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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. 

Bill Evans, at that time the editor of the Fairmont Times, remembered the disaster in a letter he wrote to a friend on Christmas afternoon, 1968.  Evans spoke about the disaster from a reporter’s prospective.  He recounts that the original reports of the explosion appeared under a Mannington dateline.  Not until later was this information corrected to read Farmington.

Evans writes at length on the sensational tactics used by the national media as they reported the explosion.  According to Evans, the first few days following the explosion families were stationed in the company store, “constantly surrounded by cameras.”

“Anytime a woman broke down and cried, she was instantly cornered by a dozen or more TV people six or eight of them sticking mikes under her nose.”  This kind of attention was more than some of the No. 9 men could take.  They took the initiative to protect the families from the reporters and moved them to a local church and community center where they could wait for news undisturbed. 

Evans lists some of the papers and reporters on hand covering the story including Ben A. Franklin of the New York Times, Roger Stuart from the Pittsburgh Press, as well as reporters from the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.

Three men in coal mining helmets, looking upwards from a bucket that is carrying them up a shaft
Gary Martin, left, and Bud Hillberry, right, and an unidentified man are hoisted from the Farmington No. 9 mine.  They were the last men to escape the disaster alive.  Photo by Bob Campione.

In addition to Fairmont Times editor, Bill Evans’ letter, the West Virginia and Regional History Center also has books on the subject of the Farmington Mine Disaster.  Among them is Bonnie E. Stewart’s book, No. 9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster, published by the West Virginia University Press.  The book takes a close look at public records, interviews miners, and describes the conditions underground before and after the disaster.  Stewart also addresses the legal actions taken by the miners’ widows to gain justice and establish coal mine safety legislation.

Three men in coal mining helmets, looking upwards from a bucket that is carrying them up a shaft. Overlaid with text "No. 9 The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster Bonnie E. Stewart"

We invite you to visit the West Virginia and Regional History Center to view the Evan’s letter and browse our selection of books on the Farmington Mining Disaster.  These items, from our shelves and our archives, serve as a permanent memorial to the miners who lost their lives in this explosion, 51 years ago. 

Resources: 

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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Art Crawl to highlight art, history, nature on campus

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 25th, 2019
Flyer for art crawl

West Virginia University Libraries encourages University and Morgantown community members to participate in the Campus Art Crawlon Friday, Sept. 27, 1-5 p.m.

This collaborative event includes 11 stops with fascinating exhibits ranging from topics like photography to education, Appalachia to LGBTQ history. Spanning all three campuses – Downtown, Evansdale and Health Sciences – the Campus Art Crawl will feature exhibits, activities, food, and drink. Participation and admission is free. Hours will differ at some locations.

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WVRHC receives fifth NEH grant to digitize historical newspapers

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 18th, 2019
Picture of a front page of a newspaper

This image is an example of the searchable content available on the Chronicling America website.

The West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center has received a $201,917 grant – its fifth from the National Endowment for the Humanities – to continue digitizing newspapers published in West Virginia from 1790 to 1923.

The award is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a collaboration between the NEH and the Library of Congress to enlist libraries and institutions from around the country to create a digital database of historical United States newspapers. This grant brings the NEH’s total funding of the WVRHC’s efforts to $968,000.

“We are honored that the NEH recognizes the tremendous value of the historical newspapers archived in the WVRHC,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said. “Their support speaks volumes to the instrumental roles the Mountain State and its citizens played in the formation and growth of our nation.”

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Lucy Shuttleworth at WVU

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 10th, 2019

Blog post by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor, WVRHC.

Now that the students at West Virginia University have settled back into their school routines, we thought it might be a good idea to take a look back at what other WVU students experienced in the past.  This post will just focus on one such student: Lucy Shuttlesworth, who attended WVU from 1917-1921.

Headshot portrait of Lucy Shuttleworth
Lucy Shuttlesworth’s high school senior portrait, 1917.  From the Allerlei.
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The Incredible Story behind the Collapse of the National Bank of Keystone

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 4th, 2019

Blog post by Linda Blake, University Librarian Emeritas

Twenty years ago, on September 1, 1999, a federal agency, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC), closed the National Bank of Keystone and turned it over to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Button on jacket that says "I survived the 1st National Bank of Keystone"
Button on jacket that says “I survived the 1st National Bank of Keystone”
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Mountaineer Week Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 26th, 2019

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

The University Archives recently received records from the Office of Multicultural Programs that cover the planning of Mountaineer Week in the past. Among other things, we now have their planning binders covering 1995-2005.  This has been a very enjoyable collection to process, though it has made me crave funnel cake and kettle corn a few months too early.  (Mountaineer Week runs November 1-9, 2019.) There are a few highlights that I found so far to share with you.

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Touchdown Challenge 2019 – Are You Ready?

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
August 20th, 2019
aerial picture of stadium

Football is in the air and that means West Virginia UniversityLibraries and the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics are teaming up once again for the Mountaineer Touchdown Challenge, our annual fundraising campaign to benefit the Libraries.

“The Athletics Department has enjoyed its partnership with the WVU Libraries for the past eight years in supporting the Mountaineer Touchdown Challenge,” WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said. “It’s an outstanding initiative, because everyone wins – our fans are happy when our players score touchdowns, which hopefully turns into wins, and that assists the entire student body with their academic endeavors. I encourage our alumni and fans to join us in the Challenge and support all of WVU.”

The initiative, in its ninth year, has provided for many student needs, such as digital cameras, laptops, graphing calculators and other technical equipment that can be checked out, poster printers and a presentation practice room. The Downtown Campus, Evansdale and Health Sciences libraries have all shared in these benefits. 

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Libraries to host “Appalachian Futures” exhibit

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
August 19th, 2019
Drawing of a train.

Image by David Smith, Reed College of Media senior lecturer, and Baaria Chaudhary, Reed College graduate student.

How do you imagine the future of Appalachia?

“Appalachian Futures,” West Virginia University Libraries’ new year-long exhibition, addresses the current dominant narratives about Appalachia in a new way, by looking at how the people of Appalachia have worked and will work to rewrite their own story.

“The exhibit takes us beyond the stereotypes to paint a rich and multi-layered picture of what it means to be Appalachian,” said Sally Brown Deskins, exhibits & programs coordinator for WVU Libraries.

The exhibit officially opens on Sept. 3, with a reception from 5-7 p.m. in the Milano Reading Room in the Downtown Campus Library. Chris Haddox and Travis Stimeling will provide live music. Also, attendees will have the opportunity to interact with games inspired by West Virginia history and designed by collaborative teams of art, media and computer science students.

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New Microfilm Scanners at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 16th, 2019

Blog post by Jessica Eichlin, Reference Supervisor, WVRHC.

Screenshot of ScanPro software, showing historical letter with enlarged picture of letterhead of the Ruffner Bros. Wholesale Grocers
Screenshot of ScanPro software, showing letterhead of the Ruffner Bros. Wholesale Grocers

The West Virginia and Regional History Center just upgraded two of our microfilm machines to the ScanPro 3000, a brand of digital microfilm readers.  Frequent visitors may have already seen these machines in action.  We already have two digital microfilm machines, both ViewScans.  The addition of the two ScanPro microfilm readers gives patrons greater flexibility to use the machine with which they are most comfortable.  Alongside our two ViewScan digital machines, the ScanPro microfilm readers will give patrons better control over viewing and image editing, and will allow digital capture of  images.

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