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Preserving the Past for the Future: Following the Yellow Brick Road through the Wonderful World of Oz

Posted by Mary Alvarez.
December 22nd, 2021

This fall, I had the opportunity to work with part of one of our incoming collections, an assortment of children’s books that included upwards of 60 volumes either part of, or in direct connection with, L. Frank Baum’s Oz Stories. These books belonged to one Alice Marie Hunt, a name I came across countless times as I examined each volume. The books range from vintage first editions, to vibrant reprints, to glossy reference books and encyclopedic volumes. Part of the collection is what Oz fans have lovingly named the “Famous Forty,” the go-to moniker for the first 40 Oz books, those that are considered an official part of the Oz canon. While L. Frank Baum is certainly the most celebrated and universally acknowledged author of the Oz series, he isn’t the only one. In fact, he wasn’t the author that wrote most of the Famous Forty. That honor goes to Ruth Plumly Thompson, with a total of 19, who picked up from where Baum left off. Her first book, “The Royal Book of Oz,” was published under Baum’s name.

"The Royal Book of Oz," published as an L. Frank Baum story, but written by Ruth Plumly Thompson.
“The Royal Book of Oz,” published as an L. Frank Baum story, but written by Ruth Plumly Thompson.

The most immediately striking and noticeable part of this collection are the beautiful covers and interior illustrations, the majority of which were drawn by John R. Neill. Neill’s illustrations have become an integral part of the Oz works, and many reference books and newer editions include prints of his color plates and black and white drawings. The colors are at once lively and soft, and the linework is simple but creates instantly recognizable characters that match well with their personalities on the page. It’s easy to see why so many readers, both young and old, were enamored with the world of Oz. In my opinion, it has just as much to do with the covers and illustrations as it does with the writing.

One of my favorite covers from the collection, "The Purple Prince of Oz," illustrated by John R. Neill.
One of my favorite covers from the collection, “The Purple Prince of Oz,” illustrated by John R. Neill.

In the process of taking an inventory of this collection, I felt I really got to know these books. On a basic level, I learned more about the Oz series than I ever thought I would know. By the time I had made my way through a third of the collection, I had memorized the names of authors, publishing companies, and illustrators. I found myself getting distracted researching the fantastical and fun world of the series, both from a narrative perspective, and a behind-the-scenes one, as I traced which author wrote which book, how many they contributed, and if they had other involvement in the series as a whole—John R. Neill actually wrote three of the 35 books he illustrated! I came across a multitude of databases and sites dedicated to sharing information about the Oz series. There are books specifically written for the purpose of guiding Oz book collectors, and ones that celebrate the world of Oz in its entirety, including the many film and television adaptations.

An illustration from the cover of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," printed in an Oz reference book.
An illustration from the cover of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” printed in an Oz reference book.

Something else struck me, the deeper I got into the cataloguing process. As the technicalities of where they were worn, what parts were delicate or damaged and what condition they were in faded away, becoming second nature after writing them repeatedly for so many books, I started to notice other patterns. Alice’s name written inside the front cover of almost 40 of the volumes. Books that were in shockingly pristine condition. Inscriptions written in neat cursive: “To Alice,” they said, “from Mother, Easter 1950,” “from Uncle Jim,” “from Grandpa, Mimi, and Mommy,” “from Papa, Mama, Unkie and me,” “Love & Merry Christmas 1954 from Uncle Jim.” I realized how much Alice must have cared for these books, how her family clearly knew of her interest in them and wanted to get her a gift that would bring her joy and contribute to her collection.

A bookplate from L. Frank Baum's "Glinda of Oz," with an inscription reading "From Papa, Mama, Unkie and me," and Alice's name and address written twice.
A bookplate from L. Frank Baum’s “Glinda of Oz,” with an inscription reading “From Papa, Mama, Unkie and me,” and Alice’s name and address written twice.

There were books where Alice’s name was written twice on the bookplate—once in pencil in a child’s handwriting, and another in pen, in a neat, small cursive. Others where some of the illustrations were traced, like the owner was trying to learn to draw the scenes. There is no way of knowing which of the books’ owners practiced their art this way, but it called to mind such a universal childhood experience—consuming a story and realizing that the characters have stuck with you, that something in the plot or the essence of the work felt good, even after you had finished reading. So, you practice drawing the characters, tracing over the lines to “get it right” so that one day you can draw them on your own. It’s such a specific—and yet still relatable—display of interest and joy.

A bookplate from L. Frank Baum's "The Royal Book of Oz," with an inscription reading, "from Mother, Easter 1950," and Alice's name written twice.
A bookplate from L. Frank Baum’s “The Royal Book of Oz,” with an inscription reading, “from Mother, Easter 1950,” and Alice’s name written twice.

When we collect objects like these, it is not just preservation of a piece of literary history, but preservation of a personal history, written onto the pages and into the fabric just as easily as the story itself was printed there. This collection is a testament to that history, to the love and determination Alice had to have possessed in order to acquire such a complete collection of books. To the attentiveness and love Alice’s family had for her, knowing that these books were something she cared about. These books are a particularly good example of this because they are considered children’s literature, and you can clearly see that a child adored these books. Between the traced illustrations, the carefully removed color plates, and the proof of ownership inside each cover, evidence of use is abundant. And with objects like books, evidence of use is evidence of love.

An illustration of the eponymous Ozma, from L. Frank Baum’s "Ozma of Oz," traced over with pencil.
An illustration of the eponymous Ozma, from L. Frank Baum’s “Ozma of Oz,” traced over with pencil.

Emerling addresses congressional records advisory committee on digital archives project

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 15th, 2021
Danielle Emerling

Danielle Emerling, congressional and political papers archivist for West Virginia University Libraries, addressed the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress on December 3 about a groundbreaking, grant-funded project to make congressional archives from across the country more discoverable and accessible.

In May, WVU Libraries received nearly $60,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the American Congress Digital Archives Portal project. The project will provide easier access to archives for scholars, educators, and the public by digitizing historical materials from multiple institutions and aggregating them in a single online platform.

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Stay active while studying at the library

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 14th, 2021
Studying riding spin bike

The Downtown and Evansdale libraries have added spin bikes to help students get exercise while studying for final this week. Three bikes are in Eliza’s on the fourth floor of the Downtown Library, and three bikes are in Evansdale Library, Room G18. Thanks goes out to the WVU Student Recreation Center for providing the equipment.

Spin bikes
Three spin bikes in Evansdale Library, Room G18.

Seeking textbooks for the Shining Minds Textbook Loan Collection

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 9th, 2021

Students are encouraged to donate their old textbooks to the WVU Libraries to help grow the Shining Minds Textbook Loan Collection.  

This program, developed by a WVU graduate student as a social action project, is intended to build a collection of textbooks to help student acquire textbooks needed for their studies. Textbooks in this collection can be checked out from the Libraries for a semester.

Drop boxes can be found in the front of the Downtown and Evansdale libraries through the end of the semester.

The Shining Minds Textbook Loan Program is dedicated to ending barriers that are an impediment to students pursuing their education.

Libraries select two Student Art Award recipients

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
December 8th, 2021

The Art in the Libraries Committee and Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz selected Payton Brown, a first-year MFA candidate in painting, and Liuqing Ruth Yang, a senior BFA candidate in painting graduating this December, to receive the 2021 Dean of the Libraries’ Student Art Award.

Brown received the award for her work, “The Star Theatre,”an oil canvas painting. Brown describes the subjects of her paintings as, “vintage, seemingly outdated scenes of urban life in America” with the goal of perpetuating a “sense of nostalgia and longing amongst viewers.”

Payton Brown poses with painting
Payton Brown poses with her painting, “The Star Theatre.”
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Help WVU Libraries honor an outstanding librarian

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 30th, 2021

The WVU Libraries Faculty Assembly is seeking nominations for the Outstanding Librarian Award and Distinguished Service Award. These awards are presented once every three years to recognize exceptional contributions toward the delivery, development or expansion of library services or special programs for the constituencies of WVU.

The Outstanding Librarian Award honors WVU Libraries faculty for their significant contributions. It is open to all current and retired Libraries faculty who have been employed by the Libraries for at least two years.

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Tourist Homes in 1930s West Virginia

Posted by Admin.
November 10th, 2021
A house in black and white, surrounded by 3 trees without leaves. A short stone pathway leads to a bay window.
Mrs. M.M. Lambert’s Tourist Home in Ellenboro, Ritchie County.

A 1932 West Virginia travel brochure proclaimed that “Half the people of the nation are within 500 miles of its [West Virginia’s] boundaries”; further, our major paved highways, such as routes 19 and 50, provided the perfect means for tourists and other travelers to come to our state. The West Virginia University Extension Service under the direction of Gertrude Humphrey recognized this opportunity to promote and sell West Virginia farm produce by establishing the Mountain State Tourist Homes cooperative, an offshoot of the Farm Women’s Bureau.  During the early part of the 20th century, it opened its first tourist homes in the Eastern panhandle. The day to day running of the program fell to Katharine Stump, Home Demonstration Agent, who helped the women get established, and to later make improvements.  She coordinated the program from application to evaluation.

After purchasing 5 shares in the cooperative at $1.00 each, the farm family got a Tourist Home sign which indicated to travelers that the home was regularly inspected and met the high standards outlined on a score card from her local Home Extension Agent. The tourist home program enabled women who maintained the homes to market farm products by preparing meals for tourists, hunters, and fishermen who would rent rooms.  “The tourist home owner not only has an opportunity to market her surplus food products through the serving of meals to tourists, but incidentally she is giving favorable advertising to West Virginia by providing desirable accommodations for out-of-state tourists.” “Favorable advertising” was needed based on Mrs. Edward [Bessie L.] Semple McClish’s answer to the question, Other interesting facts and stories, in her tourist home report to Katharine Stump in 1932.  Mrs. McLish who ran a tourist home in Aurora answered, “Many inquiries if we have any schools at all in this section.  There are many who seem to think West Virginia a wild and wooly country.”

A blue and white sign advertising a tourist home.
Tourist Home sign alerting travelers to a clean bed, sanitary conditions, and good food.

Katharine Stump reported a growth in the number of tourist homes in 1932 to twenty-seven with the addition of homes in more areas of the state rather than mostly in eastern West Virginia.  The women hosted visitors in the counties of Ohio, Marshall, Wood, Ritchie, Lewis, Upshur, Barbour, Preston, Tucker, Mineral, Hardy, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, Mason, Jackson, Kanawha, Nicholas, Braxton, Randolph, Pendleton, Pocahontas, and Mercer.  That year they welcomed 6,000 overnight guests at a rate of $1.50 per night for two.  They served 2,000 breakfasts for 25 cents each, 1000 lunches at 50 cents each, and 4,000 dinners at 50 cents each.  A simple breakfast consisted of toast, jam, and coffee, or of fruit, prepared cereal, and coffee.  A heavier breakfast at the higher cost of 75 cents consisted of fruit, cereal (either cooked or ready-to-eat), eggs, toast or muffins, hot cakes or biscuits, and cookies or doughnuts. The Home Extension Agents recommended a sample menu for that 50-cent dinner as: tomato juice with saltines or toast strings, chicken croquettes, buttered peas, scalloped potatoes, lettuce with radishes, strawberries and cream, and hot rolls. 

a brochure listing tourist homes and their locations, pre-1932.
A promotional brochure listed tourist homes and gave their locations, probably pre-1932.

To earn the privilege of displaying the tourist sign, the women underwent a Home Demonstration Agent’s evaluation using a scorecard which consisted of eight categories: general appearance of house and surroundings, the hostess, sanitation and bathroom facilities, bedrooms, dining rooms, the kitchen, health of members of the household, and rates and privileges.  Tourist homeowners were advised that first impressions of a well maintained and landscaped house may include “…a comfortable porch, shade trees, gay flower boxes, and a well-kept lawn do much toward inviting the traveler to stop,” but the interior also had to pass muster.  In a 1938 evaluation the Home Extension Agent noted that the hostess created a bedroom for an antique lover with a sugar barrel, a settee, a rocker, a high chest, and a huge canopy bed, but the agent considered the room too crowded, perhaps inconveniencing the tourist.  The evaluator decided it was best not to mention it to the owner since it appeared to be a sore point for the owner. She must have been extra proud of those antiques. 

A woman in a slip dress sits at a wooden desk, holding a pencil and working on her accounts.
Mrs. A.A. [Martha C.] Rogers of Pleasant Dale, Hampshire County at work on her accounts.

The Home Agent also scrutinized the hostess for first impressions.  The score card included two items under this category: she must be neat and clean in appearance, and she must be gracious and cordial.  Another document describing expectations for the hostess states “If she is neat in her attire, even though clothed in a percale housedress, of becoming line and color, we feel that her rooms will reflect the same careful thought and attention.” In the photo above, we see a neat and clean Mrs. Rogers taking care of the business end of her tourist home enterprise which followed on her having opened her home as a boarding house to fishermen and hunters before Route 50 was surfaced.  Continuing this work, she boarded the workmen who paved Route 50 in 1924.  By 1929 the family had decided that it was fun and profitable to take in tourists, so in 1930 Mrs. Rogers made improvements to her home to meet the Mountain State Tourist Homes requirements and opened for business. 

A large house with a fenced front porch, and wide steps leading to the front door.
Tourist home of Mrs. Mary K. Ward, Jane Lew, Lewis County on U.S. Route 19.

Just like travelers today, those of the 1930s also sought a comfortable place to rest for the night.  Suggestions to tourist home operators regarding the bedrooms included “First of all they must be orderly, neat, and clean. A room with good heat in winter an equally good ventilation in summer means much to a weary traveler.” The hostess was expected to remove any personal items from the bureau and have minimal pictures on the wall within the restraints of printed wallpaper.  Other amenities included providing a place for luggage and a place for hanging towels to avoid damage to furniture.  The flu epidemic, 1918-1919, had ended just over 10 years prior to the time these homes were established, therefore, sanitation was of utmost importance.  The homes were required to provide safe running water, an indoor privy with hot and cold water, screens on the windows, no contagion or infectious diseases among family members, and “good health…required of all persons preparing or serving food.” 

A dinner table set with china and silverware, with a tablecloth and wooden chairs.
The table is beautifully set in Mrs. J.L. Culley’s tourist home dining room in Cameron.

The dining room pictured above reflects the strict criteria set forth by Mountain State Tourist Homes and is the same as what a traveler would expect at one of today’s bed and breakfasts.  It is light, cheerful, free from flies and [hopefully] the odors of cooking foods.  The table linens are fresh and clean, and the silver is well polished and clean.  The woman of the house has gotten out her best china, shined her silverware, buffed her crystal glassware, and placed a vase of greenery at the center of the table.  It is now ready for some hearty food made from the family’s own products.

Four people sit at a picnic table outside eating breakfast. A couple sits on a bench by a tree looking at some papers.
Breakfast outside at Mrs. R.N. [Lucy B.] Guthrie’s tourist home in Romney while two travelers plan the next leg of their adventure.

The information for this blog post came from the West Virginia and Regional History archive collection, AM5220, West Virginia University Extension Service records. These records document not only women’s work in providing clean places for tourists in the early days of paved roads, but also the WVU Extension Service work with West Virginia women in contributing to the World War II home front effort. This work included the organization of women farmers, instructions for home food conservation and preservation, coordination of local leadership programs to respond to war directives, and the management of mattress making to use excess cotton.

I remember the Tourist Home signs from my girlhood, and I wonder if any of these lovely homes of respite for travelers still exist.  They serve as examples of the work of many capable women who provided income for their rural families during difficult times as well as a service to trekkers making use of newly paved roads and new automobiles.  The women were guided and encouraged by Gertrude Humphreys, Home Extension Agent extraordinaire. 

Gertrude Humphreys, an older white woman smiling with short hair and a blouse and jacket.
Gertrude Humphreys at her retirement in 1965.

She coordinated, directed, evaluated, and educated the West Virginia women who invited tourists into their homes, farmed and preserved food for the World War II war effort, provided leadership for their communities during the War, and taught both men and women how to make mattresses.

Three Art in the Libraries exhibits now up at HSC

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 8th, 2021

There are three new Art in the Libraries exhibits on display at the Health Sciences Center and the HSC Library.

West Virginia People of Color in Healthcare

Health Sciences Center Pylons, November 2021-May 2022

Mildred Mitchell-Bateman
Dr. Mildred Mitchell-Bateman, courtesy WVRHC

Healthcare in the Mountain State, like many areas in rural Appalachia has obstacles to overcome such as employing a diverse population of providers and equitable access to quality healthcare. Historically, People of Color in health care navigated their own path through discrimination, segregation, and systemic racism to become practitioners. Today’s practitioners continue the legacy of providing communities quality care and generating People of Color’s increased trust in medical institutions thus increasing the quality of public health and well-being. This exhibit looks at the past, present and future of West Virginia People of Color in Healthcare with historical imagery and text, current perspectives and WVU initiatives and more. View the online exhibit here.

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Postcards in Post-War Peace

Posted by Admin.
November 2nd, 2021

“Which shall it be-volunteer or conscription? Would you rather offer your services to the Stars and Stripes in a time of dire need or will you wait until you have to go?”

These questions were published in The Parkersburg News on May 31st, 1917, just days before America’s first draft registration. Shortly after the United States entered the Great War under President Woodrow Wilson,  the Selective Service Act of 1917 was passed. The act temporarily allowed the government to strengthen the national army by conscription, or drafting. On June 5th, 1917 the first round of registrations took place and precincts and counties across the country registered thousands of young men between the ages of 21-31 who were ready to offer their services “to the Stars and Stripes.”

One of those young men was John Carl Mehl, born on May 2nd, 1896 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. At the time of his registration on May 5th, 1917 he was living with his parents Emma Provance and David Mehl, in Hanna, West Virginia. John’s registration card indicated that at twenty-one years of age he was of short, slender build with gray eyes and light brown hair and was employed by his father as a farmer.

Though his card indicated his status as single, he would be wed less than a year later. John married Audrey Belle Roberts in March of 1918. The newlyweds had just a few months together before the reality of the Great War loomed again. On August 6th, 1918, aboard the USS Madawaska, Private John Mehl and his comrades, many of whom also called West Virginia home, left for Europe. His young wife Audrey was listed on the passenger list as his emergency contact.

Mehl, who served in Company M of the 38th Infantry, Third Division, was deployed from August of 1918 to August of 1919. The Third Division participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest American Expeditionary Forces operation during the Great War, and also the deadliest in our nation’s history. It began on September 26th 1918, and raged until the November Armistice on November 11th, 1918, which marked the end of fighting on the Western Front.

A map of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from John Mehl’s personal collection.
A map of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from John Mehl’s personal collection.

Following armistice between Germany and the Allies, forces continued to occupy parts of Europe. Private John Mehl was among those soldiers who remained abroad in the months following the horrific fighting that marked the beginning of the end of the war. Though little is known about his actions in battle, his time preserving peace and journey through Germany is chronicled in a collection of photos and unsent postcards. John, armed with a camera, captured images and collected postcards, labeling each with details about his travels. A number, like those below, include notable landmarks and castles that the men passed on foot. Flipping through these postcards and images gives us a glimpse into the life of a man we’ll never get to meet, but allows us to share he and his comrades once experienced in a land far away, and a time long ago.

A postcard with an old image of Boppard.
“We went thru this town” – Boppard
Modern view of Boppard  - Source: Encyclopædia Britannica
Modern view of Boppard  – Source: Encyclopædia Britannica,
A postcared with an image of St. Goarshausen, Burg Katz und St. Goar
“We went past this castle” – St. Goarshausen, Burg Katz und St. Goar
Similar view of Goarshausen today - Source: "Burg Maus" by Frank Kehren is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Similar view of Goarshausen today – Source: “Burg Maus” by Frank Kehren is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit
A postcard with an old image of Burg Rheinstein.
“I think we passed this one” – Burg Rheinstein
Burg Rheinstein today - Source: "Burg Rheinstein" by Larry Myhre
Burg Rheinstein today – Source: “Burg Rheinstein” by Larry Myhre is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit
A postcard with an old image of Mäuseturm und Ehrenfels
“We passed this one” – Mäuseturm und Ehrenfels
A modern view of Mäuseturm und Ehrenfels
A modern view of Mäuseturm und Ehrenfels – Source: “File:Maeuseturm Burg Ehrenfels Bingen Rhein.jpg” by Arcalino is licensed with CC BY-SA 3.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Though John never mailed these postcards, some were addressed to Audrey, or scribbled with notes to her, surely to be shared amidst his homecoming. His efforts to capture and carry these moments and scenes with him speaks volumes to the importance of this experience and the impact it had on his life. They preserve what must have been an extraordinary moment of peace and relief after years of a horrible world war, a moment like the world had never experienced before, and certainly a moment worth capturing.

John and his memories left the port in Brest, France on August 11th 1919, sailing home aboard the USS Louisville.

Just as they had reported on draft registrations and news throughout the Great War, the Parkersburg News also covered reports of homecomings and victory. Parties, dinners and parades celebrated a hero’s return to communities across the country.

Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company parade Float in World War I Victory Parade, Hinton, West Virginia
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company parade Float in World War I Victory Parade, Hinton, West Virginia

Not long after his own homecoming, John began his post-war life. He and Audrey brought five daughters into the world; Audrey (whose name was later changed to Geraldine), Doris, Delmetta Norma and Joan. John took up work as a laborer and eventually a cable splicer for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company where he worked for over forty years. After his retirement in 1961, John lived for fourteen more years before passing away at the age of 79. Audrey lived for twenty-three more years before passing at the age of 96.

The story of John and his journeys through life, in love and in war are captured and preserved in newspaper articles, records, pictures and postcards that have been saved and shared. His efforts to capture and collect moments of peace and place, allow us to connect with his story over one hundred years later.

WVU Libraries to host online Pearl Buck symposium

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
November 1st, 2021
Pearl Buck and daughter
Pearl S. Buck with her adopted child Chieko Usaki Walsh, circa 1962.

West Virginia University Libraries and the WVU President’s Office will co-host the 2021 Pearl S. Buck International Symposium from Nov. 4-5. The online event is titled “Wisdoms of Pearl: Examining the Life and Legacy of Pearl S. Buck.”

Jay Cole, senior adviser to WVU President E. Gordon Gee, explained the meaning behind to the event’s title. “Pearls of wisdom” is a saying and a metaphor expressing the belief that wisdom is valuable and worthy of admiration. By inverting this saying to “wisdoms of Pearl,” referring to Pearl S. Buck, we have the theme for the 2021 Pearl S. Buck International Symposium.

“This theme allows us to examine the ‘wisdoms’ Buck shared through her writings, speeches, advocacy, and global humanitarian efforts, both during her life and as part of her legacy since her death. This theme also allows us to examine the ‘wisdoms’ many others have gained from Buck’s work, from literary scholars and historians to artists and diplomats,” Cole said.

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Libraries to host “American Dime Novels: Racialization / Erasure” virtual presentation

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 28th, 2021
Book cover
Images courtesy Northern Illinois University Libraries’ “Nickels and Dimes Collection.”

WVU Libraries will host English professor Nancy Caronia for a virtual presentation titled “American Dime Novels: Racialization / Erasure” Thursday, Nov. 4, at 4 p.m.

Caronia, a teaching associate professor in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Department of English, will discuss her “American Dime Novels: Racialization / Erasure” exhibit now open in the Downtown Library, Room 1020. It includes a series of dime novel covers, showing how stereotypes of these communities followed and / or promoted state and national policies regarding immigration policies including the Chinese Exclusion Act, Indian removal acts, and Jim Crow practices focused on voter suppression.

To virtually attend Caronia’s presentation, register for the Zoom program here:

“These covers reflect not only past US history, but also current practices regarding twenty-first century immigration policies and discourse in both political and popular culture,” Caronia said.

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WVU Libraries and the Teaching and Learning Commons award Open Educational Resources grants

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 21st, 2021

West Virginia University Libraries and the Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC) have selected three faculty members to receive Open Educational Resources (OER) grants. This year’s recipients are Erin Jordan, teaching assistant professor and program coordinator for health and well-being, College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences; Mandy Weirich, MSW online program coordinator, Gerontology program coordinator and clinical instructor, School of Social Work; and Adrienne Williams, assistant professor, Department of Biology, WVU Institute of Technology.

“We’re so excited to continue our Open Educational Resources grant program and help WVU students spend less money on their books and other materials,” Grants Committee Chair Martha Yancey said. “This cohort of grant recipients will provide good models for other faculty to learn from and consider during next year’s grant process. We hope to continue building momentum toward even bigger savings in the future.”

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Asimov Symposium to illuminate “Night of the Living Dead”

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 19th, 2021
Scene from Night of the Living Dead

Long before zombies lumbered through 11 seasons of the popular television series “The Walking Dead,” there was an infamous night when corpses first crawled from their graves to haunt the living. The annual West Virginia University Isaac Asimov Sci-Fi Symposium will celebrate the classic horror film “Night of the Living Dead” on October 28 at the Mountainlair’s Gluck Theater.

Make your way to the student union while it is still light outside. The event, co-sponsored by the President’s Office and WVU Libraries, begins at 4 p.m. with a panel discussion with “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer and actor John Russo, BS ‘61, who will talk about the impact of his iconic movie in taking the horror film genre to a new level.

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This Day in History: John Brown’s Fort

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 18th, 2021
John Brown, as he looked a few years before his infamous raid. He is wearing a coat and necktie and looking into the camera.
John Brown, as he looked a few years before his infamous raid.

On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and a band of his followers seized control of the Harpers Ferry Armory, a U.S. Army arsenal, in order to distribute the arms there to enslaved people in the surrounding area, to overthrow the South and free the slaves. The raiders easily captured the arsenal, but the mass uprising of enslaved people that they hoped for never came to be.

On the morning of October 18, 1859, United States forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee stormed the armory engine-house at Harpers Ferry, where Brown and his fellows made their last stand. There, the soldiers captured Brown and the others who had barricaded themselves in the building. Of the 18-22 men Brown had started with, ten had been killed and Brown himself was wounded. Innocent people in Harpers Ferry were also killed in the initial raid.

Storming of the Engine House at Harper’s Ferry/Capture of John Brown, by David Hunter Strother, from A&M 2894, David Hunter Strother, Artist, Artwork and Papers
Storming of the Engine House at Harper’s Ferry/Capture of John Brown, by David Hunter Strother, from A&M 2894, David Hunter Strother, Artist, Artwork and Papers

David Hunter Strother’s collection includes multiple images of John Brown, his trial, and his execution, as well as facsimiles of “Harper’s Weekly” articles for which Strother provided the illustrations. Known then as “Porte Crayon,” Strother was a famous illustrator for his time.

Copy of one of the Harpers Weekly articles written by David Hunter Strother, along with his illustrations, November 5, 1859
Copy of one of the Harpers Weekly articles written by David Hunter Strother, along with his illustrations, November 5, 1859

Brown was found guilty of murder, treason, and inciting a slave insurrection and executed December 2, 1859.

Strother also sketched the others involved in Brown’s raid, including “Emperor” Shields Green, an abolitionist freedom-fighter and fugitive from South Carolina.

Shields Green book poster
Green was executed on December 16, 1859. The Untold Story of Shields Green: the Life and Death of a Harper’s Ferry Raider, by Louis A DeCaro, Jr. (2020) is now available to read in the History Center.

Initially, Brown’s insurrection was viewed as fanatical. It is widely reported that Frederick Douglass was invited to join the raid but he declined because he thought the plan was suicidal. During and after his trial, Brown became either a hero or a villain, depending on one’s political sympathies. The event spurred the beginning of the Civil War.

WVU Libraries unveils its 2021-2024 Strategic Roadmap

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 14th, 2021
Two students studying in Downtown Library

After a year-long process of iterative internal conversations and activities, distillation of hundreds of potential action items and a series of campus stakeholder feedback, WVU Libraries has launched its 2021-2024 Strategic Roadmap.

Based on the University’s Strategic Transformation, which launched in March 2019, and in alignment with the same goals, we have mapped our path toward participation in great achievements at WVU.

“We look forward to partnering across campus to advance our initiatives and meet the goals of our great institution,” Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz said.

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I’m still hungry (for racial justice).

Posted by Admin.
October 11th, 2021

Blog post by Christina White, undergraduate researcher at WVU

This is the sixteenth and final post in White’s series on race, justice, and social change through cookbooksfeaturing the following books from the Ebersole collection: Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook, A Date with a Dish, A Good Heart and a Light Hand, and The Jemima Code.

A collage of cookbooks from the Ebersole Collection featuring A Good Heart and A Light Hand by Ruth L. Gaskins, Mammy Pleasant's Cookbook, The Jemima Code by Toni Tipton-Martin, and A Date with a Dish by Freda de Knight

Writing a series of posts on cunning, determined Black women was an honor and a challenge. Half passion project and half professional goal, this blog is my mode of self-education and sharing lessons from cookbooks that you don’t have time to read.

Real talk: I grew up thinking it was rude to talk about race. Reflecting on this, I realize my good-intentioned parents probably felt uncomfortable or unprepared to educate their child about the oppression of Black Americans, or what my role would be when I grew up. My dad is from a small town in Appalachia where nearly everyone was white, and my mom hails from a different country where race issues appeared differently from those in the US. Either way, I needed to spark a discussion, beginning with myself, or else my comfortable silence might solidify into an illusion that I see too often: race isn’t that big of a problem today.

Not true!

Each cookbook I wrote about in this blog introduced me to historical forms of marginalization, from mammy stereotypes to restricted access to culinary school. These methods roll into modern times under new names and symbols including Aunt Jemima syrup, a lack of representation in the cookbook scene, and the myth that Black food is unhealthy and greasy.

Writing these posts, I felt uncomfortable at times. I admit it — I walked into the Rare Book Room at the Downtown Library expecting a familiar lesson on slavery and Jim Crow laws, except focused on cooking. That’s not what I got! I was smacked in the face with racist tendencies that linger. Like I said, it wasn’t until 2020 that Aunt Jemima was rebranded and the mammy character was removed from syrup bottles at convenience stores and “socially-conscious” chains like Whole Foods.

I reached into the Ebersole Collection with a goal to learn and share, and I left room for you to jump in. With hundreds of cookbooks, there are a million topics to tear apart. From race to mental health, single parenthood, international holiday traditions, indigenous peoples, environmentalism, and comedy, you’ll find something tasty and stimulating for a research project or class presentation.

The librarians are eager to help you! I wouldn’t have found my starting place without the hard work and generosity of Stewart Plein, the Rare Book Curator at the West Virginia & Regional History Center.

Some ideas: complete an Honors project using these primary sources, make a presentation, or revitalize hundred-year-old recipes. When you read something that moves or angers you, pursue that theme to its fullest. Chances are you’ll help yourself and others dissolve a stigma, myth, or prejudice that holds our society back.

Thank you, from the bottom of my stomach, for accompanying me on this journey. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, start by going back to post 1! I hope I’ve inspired you to view food as a vehicle for social change, to get to the root of discomfort, and to give something new a try, whether it’s food or a different way of thinking.

“Food Justice in Appalachia” exhibit opens on World Food Day

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 6th, 2021
Food Justice poster

WVU Libraries’ “Food Justice in Appalachia” exhibit will open at the Downtown Campus Library with a reception Saturday, Oct. 16, from 4-6 p.m. with a virtual offering of presentations at 5 p.m.

“Food Justice in Appalachia” is a multidisciplinary print and online exhibition featuring multiple themes in the food justice movement and offering suggestions for action to shape a more just, equitable, and sustainable food system.

“This collaboratively curated exhibition brings together artists, storytellers, farmers, activists and scholars to highlight intersecting values that shape our foodways through the lens of regional food activists working to address hunger and build alternative food futures,” Libraries Exhibit Coordinator Sally Brown said.

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WVRHC partners to promote WV Folklife Collection

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 29th, 2021
Ruby Abdulla preparing food
Charleston residents Ruby Abdulla, an immigrant from southern India, and Nariman Farah, an immigrant from Sudan, prepare traditional southern and northern Indian dishes.

The West Virginia Folklife Collection, an ongoing archive consisting of materials generated by folklife fieldwork conducted through the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council, is now available at

The publicly accessible archive encompasses past, current, and future of West Virginia folklife, traditional arts and cultural heritage. Its new home on the Internet is thanks to a partnership between the West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Center and the Humanities Council.

 “It’s a really wonderful resource that includes new and changing folk traditions. We are thrilled to be the permanent repository for the content,” WVRHC Assistant Director Lori Hostuttler said

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Off the syrup bottle and out of society

Posted by Admin.
September 27th, 2021

Blog post by Christina White, undergraduate researcher at WVU

This is the fifteenth post in White’s series on race, justice, and social change through cookbooksfeaturing the following books from the Ebersole collection: Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook, A Date with a Dish, A Good Heart and a Light Hand, and The Jemima Code.

In the first post of this blog, I mentioned this TikTok video. It’s long overdue to say goodbye to a racist, oversimplified stereotype that Black women throughout history endured. The women I wrote about in this blog, Mary, Freda, and Ruth, helped hammer away at the myth of the jolly, ignorant mammy.

The Jemima Code by Toni Tipton-Martin was the last book I investigated, and uh-oh, it’s not a cookbook! It’s a synthesis of culinary wisdom from Black chefs in America over the years, focusing on how racist stereotypes created an accepted code of racism: the Jemima Code.

Published in 2015, this timeline guided me through the conception, propagation, and ongoing termination of the “mammy” trope. It’s about repeated images and ideas linked to Black women to keep them in a subordinate position. Chubby, uneducated, jolly, and unattractive were trademarked through mainstream ads and social influencers, all to restrain a group that desired greater freedoms and respect.

Aunt Jemima came to be in the 1880’s. The promotional character was based on blackface skits by white vaudeville actors. Why? Because industries and white elites wanted to depict Black women as less than, other, and in desperate need of white guidance (control).

An old advertisement for Aunt Jemima's Brand Pancake Flour featuring a racial caricature of a Black woman

Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour ad from 1915 (above). The Aunt Jemima character was removed by Quaker Oats in 2020, after 130 years of public use.

“She has to be humorous, stout, lighthearted, illiterately magical- stern enough to control the children without threatening them, dependable and loyal enough to assure mothers that the kitchen was in good hands, asexual enough to foreclose any wayward thoughts among the men of the house.”

Unfortunately, these demeaning opinions aren’t gone. They persist by cycling throughout the decades in new forms meant to be more subtle, acceptable, and undetected. Heard of tokenism? Microaggressions? Colorblindness? These are the updated forms of racism that fly under the radar of many well-meaning people. I didn’t personally learn about them or how to combat them until college! I often asked myself, what else am I missing? How can I stop being complicit to racism?

It’s a tough question. Self-education is a good place to start, and as a white person, I want to hear and project the wishes of people who are hurt by racism. Celebrating the contributions of Black chefs through writing is exciting for me on two levels: I can embrace my passion for cooking and begin informing myself of the realities that affected Black cooks and social justice advocates.

“A cookbook author tells stories that… advocate for social causes, such as education, suffrage, child welfare, abolition of slavery, eradication or poverty, or improved social welfare; that use highlights of her own life to memorialize her work…”

-Toni Tipton-Martin

Applications now open for Graduate Student Immersion Program

Posted by Admin.
September 20th, 2021

West Virginia University Libraries will host the Graduate Student Immersion Program, an intensive three-day workshop designed to assist graduate students through their research, from January 4-6, 2022. The program focuses on addressing participants’ research challenges and aims to build community both within and across disciplines.

The workshop will include hands-on activities and demonstrations on a variety of resources, methods, tools and topics. Subject librarians will be available for individual consultations about participants’ research interests and challenges.

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