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Reflections on Processing Governor Arch Moore’s Papers

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 25th, 2020

Blog post by Abbi Smithmyer, Graduate Student Assistant, WVRHC.

My name is Abbi Smithmyer and this May I will graduate with a master’s degree in Nineteenth Century United States History with a minor field in Public History from West Virginia University. This past year, while pursuing my degree, I had the privilege to work as a Graduate Assistant at the West Virginia and Regional History Center Archives. As a historian in training, working at an archive has been an interesting and rewarding experience. Throughout my assistantship, I worked on the congressional archives of former United States Congressman and West Virginia Governor, Arch A. Moore Jr.

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WVU Libraries names three Munn Scholars

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
May 20th, 2020

West Virginia University Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Committee has selected three Honors College students as 2020 Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars.

“All of us at WVU Libraries are pleased to name Iain MacKay, Jordan Nistendirk and Jack Steketee as Munn Scholars,” Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz said. “Despite all of the challenges surrounding COVID-19, such as a closed campus, they exceeded expectations in the research they conducted and the impressive works of scholarship they produced.”

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Reflections on Processing the Senator John D. Rockefeller IV Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 18th, 2020

Blog post by Maggie Beck, Graduate Student Assistant, WVRHC.

Hello! My name is Maggie Beck and I am a graduate assistant working on processing the massive Senator John D. Rockefeller IV collection. As a dual-degree student working on a Master’s in Social Work and Public Administration, Senator Rockefeller’s work is particularly interesting for me as he worked on many pieces of healthcare legislation.

Maggie Beck
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O’Brien, former dean of libraries, passes away

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
May 13th, 2020
Frances OBrien

Frances O’Brien, former Dean of West Virginia University Libraries, passed away Friday, May 8, at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her daughter, EJ Painter, was with her.

O’Brien served as dean of Libraries from June 1999 until her retirement in December 2011. During her tenure, she oversaw the construction of the Downtown Campus Library and the Library’s state-of-the-art Book Depository as well as renovations to the Wise Library and Evansdale Library. In addition, she worked to implement multiple technological enhancements.

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How to Tell the Age of a Book

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 11th, 2020

Blog post by Jessica Kambara, LTAII/Rare Book Room assistant, WVRHC.

Historical events are not only recorded in the content of books. All parts of a book contain information, from the cover design to the paper to the damage sustained over time.  Book characteristics vary widely depending on the region and time period they were produced; things like war, national affluence, religious movements, and literacy rates all affect book making. Bibliography or bibliology is the study of books and a wide field of study, as such, it cannot be mastered in one day. However, this guide will break down some simple ways to tell the age of a book and serve as a basic introduction to the history of books.

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Libraries to debut “Undefeated” exhibit online

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
May 8th, 2020

West Virginia University Libraries will debut its exhibit “Undefeated: Canvas(s)ing the Politics of Voter Suppression Since Women’s Suffrage” as an online exhibition in August 2020, followed by a print installation in spring of 2021 at the Downtown Campus Library. 

“Undefeated,” the Libraries’ third large collaborative exhibition, brings together several on and off campus partners. The exhibit includes educational content curated by a committee of regional experts, and visual art and designs submitted by nationally known artists.

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The Bloch Family

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 4th, 2020

By Nathan Kosmicki, WVRHC Graduate Assistant

The Bloch family are some of the most influential and noteworthy members of the Wheeling community. Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company was one of the largest employers in the city and produced one of the most widely used brands of chewing tobacco: Mail Pouch. Samuel and Aaron Bloch founded the company in 1880 and came to employ over 500 people by 1900. Samuel and Aaron were both noted philanthropists in the Wheeling area, contributing to charities and donating land for the creation of public parks. Samuel Bloch also served on the board of Ohio Valley General Hospital and contributed greatly to their pediatric department. Jesse Bloch, Samuel’s son, became a state senator and cast the deciding vote for West Virginia’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. Elmhurst, the former home of Samuel, his wife Bertha and their children, now functions as Elmhurst: The House of Friendship. Donated in 1940 by Samuel and Bertha’s children, Mr. Jesse A. Bloch, Mr. Harold S. Bloch, Mrs. Edouard Ziegler, and Mrs. Steven Hirsch, it was donated in memory of Bertha Bloch who served on the board of the House of Friendship when it was titled “The Home for Aged Women.” In addition to this, Samuel and Bertha’s children erected a nurses home for Ohio Valley General Hospital and named it after Samuel S. Bloch.

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Our buildings may be closed, but the Libraries are open

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
April 29th, 2020

If you need help with final projects and papers, there is live chat until midnight during the week. Our extensive online collections are available 24/7, offering millions of academic journal articles, available through databases and ejournals The Libraries’ book collections include nearly a million ebooks available through the library catalogFor articles and chapters not immediately accessible in our online collections, request what you need through ILLiad, and a scanned copy will be delivered to you as soon as possible.

Wishing you all a successful end to this extraordinary semester,

WVU Libraries librarians and staff

Reflections of a Graduate Assistant for Congressional Papers

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 27th, 2020

By Lydia Strickling, WVRHC Graduate Assistant

Portrait of Lydia Strickling

My name is Lydia Strickling and I am a second year student in WVU’s Public History program. I’ve been a graduate assistant with the West Virginia and Regional History Center for the entirety of my time at WVU. During my assistantship, I’ve worked with the papers of former West Virginia Congressman and Governor, Arch A. Moore, Jr., whose political career spanned from the mid 1950s to 1989. My work with the Moore Papers has included processing collections related to both Moore’s Congressional and Gubernatorial service. This involves making sure the collection is stored in appropriate folders and boxes and that it is well-organized to aid future researchers. Other tasks I’ve completed include digitizing documents in the Moore Papers and writing scope and content notes to describe subsections of this collection. I’ve also written text for an upcoming exhibit that will be in the Downtown Library.

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Celebrating Shakespeare and the First Folio

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
April 23rd, 2020

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

O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away.

This quote from Shakespeare’s play “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” (Act I, Scene 3, lines 85-88), describes just what the poet T.S. Eliot was thinking when he described April as “the cruelest month.”  That may be true, but for lovers of Shakespeare, April is the month of his birth, and also his death.  Though the dates of Shakespeare’s birth and death cannot be established with any certainty, April 23 is considered the likely date for both events.  The only extant record that comes close to recording his birth date is a baptismal notice for April 26, 1564.  His passing is believed to have taken place on April 23, 1616.  It is entirely possible that the same date applies to both life events.

These lines are from his most famous work, the collected plays, titled Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, published seven years after his death in 1623.  Known colloquially as the first folio, it is considered to be the most important work ever published in the English language.

Preface and title page image of the first folio: British Library

The first two pages of the folio contain a preface, on the left, and the title page with a portrait of Shakespeare, on the right.  The placement of these items is important, not just because they fulfil the placement of preface and title page that is standard in books, but because they connect so importantly to each other.

The preface, “To the Reader,” appears in the format of a poem written by Ben Jonson, a colleague of Shakespeare, and a well-known playwright, whose plays were the first to be printed “in folio.”  What does printing “in folio” actually mean?  The word “folio” simply refers to the size of the paper used.  A folio is printed on a large size paper.  This was very uncommon for the publication of plays, which were usually printed in a smaller size, called a quarto.  Jonson’s collected plays were the first to be printed “in folio,” and this had a huge influence on the publication of Shakespeare’s plays in the same size.

Ben Jonson’s preface “To the Reader”

                             To the Reader

This figure, that thou here sees put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
Wherein the graver had a strife
With nature, to outdo the life:
O, could he have but drawn his wit
As well in brass, as he has hit
His face, the print would then surpass
All, that was ever written in brass.
But, since he cannot, Reader look
Not on his picture, but his book.

We can see that the text of this preface, above, looks very different than today’s English.  The English language is in transition at this time.  Spelling and letterforms have yet to be standardized.  We see things here that we don’t recognize, such the “long s,” which looks like an “f” without the crossbar, the interchangeable use of letters “u” and “v,” and the ligature of the letters “ct,” to reinforce the sound they make when spoken.  These lines, the modern translation is on the right, have an important purpose, they describe the portrait of Shakespeare on the title page.  It is considered to be the only portrait of Shakespeare created during his lifetime.  It is an engraving by the artist, Martin Droeshout, who was known as a “graver,” taken from the word “engraver.”  The engraving is cut onto brass which was used for printing.  Since Shakespeare had been dead seven years, and many people did not know him, Jonson’s message and the portrait is important.  Yes, the portrait is good, but it can’t capture his wit, move on, read the book!

Shakespeare wrote his plays specifically for the King’s Men, a group of actors who performed exclusively at the Globe Theater.  Not only did he write the plays they performed but he acted in them as well.  It was this group of actors that brought the collected plays to the printers, William Jaggard and his son Isaac, to be published.  Without them, we would not know eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays, including my favorite, Macbeth. The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, and Julius Caesar, among others, would be lost.  All of these plays would remain unknown to us without this book.

Names of the Principal Actors Catalogue image: British Library

The names of all the actors that appeared in the King’s Men is printed on the page on the left.  Shakespeare himself gets top billing.  John Hemmings and Henry Condell are the actors who led the charge to publish Shakespeare’s collected plays.  They are also responsible for organizing the plays under the categories of histories, comedies, and tragedies, as shown on the catalogue or contents page on the right.

In this blog post we’ve talked about Shakespeare, his actors, and his plays. We’ve talked about Ben Jonson and we’ve talked about the publication of the first folio – but we haven’t talked about why it’s called the “first” folio.  It is the first folio because it is the first publication of Shakespeare’s collected plays.  Interest in Shakespeare’s works continued long after the first collection sold out, leading to the publication of additional editions.  In all, there were four folios:  the first, published in 1623, the second, published in 1632, the third, published in 1664, and the fourth and final folio, published in 1685.  Of course, Shakespeare’s works continues to be published to this day. But the folios are the most important editions of his dramatic works.

This is the book that made Shakespeare what he is to us today.  West Virginia University’s West Virginia and Regional History Center rare books collections owns all four of Shakespeare’s folios, thanks the generous gift of Arthur Dayton’s Shakespeare collection, given by his wife, Ruth, in 1951.  Dayton, a WVU alumnus, was a passionate collector whose goal was to acquire all four of Shakespeare’s folios. These books are among the most prized in the rare books collection.  The folios are regularly made available to students and faculty for use in classes in the rare book room and these are some of the facts I share with students when they visit the rare book room.  Thanks to Mr. Dayton’s gift, Shakespeare’s folios have educated generations of students at WVU and will continue to do so for future generations.

Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio by Emma Smith

If you’d like to learn more about Shakespeare and the first folio, I highly recommend The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio, by Emma Smith.  Smith’s book is written in a manner that informs scholars and interested readers alike.

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!


Researching Historic Buildings at the WVRHC: The Pietro Brothers of Morgantown, West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 20th, 2020

By McKayla Herron, WVRHC Graduate Assistant

For one of my classes this semester I have been working on a large project to survey ten buildings in Morgantown’s Greenmont neighborhood. This project entails describing these buildings’ architectural characteristics, researching their previous owners, and writing a history of this section of the neighborhood, which will eventually be submitted to the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office. 

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Local to Global Film Series begins Wednesday

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
April 17th, 2020
Graphic for film series

WVU Libraries and the WVU Humanities Center are partnering with the Department of Geology and Geography this Earth Day as part of the Local to Global Film Series. Join us online for a group viewing of “The Return of Navajo Boy” on Wednesday, April 22, at 7 p.m. via Kanopy, the WVU Libraries’ streaming film database.

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WVU Libraries selects Caronia as 2020-21 Faculty/Staff Exhibit Awardee

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
April 17th, 2020

WVU Libraries’ Arts in the Libraries committee presented the 2020-21 Faculty/Staff Exhibit Award to Nancy Caronia, a teaching assistant professor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Department of English, for her proposal to visually showcase her scholarship, “Dime Novels: Racialization and Erasure,” in a new and experimental way.

While working on an interdisciplinary volume exploring how the American dime novel genre assisted in spreading discriminatory notions of Italian immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Caronia found, “…Dime novels reinforce racist and ethnic stereotypes not only of Italian immigrants, but also indigenous, black, and Chinese individuals and communities.”

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Visit West Virginia Parks During the Pandemic

Posted by Jessica McMillen.
April 16th, 2020

Blog post by Linda Blake, University Librarian Emerita

A forest floor and trees
A forest floor and trees, ca. 1907

Like me, I imagine many of you feel gratitude that the COVID-19 virus wreaked havoc on our county during the spring months rather than during the bleak winter months.  Of course, I am grateful for so much more including remaining healthy, being able to continue to work, having plenty of food and other essentials, and continuing to stay in touch with friends and family electronically. One thing I am particularly grateful for is the ability to get outside as the miracle of spring comes to the green spaces in Morgantown.  Since confinement, I have hiked in the West Virginia Botanic Garden, the Hemlock Trail in Chestnut Ridge Park, and WVU’s Core Arboretum where currently the ephemeral spring wild flowers are showing their full beauty  Not only does the physical exercise reinvigorate me, but the woods are calming and affirm that life continues to go on in so many forms in the woods. 

director of the WVU Arboretum
Roland Guthrie, Arboretum Director, examining a budding tree, 1965

To inspire you to get outside to our parks,  I have selected some historical photographs of city and state parks from the West Virginia and Regional History Collection’s OnView where over fifty thousand digitized photographs await your exploration.  If you have completed all the jigsaw puzzles in your house and find yourself restless, get outside or visit us virtually. Have some fun by searching old pictures of West Virginia parks or other subjects such as families, communities, and industries. 

Let’s start with a few idyllic city parks from around the state.  Maybe our readers will help us date the photos or let us know if these parks still exits.

Beckley 4-H park
Practicing social distancing while swimming and canoeing in at the 4-H Dam and Park in Beckley, undated
Rumseyan Park
Rumseyan Park, Shepherdstown, 1930
Elkins park
Pavilion at Elkins City Park, undated
Ravine Park
Ravine Park in Fairmont, 1921

If you live near one of West Virginia’s extraordinary state parks, then you are lucky to have that resource for escaping the confines of quarantine and the stay-at-home order.   For many of us in the Morgantown area the respite from everyday stress often begins at Coopers Rock State Forest. 

Coopers Rock
Civilian Conservation Corps worker on Coopers Rock, ca. 1936

The West Virginia Regional History Collection maintains the records for theCoopers Rock Foundation as well as information on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which built much of the early infrastructure in state parks.  Information on the CCC’s role in building and enhancing state parks can be researched in the collection titled West Virginia State Parks, National Register Forms. The cabins and other CCC projects can still be seen at Watoga State Park and other parks.

Watoga SP cabin
Cabin 16 at Watoga State Park, ca. 1920-1930

I am including a few more historical photographs of our state parks from West Virginia History On View.  West Virginia maintains nearly forty state parks and forests so I hope that you will take advantage of this resource while maintaining the recommended six-feet of social distancing.

Audra SP
Swimmers before social distancing at Audra State Park, ca. 1950
Berkeley Springs State Park
Relaxing in front of the spring at Berkeley Springs, undated
Hawk’s Nest
Atop the Hawk’s Nest Rock, undated

Covid-19 has created an extraordinary opportunity for us to think about what is important and to strip away parts of our lives which no longer seem important.  Getting outside to the woods has continued to be important to me.  I hope you have found what brings you relief and are safe, healthy, and hopeful.  I leave you with this beauty, the soon to be blooming resilient and beautiful state flower, rhododendron.

Postcard of rhododendron
The state flower, rhododendron, will soon be blooming in many of our parks, undated

For more in depth information on the parks mentioned here, do advanced research on the West Virginia and Regional History Center’s resources, and we look forward to seeing you when our doors open again. 

Looking for a fun summer course? Register for ULIB300: Film and Media Literacy

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
April 15th, 2020

This summer, sit back, relax, and watch some movies with us while earning credits. Check out ULIB 300 – Film and Media Literacy. In this 12-week online course, students will watch the films of Quentin Tarantino, including “Inglourious Basterds,” “Kill Bill,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Reservoirs Dogs,” “Hateful Eight,” and “Jackie Brown,” and discuss how they relate to other films in their genre, criticism, marketing, film vocabulary, and media literacy.

To register in STAR, use the Class Schedule Search and set Subject to “Library Instruction.” Learn more at the Libraries website or contact the instructor, Matt Steele, at or 304-293-4240.

Online access to copyrighted books now available from HathiTrust

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
April 14th, 2020

Through WVU Libraries’ partnership with HathiTrust, students and faculty now have digital access to copyrighted books on a temporary basis. This means that any books available in WVU’s print collections that are also available through HathiTrust will be available online, greatly expanding digital access to our own materials.

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The Women’s Christian Temperance Union

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 13th, 2020

By Nathan Kosmicki, WVRHC Graduate Assistant

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of both Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage. These two events are indicative of ambitious efforts and tumultuous times for the United States. These events and anxieties were felt even in Morgantown. One group in Morgantown had a strong advocacy for both causes, The Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU was a national organization founded on the principles of the abstention and ultimate prohibition of alcohol and women’s suffrage. The group started in a small town outside of Cincinnati in 1873 and grew to full national recognition by 1919 and the ratification of the 18th Amendment. A local chapter of the WCTU was established in Morgantown in 1884 at the Methodist Episcopal Church later called Phillips Hall. Elizabeth J. Moore was elected president and vice presidents from each parish in Morgantown were elected.

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The Tradition of Italian Easter Bread

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 7th, 2020

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC

Every year as Easter approaches, if you are lucky, you might catch the scent of baking bread and fragrant anise wafting in the air in my hometown of Clarksburg, West Virginia.  Easter bread, sweet and flavored with anise seed, is a holiday ritual in the Italian-American community here.  With roots stretching back to Calabria, making Easter bread is a foodways tradition that now thrives in North Central West Virginia.

Three loaves of braided bread
Easter bread made by the author, 2020.
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Libraries here for students

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
March 27th, 2020

Dear Students,

Welcome “back”! As you know, courses are online—and so is the library! We hope your transition to online coursework goes as smoothly as possible, and here are some ways we’re working to help make that happen:


We have put together a LibGuide with information related to online classes, accessing library materials, and more here: We recommend bookmarking it for quick reference. Library fines are being waived, so don’t worry if your materials are overdue!

Research Assistance

As always, we are glad to help at any stage of the research process. We offer assistance through a variety of channels, including chat, email, and audio- or video-conferencing.

You can find the relevant librarian for your subject here:

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Color Our Collections: A Working from Home Activity

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 23rd, 2020

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

If you’re working from home like I am, you might be looking for a fun activity that is both peaceful and distracts you from all the chaos surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Need to take a break from answering emails? Searching for professional development activities? All the latest news reports?  Here’s an activity that both the children and adults in your household will enjoy – coloring!

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