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West Virginia Christmas through the Decades

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 23rd, 2013

For our pre-Christmas post, we bring you images of Christmas in West Virginia from the 1890s through the 1970s.  These photographs, available through the West Virginia History OnView database, capture scenes of family and community life, the state’s diversity, caring for the sick, providing for those in need, and celebrating the holiday with pageantry and food.

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Rare books curator receives I Love my Librarian award

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 17th, 2013

WVU Today

In a national celebration of beloved librarians, West Virginia University’s rare books curator is among the top 10.

Harold Forbes was named Tuesday one of 10 winners of I Love My Librarian Award by the Carnegie Corp. of New York and The New York Times, through the American Library Association. The award has been presented to just 60 librarians nationwide since 2008.

Forbes’ colleagues say he clearly deserves the award, which recognizes select librarians for service to their communities, schools and campuses.

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Sleigh Riding in West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 16th, 2013

The advent of the holiday season evokes in the mind sights and sounds, even smells, related to food, music, and winter landscapes.  Certainly one such holiday image would be sleigh riding, and the mountain landscape of West Virginia provides an ideal backdrop for such imagery, such as that found in Randolph County around the small town of Helvetia.  Settled by the Swiss in the 19th century, this isolated community sustained its cultural identity well into the 1900s.

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Recipes from the Archives

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 9th, 2013

The winter season has long been associated with holidays, friends, family, and food.  For this week’s blog post, we bring you four recipes from the 1800s that show us how Appalachian people from that time would have made popular holiday dishes of today:  pound cake, fruit cake, corn meal rusk (a kind of corn bread eaten for breakfast), and mince pie.

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Major Coal Strike One Hundred Years Ago

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 2nd, 2013

Just over a century ago, in the spring of 1912, a fight broke out between labor and corporate interests in the coal fields around Paint and Cabin Creeks in Kanawha County.  When redress for apparent wage inequality was denied by the mine owners, the workers went on strike, a decision that eventually led to violence, property destruction, and many deaths. Read the rest of this entry »

Authors in the Archive

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 18th, 2013

November is, among other things, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.  West Virginians writing novels this month (or any other) can take inspiration from fellow Mountaineers who have written for pleasure and profit, some of international fame.  Aspiring novelists can explore the writing processes of these authors by examining collections of their papers, some of which have been collected and preserved by the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

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University and Local Communities Attend Read-In

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 13th, 2013

People from the University and Morgantown communities gathered together recently at the Downtown Campus Library to participate in a read-in and discussion focused on the Libraries’ new collection of Islamic culture books.

The event, hosted by the Libraries, the WVU Religious Studies Program, and the Islamic Center of Morgantown, promoted the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, a collection of books, films, and an online database funded through an award by the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Library Association.

Students from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds read selections from poetry, prose, and personal narratives. Participants took time to discuss each reading and offered their thoughts the on works.

“Sharing literature helps us recognize commonalities that transcend geographic origins or religious beliefs,” said Beth Toren, media and religious studies librarian for the WVU Libraries. “Recognizing our common humanity broadens and balances our perspectives.”

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Introduction to Grant Seeking and Finding Funders with Foundation Directory Online

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 11th, 2013

WVU Libraries will host a free workshop on grantseeking basics for nonprofit organizations on November 19, 2013, from 9-11 a.m., in Room 136, Downtown Campus Library.

“Introduction to Grantseeking” will be led by Penny Pugh and Alyssa Wright and will provide an overview of the funding research process for nonprofits seeking grants from foundations, corporations, and grantmaking public charities.

Participants will learn how best to identify funding sources for their nonprofit organizations, using the electronic and print resources available for free at WVU’s Downtown Campus Library.   The workshop will include a demonstration and hands-on practice with the Foundation Directory Online, the Foundation Center’s premiere searchable database that provides information on more than 110,000 grantmakers and more than 3 million grant records.

Please register by email: or by phone: 304-293-0337.

Veterans Remembered at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 11th, 2013

Veterans Day is celebrated annually on November 11 as a remembrance of those who have served in the United States armed services.  Founded as “Armistice Day” by President Wilson in 1919, it was intended to honor the heroism of the veterans of World War I on the day that hostilities ceased.  The holiday was later designated through law to officially recognize all US military veterans under the current name of “Veterans Day.”

The West Virginia and Regional History Center also honors veterans through the acquisition and preservation of records that document their service.  We have records of West Virginians who have served in many conflicts, including the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam.

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Happy Election Day for Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 5th, 2013

On June 9, 1840, Peter Garnall of Wheeling, [West] Virginia, wrote a letter to his nephew Mordecai Garnall in Pensacola, Florida.  He wrote about the importance of staying in touch with one’s family, his curio cabinet, and predictions for the upcoming presidential election, which pitted General William Henry Harrison (“Tippecanoe”) and his running mate John Tyler against then-President Martin Van Buren.

Excerpt from Garnall’s letter (A&M 2543):

The approaching Presidential election has produced an excitement far beyond anything of the kind I have ever witnessed.  The people assemble in thousands.  We have on the vicinity of this place four very large meetings. That at West Alexander is said to have numbered from eight to ten thousand.  They had one yesterday of some three thousand at a small village eight miles above Wheeling & there is to be another … on the 3rd September, which will in all probability number many thousands, but so far they [all] gone off in harmony, the prevailing opinion amaze many of the [?] who have been collecting information that Gen. Harrison will get two hundred & forty eight electoral votes out of the two hundred & ninety five.  The Whigs are very sanguine of success.  Senator Tallmadge in a letter I read yesterday says that Gen. Harrison’s majority will exceed that of General Jackson in his palmiest days, he says that N. York will give the former a majority over Mr. VanBuren of fifteen thousand at least.  In & about Wheeling an overwhelming majority of the men women and children are all alive to the success of Harrison.

Mr. Garnell’s sources were very nearly correct:  Harrison won 234 out of 294 electoral votes, and he won the popular vote in New York, Van Buren’s home state, by over 13,000 votes.  The popular vote in Virginia was close, with a little over 1000 votes swinging all of the state’s electoral votes in favor of Van Buren.

Harrison’s election was unique for many reasons.  First, he broke with tradition and became the first president to actively campaign.  However, his first campaign, for the presidency in 1836, failed.  Harrison’s campaign tours were not the type of campaigning Americans usually see today— Harrison was trying to show people that he was healthy enough for the presidency.  Unfortunately, he became the first president to die in office, holding his presidency for only one month.

HarpWeek has more information on the evolution of presidential campaigning here.

Blog post by Jane Metters.

Mountaineer Week Film Event

Posted by Admin.
October 31st, 2013

Join Jo Brown, Research Librarian and Appalachian Bibliographer, for a screening of The Last Mountain, a moving and controversial documentary about the battle to save Coal River Mountain. The film will be shown at 1:30 PM on Wednesday, November 6th, in the Mountainlair Gluck Theatre, as part of Mountaineer Week. The Last Mountain takes an unflinching look at the practice of mountaintop removal mining and the environmental, health, social, and economic effects of the using coal to meet America’s energy needs. A discussion will follow the screening.

Movie Theater Memorabilia Recently Acquired

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 29th, 2013

The West Virginia and Regional History Center recently acquired glass lantern advertising slides that were once projected in the local theater of the small Calhoun County town of Grantsville.  Dating from the early 20th century, they announced upcoming movies to be screened at the Kanawha Theater to captive local audiences seeking entertainment and distraction.  These slides, nearly a century old, document the transition from silent cinema to the modern sound film.

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Downtown Campus Library Hosts Islamic Culture Read-In and Discussion

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 28th, 2013

The West Virginia University Libraries, the WVU Religious Studies Program, and the Islamic Center of Morgantown will host a read-in and discussion on Nov. 6, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Downtown Campus Library, room 104.

The read-in, which is open to the public, promotes the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, a collection of books, films, and an online database funded through an award by the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Library Association.

WVU is among 840 institutions across the nation to receive the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, an introduction to Islamic cultures in the United States and around the globe. Muslim Journeys is the first in the National Endowment of the Humanities Bridging Cultures series.

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Get Ready for Halloween with the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 21st, 2013

Whether you are researching West Virginia ghost stories or just looking for Halloween costume inspiration, the West Virginia and Regional History Center has something for everyone.

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New Resource: Oral History Catalog Now Online

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 14th, 2013

Hearing someone describe their own experience of events in the past, as an eyewitness, provides an almost tangible connection to history, a connection that can be found missing when compared to reading second hand accounts of past events by historians and others.  The immediacy of oral history interviews can make them a compelling resource for research, whether the subject is a veteran of World War II, a striking miner, or a mountaineer discussing folklore.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center possesses a large and diverse collection of oral history recordings.  A catalog of this material is now available online for researchers.  Most of the interviews in this collection were recorded from the 1940s to the 1980s.  Some of the earliest interviews contain narratives that speak first-hand about life in the 1800s.

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WV Sesquicentennial Exhibit Now Available Online

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 30th, 2013

The West Virginia and Regional History Center’s current exhibit, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the creation of our state, is now available to view online.  Visit our 2013 exhibit webpage to take a look!

Exhibit Trivia:

Largest item on display:  the 35 star flag, more than 9 1/2 feet wide and 6 feet tall

Smallest item on display:  a Confederate gold dollar, roughly one centimeter in diameter

Oldest item on display:  While the Fry-Jefferson Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia was published in 1753, the map on display is a facsimile.  The oldest original item we have on display is most likely the compass used by Francis Deakins when he surveyed the Deakins line in 1788, depending on when it was actually made; the land grant signed by Benjamin Franklin in 1787 may be older.

Newest item on display:  Not including the items that are facsimiles created specifically for this exhibit, the newest item on display is most likely the West Virginia University cadet uniform, which dates to the end of the 19th century.

Blog post by Jane Metters.

BrowZine! Your Journals in a Browsable Format

Posted by Admin.
September 27th, 2013

The Libraries are sponsoring a trial of BrowZine, the new iPad and Adroid application that allows you to browse, read, and monitor scholarly journals right on your iPad or Android tablet!

To get started, just search for BrowZine in your app store, download the free app, and select West Virginia University from the list of schools. BrowZine will be available for testing until October 31st.

Do you like BrowZine? Please send feedback to

Many Historical Photographs Are Still A Mystery

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 24th, 2013

When photographs are made, their creators often overlook the task of recording identifications of their subjects, whether the names of people, locations, or special events.  This is not surprising, since the usefulness of photographs is apparently seen by their creators as limited to the immediate purpose at hand, where the subjects are already known by the photographer.  But when photographs outlive their creators, their content is often unknown to those who acquire them — this is a situation faced by all who work in museums and libraries when acquiring historical collections.  This situation becomes a problem when these materials are repurposed for historical research, since their potential can remain largely untapped until their content can be divulged through astute detective work or a “lucky break.”

The West Virginia and Regional History Center is no different from other repositories in sharing this problem.  And like other repositories, we sometimes publish our unidentified photos in the hope that someone may recognize a person, a location, etc., and help us identify our images of mystery.

To start, we are curious about the location of the company store in the following image:

This picture was taken by William O. Trevey, a photographer working in the New River coalfields of Raleigh and Fayette counties in the period ca. 1900-1930.  Other Trevey photographs in our collection can be found here.

Another photograph of interest is of a mill which we believe to be somewhere in West Virginia, since it came from the collection of James Boughner, a Morgantown resident.  We would like to know where this mill is located, and any related information:

Finally, we are interested in finding out anything we can about this photograph from the collection of Walter Mestrezat, the first director of West Virginia University’s wind band:

If you would like to share information about any of these photographs, please contact Associate Curator of Archives and Manuscripts Michael Ridderbusch at, or call the WVRHC at 304-293-3536.

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch.

Libraries Extend Hours at Evansdale Library

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 23rd, 2013

If you are a student who needs to work all night to prepare for an exam and finish a project, Evansdale Library will be the place for you this fall.

Beginning September 29, the Evansdale Library will be open around the clock for most of the week. The library will open at 11 a.m. Sunday and remain open until 8 p.m. Friday, and will operate 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday.

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What is in the Archive: The Importance of Looking Good

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 16th, 2013

As the third post in our series about the enduring value of archival items, today’s post will explore artifactual value.  The Society of American Archivists’ glossary defines artifactual value as “The usefulness or significance of an object based on its physical or aesthetic characteristics, rather than its intellectual content.”  We can say an item has artifactual value if it is a good example of its type, regardless of its subject matter.  Artifactual value can apply to such diverse items as photographs, land grants, clothing, and books, and it is one of the factors that archivists (and museum professionals) consider when deciding what to preserve for future generations.

Here are a few examples of items with artifactual value that can be found in WVU’s collections: Read the rest of this entry »