowell History, University of Massachusetts Lowell.

3 Breen, Frank, “North Library Renamed”, The Connector, 20 April 1976. (accessed June 8, 2023).

4 Mayo, Martha, “Special Collections at the University,” The Connector, 20 November 1986. (accessed June 8, 2023).

5 Mahaleris, Chuck, “Center Captures ULowell’s Past,” The Connector, 23 January 1989. (accessed June 15, 2023).

6 Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, Preservation Plan (Lowell, MA: The Commission, 1980), 44.

7 Mahaleris, Chuck, “Center Captures ULowell’s Past,” The Connector, 23 January 1989. (accessed June 8, 2023).

Current Staff

Tony Sampas

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Tony Sampas MLIS, MFA
he him his
Head Archivist
UMass, Lowell Libraries
Center for Lowell History
40 French Street
O'Leary Library
61 Wilder Street
Lowell, MA 0185
Cel: 978 314 4237
978 934 4165

Nikki Tantum

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Nikki Tantum
Digital Initiatives Archivist, Center for Lowell History

Carisa Kolias

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Carisa Kolias, MLS
Public Services & Special Collections Archivist, Center for Lowell History