Peonies were a popular choice of painters, especially for artists of China and Japan and French impressionist artists. French impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir said that “painting flowers rests my brain. . . . I place my colors and experiment with values boldly, without worrying about spoiling a canvas.” The same held true for West Virginia artist Arthur J. “Pete” Ballard, who said he too “love[d] to play with color, light, shadows, seasons, the sky.” His “James Woods Crimson Peonies” painting exemplifies this obsession with vibrant colors, quick brush strokes, and contrast with lighting.
“For almost sixty years, I have ached to paint peonies,” Ballard wrote in one reflection upon his work. Born in Welch, West Virginia, in 1931, Ballard won an art scholarship to attend a fine arts school, but he decided that he wanted something more. He graduated with a degree in education from Concord University. Much of his post-collegiate life was spent as a teacher, as he taught English in China, India, Saudi Arabia, and other places.
However, he remained fascinated by art and costume design. Upon returning to the United States, he was an instructor at the North Carolina School of the Arts. He further developed his passion for costumes through conservation of old costumes and his design of historical dolls, which exhibited the fashions of the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. He worked as a curator for fashion exhibits at many North Carolina and other museums. The Ballard collection at the WVRHC includes many papers and articles about his lectures, exhibits, dolls, and paintings. The collection also contains many paintings of flowers, still life and other subjects (to see more about the collection, A&M 3869, see the finding aid). It was not until his retirement when he could pursue painting further, which Ballard was happy to do. “It’s an exciting way to spend one’s time in retirement. You can make all the mistakes you want, then correct them,” and added, “There are endless possibilities for subject matter.”
There are also endless possibilities for painters when it comes to painting peonies. Ballard noted, “The enormous beauty of peonies has always held a fascination for artists.” In Chinese and Japanese culture, peonies are a symbol of status, wealth, and beauty. In China, where these flowers have been grown for several thousand years, they are referred to sometimes as “the king of flowers.” Since Ballard spent time in China, perhaps he was influenced by different styles of Chinese artists and paintings of peonies and other flowers. French impressionist artists also took to painting flowers, especially peonies, as they offered many opportunities for color and light experimentation. Many of Ballard’s favorite artists were impressionists, as he described his admiration for artists like John Singer Sargent and Joaquín Sorolla, both of whom painted in impressionist style.
Ballard’s “James Woods’ Crimson Peonies” painting demonstrates impressionist influences. The colors are vibrant. Although the peonies are described as “crimson,” there is no one color that defines the painting, which awes the viewer with a wide array of pinks, purples, and reds. Ballard catches the light and shadows of the painting, making the peonies seem life-like. The vivid green background suits the painting well. When trying to find another color to use as the background for this painting, Ballard couldn’t help but paint it green. “The hills were green, so were the trees; the grass was green, so were all the leaves,” Ballard wrote, thereby settling on the color of nature as his background.
After so many years, Pete Ballard was finally able to fulfill his aching desire to paint these bright peonies. The “James Woods’ Crimson Peonies” picture exemplifies the complexities of painting such beautiful, colorful flowers that have garnered admiration from painters and viewers alike around the world.
 “Memories and Momentos: Artwork by Peterstown Resident on Display in N.C.,” May 11, 2000, Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Box 2, “2000 Exhibition of My Paintings at Gertrude Smith House-Mt. Airy, NC.” Arthur J. Ballard, Costume Artist and Curator, Papers, A&M 3869, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.
 Pete Ballard, “Memories and Mementos: A Collection of Paintings and Commentaries,” 2000, Box 2, “2000 Exhibition of My Paintings at Gertrude Smith House-Mt. Airy, NC.” Arthur J. Ballard, Costume Artist and Curator, Papers, A&M 3869, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries, Morgantown, West Virginia.
 “Memories and Momentos: Artwork by Peterstown Resident on Display in N.C.”
 Pete Ballard, “Memories and Mementos: A Collection of Paintings and Commentaries,”
 Pete Ballard, “Memories and Mementos: A Collection of Paintings and Commentaries.”
“In choosing a book like ‘Interior Chinatown,’ we not only bring a book of outstanding literary merit to our campus, but one that challenges us to think deeply about aspects of race in America, of the roles we play, and of our sense of home, among many others,” WVU Humanities Center Director Renée Nicholson, who oversees the Campus Read, said. “It balances the weight of these themes with a compelling protagonist and satirical humor.”
Students who are interested in book-related careers can learn more about job opportunities post-graduation, including how to prepare academically, personally and professionally to pursue these career paths.
WVU faculty, staff and students are invited to attend the grand opening ceremony of a unique photo exhibit, “A ‘Double Whammy’ of Disasters: Flooding and COVID-19 in Rural West Virginia,” on Monday, Sept. 12 from 5:15 – 6:45 p.m. in the Health Sciences Center’s Fukushima Auditorium Lobby.
Images curated by Jamie Shinn, assistant professor in West Virginia University’sDepartment of Geology and Geography, and John Wyatt, her community partner, narrate rural life in Rainelle, W.Va. as the community faced both the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic along with ongoing devastation from West Virginia’s notorious 2016 flooding, which damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.
John Cuthbert, former director of the West Virginia & Regional History Center, retired December 31, 2021, with more than 40 years of service to WVU Libraries. A reception in his honor will be held Friday, September 23, from 3-5 p.m. in the Downtown Library’s Milano Reading Room.
Cuthbert spent his career telling anyone who would listen about the Mountain State’s rich cultural artistic heritage.
“West Virginia is unique in many ways and certainly has one of the most interesting histories of any state in the Union,” Cuthbert said. “My mission throughout my career was to shed light on subjects and people who defy stereotypes about West Virginia.”
As part of my job as photographs manager, I field research questions and fulfill orders for high resolution copies of photographs in our collection. The most common request is from authors and publishers securing photographs for their books, but the WVRHC actually serves a much broader audience. Here are a few categories of requests that I receive on a monthly basis!
This photo was previously listed on the site as standing at Putnam Street and Highland Avenue, but this was incorrect information as the two roads do not intersect. A patron— the current owner and resident of this home— contacted us with the correction after discovering the photo online.
The patron also generously provided a photo of the house as it stands today (2022). You can see the clothesline, on the left, is still in use!
A surprising number of ghost hunters and storytellers purchase copies in the course of their research, whether to spruce up their podcast thumbnails or to publish in newspaper articles. I’ve also had ghost hunters once purchase a photo to give their psychic a source to pore over in search of clues. The belief that photographs can “capture one’s soul” remains popular in occult study circles!
Miniature Model Makers
Some of my favorite photo requests come from folks in the miniatures hobby. Attention to detail can be paramount in recreating props and machinery, and some hobbyists will go to great lengths to get accurate references— and what better to use as a reference than an actual photo?
Trains are a popular subject in this category, as their makeup is quite complicated.
As mentioned, the largest percentage of photo requests come from authors and researchers hoping to illustrate their papers and books with photographs. That doesn’t mean their requests are always cut-and-dry, though; some authors need assistance finding appropriate photos for their subject matter, leading to a treasure hunt on my part for good images.
One author recently asked me to help them locate the origin of this photo:
…as they had taken a phone pic of it a few years prior but lost the information about where it came from. I was able to locate it as being part of this photograph:
…which the patron promptly purchased!
These examples are not exhaustive, but they represent the variety of requests the WVRHC fields when it comes to photographs. The breadth of populations we serve keeps every day interesting!
In July, West Virginia University Libraries began a partnership with the Public Library of Science (PLOS) to provide researchers with the opportunity to publish, free of processing charges, in any of their Open Access titles over the next three years.
PLOS is a nonprofit, Open Access publisher with a suite of 12 influential Open Access journals across all areas of science and medicine. Open Access refers to free, immediate and permanent online access to digital full-text scientific and scholarly material, primarily research articles published in peer-reviewed journals.
“Investment in open access initiatives is one of the WVU Libraries’ five collection funding priorities. This PLOS agreement is another significant step forward,” said Beth Royall, past-chair of the WVU Libraries Collections Advisory Committee.
To celebrate the new academic year, I’d like to share comments I made at our recent celebration of the 40th (actually 42nd) anniversary of the Evansdale Library. This is a good reminder of how libraries continue to evolve to meet the needs of campus.
In 1978, while I was still in high school, WVU broke ground for the Evansdale Library. By November 1980, when I was taking a year off from my own college experience, the doors opened to students.
It was acknowledged that the growing campus needed an expanded library system that could serve students who now did business on three different campuses within Morgantown. We see from the newspaper accounts that one of the exciting features of this new library was going to be a large microfilm room and an AV lab! Exciting stuff! Having been a college student myself at this time I can imagine the AV space had turntables, cassette players, big heavy headphones, and maybe even a state-of-the-art VHS player. Also present would have been the card catalog. Ah yes, it was the environment of my own learning and experience.
The award is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), 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 $1,293,568.29.
“We are honored that the NEH continues to support our efforts to enhance access to the historical newspapers preserved in the WVRHC,” WVRHC Interim Director Lori Hostuttler said. “It’s a testament to the incalculable value of these resources and the influential role West Virginia has played in our nation’s history.”
WVU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends are invited to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of Evansdale Library at an open house on Friday, August 19, from 2:30-4:30 p.m., with remarks at 3 p.m.
Designed to support the students and faculty on the then-growing Evansdale Campus, the new library provided the campus with much-needed resources. An exhibit of 1980s library service, contrasted with library service today, will be available for viewing during the open house, and during Evansdale Library’s open hours from August 10-24.
A&M 0979, Miners’ Treason Trials, Records, contains six reels of microfilm of case papers for the trials of coal miners and UMWA leaders who were indicted for, varying, treason or murder in connection with the armed march into Logan County, West Virginia, during August and September 1921, better known as the Battle of Blair Mountain. These materials specifically concern the 1922 trials of Walter Allen, William Blizzard, C. Frank Keeney, Rev. J.E. Wilburn, and John Wilburn. Unlike most of the collections at the West Virginia and Regional History Center, this collection exists only on microfilm, a format similar to film negative strips, that allows a single reel to contain thousands of images of miniaturized versions of documents. But how did the WVRHC get these materials, and why is it important that we have them even if they are not the original documents? Judge Decatur H. Rodgers and Clerk W. M. Jones of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County in Charles Town, WV sent these materials to the (now defunct) West Virginia University Libraries Photoduplication Section in 1957 to be microfilmed only 35 years after the trial occurred. Though we don’t have documentation on why this was done, other collections within the WVRHC such as census and county court records exist in this format as well.
The microfilm contains more than 8,700 pages of records from the trials, including trial transcripts, charges, witness summons, and other court documents. These documents follow the progression of the trials in varying levels of detail. But to fast forward to the end: what happened to these men? Ultimately, William Blizzard was tried for treason in Charles Town in the same courthouse in which John Brown was convicted of treason in 1859. He was found not guilty. Rev. J.E. Wilburn and his son John Wilburn received an eleven year sentence in the West Virginia Penitentiary for the murder of Deputy John Gore. They only served three years after receiving a pardon from Governor Howard M. Gore. Walter Allen was tried and convicted of treason. Though he received an eleven year sentence, he jumped bail and was never imprisoned. C. Frank Keeney was charged with treason and the charges were dismissed.
The six reels of microfilm containing the records are divided into nine “flashes”, or sections, that are now available online for the first time thanks to a project conducted by Catherine Venable Moore and a research assistant using MacDowell Fellowship funds. Use CTRL+F within each file to search for relevant words and people.
Flash 1 – Jefferson County Circuit Court. Orders and opinions regarding witness claims, change of venue. Various defendants.
Flash 2 – Kanawha County. Intermediate Court. Indictments and certifications, recognizances, court order, grand jury proceedings.
Flash 3 – Logan County. Indictments, carbon copy of letters, etc.
The Portal will provide open access to congressional archives by bringing together these geographically dispersed and civically important sources from multiple institutions using open-source software (OSS) into a single online portal.
“The portal will illuminate the connections across collections, provide opportunities for new scholarship, civics and history education, and make the archives of the ‘People’s Branch’ more equitably available to the people,” Catalyst Fund Program Lead Leigh Grinstead said.
This summer, I worked as an intern in the Rare Book Room studying manuscript leaves and fragments in antiquarian books. I was terrified. What if I dropped one of the books? Turned a page too fast and ripped it? Committed a major faux pas to the world of rare book study?
I did make a few blunders (note: do not compliment the condition of a book “considering its age”), but I avoided most of the nightmares that worried me most. I did not break anything, rip off any covers, etc. Something unexpected did happen, though—my attitude toward books changed entirely.
I had always appreciated stories and the power of a good book. But it did not occur to me that the most valuable books might not be the signed first editions, but the book bound in manuscript. I had never thought about the value of a book’s binding or the history it might share. Rarely did I think about what happened to the volumes upon volumes of manuscript after the invention of the printing press. Now, though, these are the first things I think of when an old book is placed in front of me.
The Rare Book Room’s collection of manuscript fragments is varied and encourages those that study it to consider the multiple repurposed realities manuscripts faced as technology progressed. This 1566 edition of A Summarie of our Englyſh Chronicles by John Stowe, for example, has manuscript fragments hiding inside its covers. Their intended purpose is unclear. They are too small to be pastedowns or endpapers, and it is not possible to discern if they reinforced the binding in any way. Perhaps they were cut. It is a mystery that we might never uncover. What we are sure of, though, is that these fragments, like many in our collection, were recycled and used as scraps for binding purposes. After the invention of the printing press, manuscript fragments were considered junk—certainly not valued as they are today!
Even further hidden in the binding are the fragments inside this Bible printed in 1493. The fragments are barely visible peeking through the spine. Can you spot them?
This dictionary, rather than having manuscript fragments tucked away inside, is bound in a manuscript leaf. On its back cover is a doodle of a man. The doodling is likely contemporary to the book, which was printed in 1731.
Fragments come in all shapes and sizes. This choir book, commissioned by Andres Camacho in 1450, is huge. There is an elaborate manuscript fragment used as a pastedown inside the rear cover. The decorative initial is gorgeous, but this fragment was cut, repurposed, and meant to be ignored in the back of the book.
Some manuscript fragments survived long enough to be sold as antiques. The library has a small but impressive collection of individual leaves like this Book of Hours fragment. This leaf was printed then hand illuminated, meaning a scribe decorated the capital initials by hand after the text was printed. This single leaf is worth hundreds of dollars!
Collectors often sell individual leaves rather than full manuscript texts because they can increase their profit this way. Some go so far as to cut leaves into smaller pieces, which they then frame and sell.
This process of deconstructing and selling manuscript texts makes Fragmentology—the study of manuscript fragments—quite difficult. The pieces are scattered and oftentimes impossible to reassemble. Still, we are able to learn a lot about early book and manuscript history from each fragment and how they were repurposed!
If you are interested in learning more about West Virginia University’s manuscript collection, you can read this bibliography I created as part of my internship that provides in-depth descriptions and pictures of each fragment in the collection. I also designed this slideshow with pictures and information about the collection that you are welcome to share in a classroom setting.
The WVU Libraries’ Collections Advisory Committee explains the Libraries’ collection development strategies in a YouTube video. WVU faculty, staff and students may find this brief explanation helpful in understanding the Libraries’ budget, the effect of inflation on their capacity to subscribe to or purchase resources, and how to place requests for resources. To discuss this further, contact the subject librarian for your discipline.
The West Virginia Day program brings together West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman and the poetry of noted Appalachian poet Maggie Anderson.
“We are thrilled for Marc to headline our first in-person West Virginia Day program since 2019,” WVRHC Interim Director Lori Hostuttler said. “Although Maggie isn’t able to participate in the program, she will be present through Marc reading her works. Listening is poetry is always moving and inspiring, and will help us celebrate the experiences and relationships we as West Virginians value most.”
Few would argue that academic libraries have changed radically since 1902 when Stewart Hall was the WVU Library. What hasn’t changed is the Libraries’ commitment to WVU’s land grant mission and the study, teaching, and research of the faculty, staff, and students. One not-so-obvious change is the WVU Libraries’ focus on providing access to resources, as opposed to owning them. The explosion of research and new publications means no single library or library system can own everything the institution might need (even with the help of generous donors,) but through carefully curated collections and the power of interlibrary loan, libraries provide access to what faculty, staff, and students need. The focus on access is accompanied by a just-in-time approach, in contrast to the former just-in-case plan. (When the libraries purchased new books, videos, etc., because we thought they might be needed some day, this was a just-in-case plan.)
In March 2021, MIT Press announced the launch of its Direct-to-Open (D2O) framework. In this model, rather than purchasing licenses to eBook titles individually or through packages, libraries pay annual participation fees that support open access (OA) book publishing. Participating libraries gain access to new MIT Press titles—around 90 titles per year—as well as its eligible backlist of approximately 2,300 books. D2O features two non-overlapping collections of scholarly monographs and edited volumes: Humanities & Social Sciences and STEAM. Anyone can read the OA titles free of cost on the MIT Press website, regardless of institutional affiliation.
“We at WVU Libraries are pleased to recognize Samantha, Jude and Elizabeth as Munn Scholars,” Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz said. “They thoroughly researched their topics and wrote impressive works of scholarship.”
WVU Libraries and the Honors College established the Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars Award in 2009 to honor Dr. Robert F. Munn, dean of Library Services from 1957-1986. The award goes to one or more Honors students for an outstanding humanities or social sciences thesis based on research conducted in the WVU Libraries. Along with a $1,000 award, their names will be added to a plaque in the Downtown Campus Library and their theses added to the Research Repository @ WVU. These papers can be read at researchrepository.wvu.edu/munn.
Victorine Louistall Monroe made history twice at West Virginia University. She received her master’s in education from WVU in 1945, making her the first known Black female to be awarded a graduate degree from the University. Then, Monroe made history again in 1966 when WVU hired her to teach Library Science, making her the University’s first Black faculty member.
In April, WVU Libraries unveiled a portrait of Monroe (1912-2006), Professor Emerita of Library Science, the first painting to be commissioned as part of the Inclusive Portrait Project, in the Downtown Library’s Robinson Reading Room.
“We are excited to celebrate Victorine Louistall Monroe with this portrait,” Libraries Dean Karen Diaz said. “A true Mountaineer, Victorine broke several barriers throughout her life and set a shining example for future generations to emulate.”