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WVRHC Exhibit on Storer College

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 29th, 2015

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

West Virginia University Libraries and the WVRHC marked the 150th anniversary of the origins of Storer College with a celebration and the opening of a new exhibit in the WVRHC galleries.  Stewart has written a great blog post on the importance of Storer College, Storer College, Celebrating 150 Years of Education, 1865 to 1955.  Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite pieces of the exhibit: 

Favorite 3D object:  the stereoscope

Stereoscope showing stereo card of Harpers Ferry Engine House

Even though the exhibit includes a lot of fun artifacts, such as a musket made at Harpers Ferry, glasses of a former US Secretary of War, a loving cup, and more, my favorite 3D object is the stereoscope, pictured above.  Supposedly, the stereoscope should allow you to view the stereo card, which is divided into right eye and left eye images, as one 3D image.  I haven’t yet seen the 3D image in our stereo card showing John Brown’s Fort (I suspect my glasses are to blame), but I love that we have a historical object that people can interact with!

Bonus points for anyone who enjoyed the modern version of a stereoscope growing up:

View Master photo taken by flickr user Victor Ramos

Credit:  Victor Ramos,

Favorite sports item: the photo of the Storer College 1920 girls’ basketball team

Storer College girls basketball team 1920

The exhibit case of sports-related items is full of great stuff, but my personal favorite is the photo above.  Storer College accepted both men and women from the start, and I love that their admissions equality was borne out in sports teams as well.  In comparison, WVU had made the “initial step toward the permanent foundation of a girls’ basketball team,” as recorded in the 1920 yearbook ( page 220); sadly, the girls don’t show up in the 1921 yearbook, but they organized the Women’s Athletic Council in 1922, complete with basketball squad.  According to “The Record Book”, WVU officially started the women’s basketball team in 1973.

Favorite sign of the times:  Storer College list of “Prohibitions”

Pages about Storer College rules ca. 1887-1888

Storer College began as a Free Will Baptist mission school, so it should come as no surprise that college officials expected students to abide by a strict code of conduct.  The page above at left is a continuation of a list of “Prohibitions” that forbids certain activities, from physical to fiscal:  “To drink intoxicating liquors, or visit any drinking saloon, or to use profane or indecent language,” “To play cards, jump, dance or scuffle in any of the buildings,” and “To change boarding places leaving bills unpaid or to contract debts in town,” to list a few.  There are four additional things which young ladies are forbidden from doing, ranging from going to the railroad station without permission to wearing expensive or showy clothes.

Though women had more rules to abide by, they also didn’t have to pay as much for tuition and room rent—on the right side of the page, you will see that, in the late 1880s, young men had to pay $1.50 per month, or $10.80 for the school year if paid in advance.  Young women had to pay $1.00 per month, or $7.20 if paying in advance.  Fifty cents difference per month may not seem like that much in our time, when you can’t even buy a bag of chips from a vending machine for that little, but according to this inflation calculator, “What cost $.50 in 1888 would cost $12.97 in 2014.”  That’s the equivalent of a few good meals!  I’ll have to do a bit more research to find out if charging men more was typical for that time, which may be difficult due to the fact that colleges admitting women wasn’t incredibly common then.

For other great content about Storer College, please see our Storer College Digital Collection, or come check out the archives in person. For those who cannot visit the exhibit in person, I am working on a PDF slideshow version of the exhibit, so stay tuned!


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