Ask A Librarian

Why Did the Building Cross the Road?

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 18th, 2018

Blog Post by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

 

[Editor’s note: October is American Archives Month, and I am grateful to Jessica for writing out her work process to show us how research in the archives can take you on an adventure! She also proves that archives aren’t just for big scholarly projects–they can be useful for local history research, genealogy, and more.]

 

We do our best to include all relevant information, and to identify the people and places in every photo we put onto West Virginia History OnView.  Sometimes, we just do not know who the people are, or where they are.  Recently, I came across this photo, which shows a group of men working to move a small building across the road.  The town is unidentified, and there is no additional information other than what is in the image.

 

Image showing town buildings and men moving a small building across a street

This image is ID number 050711 on West Virginia History OnView.

 

Pretty great, right? The buildings have interesting signs, and the group of men appear to be moving a small building with ropes.  Intriguing!  So I settled down and got to work.  First, I ran an online search for “The People’s Clothier,” “Verzi’s Saloon,” “Davis Hardware & Furniture Co,” and “Theo Stumpp Tailor.”  Businesses register with the state, and typically show up in the state “Report of the Treasurer.”  Not having any luck with this type of searches, I turned to Ancestry.com. Read the rest of this entry »

Zines! Celebrating Maker Culture at the WVU Downtown Campus Library

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 10th, 2018

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

On Friday, October 5th, zine lovers and makers came to the Downtown Campus Library to create pages for a collaborative zine as part of the 2018 Morgantown Zine Festival.  The word “zine,” according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, is short for magazine, specifically “a noncommercial often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter.”

We were also celebrating one of our newest archival collections, zines by West Virginia zine makers.  Last fall the West Virginia and Regional History Center began collecting zines from around the state.  Donor Bryan Richards, of the Travelin’ Appalachians Revue, has been the major donor of this collection.  He is also one of the organizers of the Zine Fest and designer of this year’s poster, shown below, advertising a weekend’s worth of activities and music.

Advertisement for 2018 Morgantown Zine Festival Read the rest of this entry »

1918: Looking Back at World War I and the Spanish Flu

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 5th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

One hundred years ago, two major events played out in West Virginia and across the globe.  In the fall of 1918, the Spanish Flu epidemic reached the United States. The name “Spanish Flu” is a misnomer and it is unknown exactly where it started.  World War I had raged since 1914.  The United States entered the war in 1917.  On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed to signify the peacemaking process that would end World War I.  The following items held in the archives at the West Virginia & Regional History Center document both events.  Read the rest of this entry »

October 3 Is #AskAnArchivist Day

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 27th, 2018

 

October 3, 2018 is #AskAnArchivist Day! This day-long event, held on Twitter and sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity. Staff at the WVRHC will be participating via the Libraries’ Twitter handle, @wvuLibraries.

As professional experts who do the exciting work of protecting and sharing important historical materials, archivists have many stories to share about the work they do every day to preserve fascinating documents, photographs, audio and visual materials, artifacts, and even digital materials.

What questions can be asked?

No question is too silly . . .

  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve come across in your collections?
  • If your archives had a soundtrack, what songs would be on it?
  • What do archivists like to listen to while processing collections?

. . . and no question is too practical!

  • I’ve got loads of digital images on my phone. How should I store them so I can access them later on?
  • How do you decide which items to keep and which to weed out from a collection?
  • As a teacher, how can I get my students more interested in using archives for projects?

How does it work?

To participate, just tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by archivists around the country who are standing by to respond directly to you.  If you want to ask a specific institution directly, include their handle (e.g., @wvuLibraries) in your tweet.

Don’t have a Twitter account? That’s okay! You can follow along even if you don’t have a Twitter account here: https://twitter.com/hashtag/AskAnArchivist?src=hash.

If you have a question, feel free to ask the WVRHC questions on our other social media pages (Facebook and Instagram) or send us a message through our contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!

[Modified from SAA’s news release]

#AskAnArchivist Day, October 3, 2018 advertisement featuring potential questions to ask

Not-Banned Books

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 24th, 2018

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

Banned Books Week, the last week in September, is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and to seek and express ideas (even unpopular ones), spotlighting censorship and censored authors. It dates back to 1982, and is supported by a national coalition. The Libraries celebrate this year’s Banned Books Week with a display in the Downtown Campus Library entrance and a historical discussion on banned books presented by Law Library Special Collections Librarian & Archivist Mark Podvia and the ACLU of the WVU College of Law (Wednesday, September 26, 12-1 PM in Room 141).

While the West Virginia & Regional History Center seems like a quiet place to do historical research, our book collection is not without controversy. In this post, I’m going to highlight a few books that have made waves here. Read the rest of this entry »

LYRASIS awards Libraries grant to preserve congressional constituent correspondence data

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
September 17th, 2018

 

Arch Moore letter

Constituent correspondence in both paper and digital formats can play an important role as Congress considers legislation and can be found in archives across the country. This letter is an example of materials preserved in the WVRHC.

West Virginia University Libraries has been awarded a $27,000 LYRASIS Catalyst Fund grant to plan for preserving and providing access to congressional constituent correspondence data.

Since the late 1970s, constituent correspondence has moved from paper to digital formats, and archives across the country now receive correspondence as data exports. WVU Libraries has developed an innovative open-source system that could make access to the data possible.

The LYRASIS grant will support a feasibility study that will assess the WVU Libraries’ open-source system and engage the congressional archives community to develop a roadmap for creating a cooperative, data sharing infrastructure.

“We are honored that LYRASIS selected this project,” said Danielle Emerling, West Virginia & Regional History Center assistant curator and the grant’s principal investigator. “Constituent data sets have great potential for numerous research inquiries, analysis, and visualizations, and we’re excited to be one step closer to making the data available to researchers.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Before the Holiday: Remembering Child Labor in West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 5th, 2018

Group photo of child miners, 1911

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

Faces smudged with coal dust, clothing torn and dirty, hands cut and bruised from reaching down to pick slate from chutes beneath them; this was the fate of the young boys who worked in the mines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere in the United States.  Read the rest of this entry »

Discovering World War I at the History Center, Part 3: The World War I Poster Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 27th, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

One of the treasures at the Libraries’ History Center is a collection of original World War I propaganda posters, mostly American, acquired in the 1960s.  Their eloquence in communicating a message through text, composition, and coloration is testimony both to the urgency of their purpose, to convince Americans to support the war, and to the more limited channels of communication available at that time, since print media was a primary means of communication.  Television and the internet had yet to be invented, and radio was only in its infancy.  For example, one of the earliest radio stations, KDKA in Pittsburgh, began broadcasting in 1916.  It is in this context that it becomes comprehensible to us today why the method of distributing posters to the American public was a focus of the federal government’s efforts to advance its agenda, one of garnering public support for involvement in an European war.  Read the rest of this entry »

Out of this World! Isaac Asimov in the West Virginia University Rare Book Room

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 6th, 2018

Image of a planetarium and a starry, moon-filled sky

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

Although Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction authors of all time, passed away in 1992, his work lives on in the West Virginia University Rare Book Room.  One of the most prolific science fiction authors of the twentieth century, Asimov made a huge impact on how we view the future.

Asimov was responsible for more than 500 authored and edited publications.  Among his most popular novels are the Foundation Trilogy, The Martian Way, and The Stars like Dust.  Books that were turned into movies include I, Robot, the Fantastic Voyage, and the Bicentennial Man.

Perhaps Asimov’s single most important work is the short story/novella, Nightfall, published in 1941.  This story is considered the best science fiction short story written prior to the 1965 establishment of the Nebula Awards, the organization responsible for recognizing the best in science fiction or fantasy published in the United States.  The Rare Book Room holds important copies of Nightfall in a variety of formats, including books and records.  Its popularity led the story to be adapted for radio, film, podcast, and vinyl.  Read the rest of this entry »

Discovering World War I at the History Center, Part 2: The Elmer A. Walton Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 30th, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

Elmer Walton (1897-1960) of Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, as a member of the 4th Regiment, 3rd Division of the American Expeditionary Force in France, participated in the Second Battle of the Marne (July 15 to August 6, 1918), and in two campaigns of the final “Hundred Days Offensive” including St. Mihiel (September 12-15, 1918) and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (September 26 to November 11, 1918).

 

Full length portrait of Elmer A. Walton

Portrait of Elmer A. Walton, By a Photographer in France, 1918.
(Photo from collection A&M 3694, Elmer Arthur Walton, Soldier,
World War I Letter, Scrapbook, and Other Material)  Read the rest of this entry »

WVRHC’s latest newsletter now available

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 27th, 2018

Cover of a newsletter, showing article about and photo of Louis Johnson of Steptoe and Johnson

The latest newsletter of the West Virginia & Regional History Center is now available online.  The two feature articles are “Papers of Attorney and Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson Now Open to Research,” detailing the life and accomplishments of one of the founders of Steptoe and Johnson, and “WVRHC Research Grants Assisting Scholars from Around the Globe,” which includes reports from three recipients of the WVRHC research grants.

You can read a PDF copy of the newsletter online or contact the Center to request a print copy.  If you want to see back issues of the newsletter, they are all online and accessible through our Newsletter webpage.

Rolling Pins! The Lucinda Ebersole Rolling Pin Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 20th, 2018

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

It’s been a long time since I spent the afternoon baking.  I’ve never been fond of making cookies but I enjoyed making pies.  Both activities require the use of a rolling pin.  The only pin I had was the traditional household rolling pin, a cylinder of wood slipped onto a metal bar with two handles, one on each end, allowing it to roll as I pressed out the pie dough.  Read the rest of this entry »

Autograph Books and Genealogy

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 2nd, 2018

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

I recently accessioned an autograph book. By following some of the clues in the book and using some basic genealogy resources, I found out more about its owner.

Cover of autograph book, with gold-colored birds and flowers on it

Flipping through it, I saw that it included a lot of signatures from 1879 through about 1883, some poems, and some really beautiful hand-drawn art.  Read the rest of this entry »

Discovering World War I at the History Center, Part 1: The John A. Thorn Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 28th, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

A century has passed since the participation of the United States in the First World War in 1917-1918, and of course West Virginians volunteered, like so many other Americans, after declaration of war on April 6, 1917.  A recent acquisition of the History Center, including letters and photographs, details the war odyssey of West Virginian John Thorn of the 462nd Aero Squadron.  Read the rest of this entry »

West Virginia Day celebration to examine law and lawyer in the Mountain State

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 15th, 2018

West Virginia invitation cover

West Virginia University Libraries and the West Virginia and Regional History Center will address the law and lawyers in the Mountain State to mark the 155th anniversary of West Virginia’s founding on June 20.

“Justice for All; Law and Lawyers in West Virginia” will commemorate the key role the legal profession has played throughout the history of the nation’s 35th state.

“Few people are aware that West Virginia has made nationally significant contributions to law and legislation in fields including labor and industry, natural resources, medicine and education among others,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said.

Read the rest of this entry »

West Virginia v. Barnette: 75 years later

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 14th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Seventy five years ago today, on Flag Day, June 14, 1943, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down its decision in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.  This landmark case expanded religious freedom for all Americans under the free speech clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.  The ruling said that mandatory flag salutes in public schools violated free speech and were therefore unconstitutional – reversing a decision from just three years earlier.

outside the Greebrier School, Hinton, W. Va., ca. 1950, pledging allegiance to the American flag

Students pledge allegiance to the flag on Veterans Day at the Greebrier School, Hinton, W. Va., ca. 1950, image from WV History OnViewRead the rest of this entry »

A New Gift for the Rare Book Room: Edith Wharton’s Italian Villas and Their Gardens, Illustrated with Paintings by Maxfield Parrish

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 12th, 2018

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

Cover of book "Italian Villas and their Gardens" including gold details and an image of a garden with fountain, flanked by an image of a woman with a basket of grapes on the left and a garden with trees and a building on the right

Recently, the WVU Libraries received a large gift from the late Lucinda Ebersole, a collector, book lover, publisher, and bookstore owner, totaling over 11,000 books.  Yes, that’s right, over 11,000 books.  This extensive collection arrived in near pristine condition, all books in their original dust jackets, and with many rare and antiquarian titles included.  Today on the blog, I would like to highlight a book from the collection that I am very excited about, one of those rare and antiquarian titles that I have longed to have in the collection.  Read the rest of this entry »

WVU launches Distinguished West Virginians Archives

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 8th, 2018

President Gee

It comes as a surprise to some that West Virginia and its flagship university have both produced a cavalcade of distinguished leaders in business, science, government, the arts and the military, just to name some areas.

“People will say, ‘I didn’t know that you were from West Virginia,’ or ‘I didn’t know you went to West Virginia University’. And that, of course, is something we want people to understand,” WVU President Gordon Gee said in announcing an effort to remedy that lack of knowledge.

“We’ve been celebrating the achievements of the University and that celebration includes the fact that we have built ourselves on the base of great giants who have made such a difference to this state and this nation and most importantly our students,” Gee said Saturday in announcing the Distinguished West Virginians Archives, a new initiative to document the lives and legacies of West Virginians who have achieved extraordinary accomplishments and bring them to the attention of the state and the nation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Broadsides in the History Center

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 1st, 2018

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

The way people communicate is evolving along with technology.  Today, we have event pages on Facebook to alert friends and customers to upcoming activities, and blog posts and newspaper editorials on the web to share our political feelings. What filled these communication needs before the internet? In some cases, the answer was broadsides! A broadside is “a single sheet with information printed on one side that is intended to be posted, publicly distributed, or sold” (according to the Society of American Archivists). The WVRHC’s broadsides collection includes posters, handbills/flyers, and other types of advertisements and announcements.

Speaking of the internet, not all of the WVRHC’s glorious collections are available on the web.  The broadsides collection is not available online, but it is partially cataloged in the card catalog we have at the Center.  The broadside catalog cards are arranged in chronological order, from the 1770s-2007; beyond that, we have some yet-to-be-cataloged broadsides for intrepid researchers to explore. Some of our broadsides are originals and some are facsimiles. Below are a few examples to give you an idea of what this collection contains.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rhubarb: The Pie Plant

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 25th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

In West Virginia, spring brings a selection of new and fresh foods.  Ramps and morels each have a season, as do strawberries and my subject today: rhubarb.

Rhubarb in basket and planted in the ground

Image from Rhubarb Farmer.

Rhubarb, also called pie plant, is known for its tart flavor. It is considered a vegetable and looks quite a bit like red celery.  But most people prepare it as they would a fruit.  Because of the tartness, it is often sweetened and used in desserts.  Only the stalks can be eaten.  The leaves are poisonous and should not be ingested.  Read the rest of this entry »