October 18th, 2001
By Monte Maxwell
John Cuthbert, curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, joined the ranks of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, writer Denise Giardina and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gate Jr. during an Oct. 12 ceremony in Charleston.
The distinction came when the West Virginia Humanities Council presented him with the Charles H. Daughtery Award in the Humanities, the council’s highest honor. Cuthbert is the 15th West Virginian to receive the prestigious award.
Executive Director Ken Sullivan said the selection was based on Cuthbert’s contributions to the state through his duties at WVU to preserve West Virginia’s past.
“John is a one of a kind resource,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know of anyone more knowledgeable about West Virginia’s art history.”
While the Daughtery Award recognizes lifetime achievements, Sullivan credits a recent accomplishment for catching the attention of the council. He said Cuthbert earned their admiration with “Early Art and Artists in West Virginia: An Introduction and Biographical Directory,” a book penned by Cuthbert and published last fall by WVU Press.
Sullivan applauds Cuthbert for introducing West Virginians and others to a bountiful heritage few know about.
”I think he’s surprised us with the depth of West Virginia art history,” Sullivan said. “West Virginia has a rich history of folk art, but it also has a rich history in the fine arts.”
Cuthbert came to WVU in 1979 as a musicologist tasked with the responsibility of cataloging and transcribing the rich folk music collection at the West Virginia and Regional History Collection.
Over the past two decades, the job has changed and his commitment to the mission has continued to strengthen.
Cuthbert maintains a high level of enthusiasm as he works to enhance the University Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Collection and research the history of items added to the collection. He said he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s had to study uplifting subjects and people that belie the cultural stereotypes that have so long plagued the state.
“I look forward to playing a continuing role in bringing about a reconsideration of what West Virginia culture really is,” Cuthbert said. “To me, this award represents not only a recognition of progress made to this date but also a hearty dose of inspiration with which to forge ahead.”