Ask A Librarian

Global and Local Bird Populations Recorded

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 24th, 2020

Blog post by Linda Blake, University Librarian Emeritas

George H. Breiding, 1917-2007, spread the news regarding the importance and impact of nature and its conservation.  While a naturalist at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, 1950-1963, where he was born, he wrote a nature column for the Wheeling Intelligencer, did radio interviews, and taught youth about the natural world.  He was an agent for WVU’s Extension Services, 1963-1979, and also wrote widely for various popular magazines including Wild Wonderful West Virginia and Bird Watcher’s Digest.  As I said, he spread the word at every opportunity.

Older man holding up a poster, talking to younger man beside him
George H. Breiding teaching a youth
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Faculty Exhibit Award recipient details her experience in creating “Big Green Data”

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
January 17th, 2020

By Lara Farina

English professor and recipient of the WVU Libraries’ 2019 Faculty Exhibit Award

Farina’s recent research focuses on the botanic world in pre-modern medicine, philosophy, art, and literature, specifically that of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Her exhibit, “Big Green Data: Herbals, Science, and Art,” is currently on display at the Evansdale Library through May.

Archival research is always full of surprises, and sometimes these surprises are more worthy of study than the research we plan in advance. This was certainly true of my visits to British and American libraries for the purpose of looking at medieval herbals first-hand. Herbals are pharmacopeia, lists of medicinal plants. Before the sixteenth century, they circulated as manuscript codices — hand-written and often copiously illustrated books. I intended to read these works for information about how physicians and pharmacists used sensory practices to identify and discuss botanic life. But description of plants’ smell, feel, taste, and even visual appearance was disappointingly minimal in these voluminous works of botanic science.

A print titled Bugloss
“Bugloss” from Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 130, f. , late 11th century. llustration and synonyms.
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Welcome Back to WVU: 1920 Edition

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 16th, 2020

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC

About this time one hundred years ago, WVU students returned to Morgantown to begin a new semester of classes.  The collections at the West Virginia & Regional History Center allow us a glimpse of student and University life back then.  The Athenaeum student newspaper describes student experiences, happenings on campus, and the important topics of the day. 

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WVU Libraries opens exhibition on Voting Rights Act of 1965

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
January 14th, 2020
Telegram from Martin Luther King Jr
In this July 1965 telegram, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urges Congressman Arch Moore to vote against the McCulloch amendment to the Voting Rights Act, which removed automatic triggers from the bill. The House rejected the measure 166 to 215. From the Governor Arch A. Moore Jr. papers, West Virginia & Regional History Center.

West Virginia University Libraries’ new exhibit marks the 55th anniversary of the passage of a landmark piece of civil rights legislation. “For the Dignity of Man and the Destiny of Democracy: The Voting Rights Act of 1965” is on display now through the end of 2020 in the Downtown Campus Library’s Rockefeller Gallery.

Enacted 150 years ago in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment established that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race. Yet African Americans, particularly those residing in southern states, continued to face significant obstacles to voting. These included bureaucratic restrictions, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, as well as intimidation and physical violence.

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Submissions deadline approaching for Libraries’ voter suppression exhibit

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 20th, 2019
collection of political buttons

The submissions deadline is Jan. 17, 2020 for West Virginia University Libraries’ art exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enforced voting rights for racial minorities.

“Undefeated: Canvas(s)ing the Politics of Voter Suppression since Women’s Suffrage” will open at the Downtown Campus Library in fall 2020 and address the political process with special attention to efforts to suppress the votes of women and minorities since 1920.

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A New Way of Looking at Thomas Jefferson’s Legal Dictionary

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 16th, 2019

By McKayla Herron, Graduate Assistant at the WVRHC

Working as a graduate assistant at the WV&RHC, I have been surrounded by amazing archival materials. This semester I had the opportunity to undertake an in-depth study of Thomas Jefferson’s Common Law Dictionary, one of the many treasures found in our Rare Book Collection, as part of my coursework for ARHS 412: Collections Care and Preservation of Material Objects. (This book was featured in a previous post by Rare Book Librarian Stewart Plein.) Utilizing a microscope to examine the book, I was able to learn more about the materials that comprise it and the techniques used to make it.

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Something Good from Helvetia: Pfeffernusse

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 6th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC

A couple of years ago, I purchased a small cookbook from the Helvetia table during WVU’s Mountaineer Week.  I collect local cookbooks and this one was of special interest because I had just learned that my Hochstadler ancestors had likely immigrated from Switzerland to America in the mid-eighteenth century.

Cover of book showing title "Oppis Guet’s Vo Helvetia" and a green china hutch.
The cover of my cookbook. Art by Delores R. Baggerly. Oppis Guet’s Vo Helvetia translates to “Something Good from Helvetia.” The WVRHC has 1969 original prints of the cookbook in the collection. My copy is a modern reprint.
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Apple Stack Cake

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 25th, 2019

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

After my blog post about Shoofly Pie, controversially credited as the WV state dessert on some websites, I’ve been on the lookout for a dessert that would better suit the title of “West Virginia state dessert.”  It has proven to be a real challenge.  My most recent search turned up new ideas (summed up nicely in this WV Gazette Mail article) from hot dogs/mad dogs (tasty pastries that are actually filled with cream) to peanut butter oat cookies (which I love, knowing them from my non-WV childhood as chocolate oatmeal no bake cookies and other less pleasing names).  I kept digging through the internet, seeing apples and molasses pop up a couple of times as quintessential ingredients.  Then, I stumbled on Appalachian Apple Stack Cake.

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Remembering the Farmington Mine Disaster November 20, 1968

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 19th, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

Huge plume of smoke billowing from an obscured structure over a parking lot

Early on the morning of November 20, 1968, while the day was still in darkness, an explosion rocked the Consolidation Coal No. 9 mine in Marion County, WV.  The Farmington Mine Disaster, as it is remembered today, took the lives of 78 miners.  Of the 99 miners at work in the mine that day, only 21 survived.  Of the 78 miners who died, 19 of the dead have never been recovered.  Their grave is the mine where they worked. 

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My West Virginia Family Ghost Story

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 15th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC

By the time this is published, Halloween will be a diminishing memory for most but I think ghost stories are enjoyed year round!  So I wanted to share my family’s ghost story. When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers read to the class from the West Virginia classic, The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Stories by Dr. Ruth Ann Musick.  The book was published in 1965. Dr. Musick was folklorist and faculty member at Fairmont State College (now University.)

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Halloween Poem

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 31st, 2019

Courtesy of Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

Enjoy this short Halloween poem from an item in our rare book collection:

Carved jack-o-lanterns sketch

We are merry Jack O’Lanterns, See!
Come and join us in our glee,
While we dance beneath the tree,
While we dance upon the green,
While we dance on Hallowe’en,
Come and join our merry ranks,
While we play our jolly pranks
Come and hear us as we tell,
What the witches know so well,
Come, Oh come! And do not wait,
While we dance here on the green,
While we dance on Hallowe’en.

Sketch of children carrying jack-o-lanterns

Poem and images (which can be printed as coloring pages, if you like) all from:

Lewis, G.W. The Story Primer.  Illustrated by Bess Bruce Cleaveland.  Third edition.  Chicago: G.W. Lewis Publishing Co. 1915.  Pages 70-72.

Happy Halloween from the WVRHC!

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 28th, 2019

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC.

Still looking for costume ideas?  In addition to the many historical outfits you can find examples of in our West Virginia History OnView database of photos, we also have examples of costumes people have worn in the past.

With basic papier-mâché skills and some rather large clothes, you could make your very own Very Tall Person costume:

Children hiding behind five people in very tall person costumes.
Parade Participants in Tall Costumes, Morgantown, W. Va., early 1900s
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WVU Libraries to host Games Day

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 24th, 2019
Games Day logo

In celebration of International Games Week, WVU Libraries is hosting their annual International Games Day on Friday, Nov. 1, from 4-7 p.m. in the Downtown Campus Library, Room 2036.

Participants will be able to demo games being created by WVU’s Game Developer’s Club, play in a mock Super Smash Brothers tournament, compete for prize giveaways from Starport Arcade, sample some board games, and have a throw at some classic yard games. Insomnia Cookies is also sponsoring the event.

International Games Week has been celebrated in 53 countries and territories on all 7 continents. Hundreds of libraries across the country will join WVU in celebrating the popularity and educational, recreational and social value of games. For more information, contact Sally Deskins, exhibits and programs coordinator for WVU Libraries, at sbdeskins@mail.wvu.edu.

Downtown Campus Library hosting Faculty Exhibit Award winner talk on Oct. 24

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 16th, 2019
Illustration titled The Fruit of the Mandragora

English Professor Lara Farina, winner of the 2019 Faculty Exhibit Award, will talk about her research and exhibit Thursday, Oct. 24, at 4 p.m. in the Downtown Campus Library, Room 1020.

WVU Libraries’ Arts in the Libraries committee selected Farina, a professor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Department of English, for her proposal of an exhibit that visually showcases her scholarship in a new and experimental way.

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October is Archives Month!

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 14th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC. Photographs by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor.

October is Archives Month and the occasion has caused me to reflect on the work we do at the West Virginia & Regional History Center. I often give tours and lead classes where I have a short amount of time to relay all the moving parts that makes us a thriving archive.  In this blog post, I hope to do the same: provide a short overview of the myriad activities that comprise the important work we do.

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National Newspaper Week: Celebrating Morgantown’s Newspapers

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 10th, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

Logo stating "Think First, Know Your 5 Freedoms, National Newspaper Week, October 6-12"

The editorial in yesterday’s Dominion Post newspaper for Wednesday, October 9, 2019, discussed National Newspaper Week, which recognizes the service of newspapers and their employees across North America.  This year, National Newspaper Week is October 6-12, and it is sponsored by the Newspaper Association Managers.  The poster pictured above, is the logo for this year’s celebration.

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WVU Libraries to host Women of Appalachia Project spoken word event on October 19

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 4th, 2019
Women of Appalachia Project artists come together to celebrate spoken word and fine art at Ohio University’s Baker Theater.

West Virginia University Libraries will host “Women Speak”, a juried performance of poetry, songs, short stories and essays, on October 19 from 1-3 p.m. in the Downtown Campus Library’s Milano Reading Room.

The annual event is a creation of the Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) who issues a call for residents of all 420 Appalachian counties to submit writing to be featured.

“Many people have an image of an Appalachian woman, and they look down on her,” WOAP Organizer Kari Gunter-Seymour said. “The mission of WOAP is to showcase the way in which female artists respond to the Appalachian region as a source of inspiration, bringing together women from diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences to embrace the stereotype – to show the whole woman; beyond the superficial factors that people use to judge her.”

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Libraries seeking submissions for upcoming voter suppression exhibit

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 1st, 2019
flyer promoting exhibit

West Virginia University Libraries is seeking submissions for a major art exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enforced voting rights for racial minorities.

“Undefeated: Canvas(s)ing the Politics of Voter Suppression since Women’s Suffrage” will open at the Downtown Campus Library in fall 2020 and address the political process with special attention to efforts to suppress the votes of women and minorities since 1920.

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Preserving the Emory Kemp Collection Inspires a Former Student and Spawns a New Addition at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 30th, 2019

Blog post by Alanna Natanson, 2018-2019 Preserve WV AmeriCorps member who served at the WVRHC

Universities love monetary donations to help fulfill our missions, but at the West Virginia and Regional History Center (WVRHC), the special collections library at West Virginia University (WVU), we love donations of another kind: old papers! Specifically, the materials that individuals and organizations in West Virginia and Central Appalachia create during their lifetimes. My work with the papers of Dr. Emory Kemp as part of my AmeriCorps service caught the attention of WVU alum Glenn Longacre, and it inspired him to offer research materials from his own career to the WVRHC.

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Tales from Japan: Lafcadio Hearn and Japanese Folklore

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 25th, 2019

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Assistant Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

This past weekend I lazily paged through a recent issue of the New Yorker magazine and found a book review for Monique Truong’s The Sweetest Fruits.  After reading it, I found that I was already familiar with its subject, the writer Lafcadio Hearn (1840 – 1904), whose books are part of the WVU Library’s rare book collection. 

From reading the review I gathered that Truong’s book can be seen as an imagined conversation that relives moments in Hearn’s life, as spoken by the women who were important to him. The promotional description on Amazon’s website describes the book in this way: “The lives of writers can often best be understood through the eyes of those who nurtured them and made their work possible. In The Sweetest Fruits . . .  three women tell the story of their time with Lafcadio Hearn, a globetrotting writer best known for his books about Meiji-era Japan.” 

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