Ask A Librarian

Alpheus Poage Willson, 1794 to 1835, Morgantown Attorney

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 5th, 2019

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

While I was browsing volumes in the Rare Book Room recently I came across an early book of Virginia law, the Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia, published in Richmond by Thomas Nicholson and William Prentiss, 1785. 

Opening the cover I could see that this particular book has an interesting provenance history.  The bookplate showed that this book had once belonged to a Morgantown attorney, Alpheus P. Willson.   The inscription at the top of the pastedown reads: “Presented to the West Virginia Historical Society, Nov 8, 1870, L.S. Hough.”  Another Morgantown attorney, Hough was known locally as a collector of rare books as well as law books.  The West Virginia Historical Society may well be the Monongalia Historical Society that operates in Morgantown today. The second bookplate, marked West Virginia University Libraries, shows that this book was donated in 1933 by A.P. Willson’s son, also named A.P. Wilson, though he chose to spell the family name without the extra “l” his father used.   

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REMIX the WVRHC Archives: Call for digital collage work

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 4th, 2019
Altered historic photograph

The West Virginia University Arts in the Libraries committee wants people to get creative with history.

“REMIX the WVRHC Archives,” an exhibition and online project by the Art in the Libraries program, encourages people to use the West Virginia & Regional History Center’s online resources to design unique artistic works, such as collages, memes, GIFs, creative writing, redaction poetry and other agglomerations.

“While archives are used for research, they can also inspire contemporary thought, perspective and fun, which is the aim of this curated project,” said Sally Deskins, exhibits coordinator for WVU Libraries.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Visits WVU, September 1978

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 29th, 2019

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Fifteen years before she became a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited West Virginia University to serve as a keynote speaker for the 1978 September Festival of Women.  Evidence of her visit was recently found in sources at the West Virginia & Regional History Center.  A student in a class session at the Center found images and news clippings about the festival in a photocopied scrapbook from A&M 5131, the WVU Women’s Studies Center collection.  Newspaper articles found in the scrapbook were also located in the archives of the Daily Athenaeum newspaper found on microfilm at the WVRHC.  

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The Road to Publication

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 16th, 2019

Blog post by Lemley Mullett, Program Assistant

Marc Harshman, the poet laureate of West Virginia since 2012 and an author from Marshall County, donated his life’s work collection to the WVRHC’s Distinguished West Virginians project. His collection reflects his dedication to both his craft and to Appalachia: not only do we have many of his rustic poem collections such as Believe What You Can, and Green-Silver and Silent, but many letters to and from publishers about his children’s books also are part of the collection–plus many manuscript drafts enclosed therein.

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All of This is Now Yours: Works from 1923 are Now Copyright Free

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
January 7th, 2019

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

“Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.”

The first few lines of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by poet Robert Frost, pictured below.  One of the great masterworks now entered into the public domain.

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Gems in the Orum, Eskey, and McCaffery Family Papers

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 17th, 2018

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

Family papers are a relatively common sight in archives like the WVRHC. We collect them because they tell the stories of the people of our state and region, and because they can be great genealogical resources. The WVRHC has hundreds of collections of family papers, ranging from collections with just a few items to collections like the Siler Family Papers, which contain over 150 boxes of material.  I’m currently processing the Orum, Eskey, and McCaffery Family Papers, detailing intersecting family lines from Sherrard, WV, and I wanted to share a few items from the collection that I found particularly special.

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The History of McLoughlin Brothers Children’s Books

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 10th, 2018

Blog post by Anna Schein, Associate Curator for Printed Ephemera, WVRHC.

McLoughlin Brothers, Inc. was a New York publishing firm which pioneered the use of color printing technologies in children’s books.  Actively publishing between 1858 and 1920, the company was particularly well known for its early use of hand-stenciled colored illustrations and its later printing techniques using chromolithographs and photo engravings.

Book cover of The Night Before Christmas, Showing Santa Claus' face

The company flourished under the leadership of John McLoughlin, Jr., who learned wood engraving and printing while working for Elton & Co., a publishing company owned by his father, John McLoughlin, Sr., and engraver/printer, Robert H. Elton.  After McLoughlin, Sr. and Elton retired, John, Jr. had control of the business.  He started to publish picture books under his own name and made his younger brother, Edmund McLoughlin, a partner in 1855.

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The Importance of a Good Cookbook

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
December 5th, 2018

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

Recently the West Virginia and Regional History Center received the gift of hundreds of cookbooks that are part of the Lucinda Ebersole Collection.  Ms. Ebersole was bookstore co-owner, cookbook enthusiast, editor, and book collector. Her collection of cookbooks spans the late nineteenth century up to 2016.  The much beloved cookbook pictured here arrived as part of the larger Ebersole collection.

Beneath the hand sewn plaid cover is the Rumford Complete Cook Book printed in 1918.  Nearly every page is covered with handwritten recipes, cooking spills and splashes marking favorite recipes, clippings pasted on pages that completely cover the text and recipes attached by paperclips.

Yellow, blue, and red cookbook cover

Yellow, blue, and red cookbook cover Read the rest of this entry »

Esther Benford, Engineer

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 19th, 2018

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

Sometimes, when processing a new collection of archival materials, you get an interesting snapshot of someone’s life.  Occasionally, if you want to know how that person’s story continues, you will have to do some research outside the collection.  While processing a new collection, I came across clippings and a few photos of Esther Benford. According to one of the clippings, from a city newspaper, she was a WVU student on track to receive in 1937 the “first degree in civil engineering ever granted to a woman” (probably “at WVU” and not the first in the world, but the article didn’t specify).

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Discovering World War I at the History Center, Part 4: The Elsie Janis Memorabilia Collection

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 9th, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

On the 11th of this month of November, at 11:00 AM Paris time, will occur the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  America suffered casualties of over 115,000 in this conflict, making it the third costliest war in American history, following World War II (over 400,000) and the Civil War (750,000).  This sacrifice inspired President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to ask Americans to recognize “those who had died in the country’s service.”  In time, his moral injunction led to Congressional actions that ultimately established in 1957 Veterans Day as we know it today.

 

In times of relative peace, we of course recognize the service of those in the armed forces.  In times of war we aspire to more.  These aspirations often take the form of serving in hospitals, working in the arms industry, etc.  In addition to these activities of material support, however, are ones of moral support to the troops.  In the Second World War the United Service Organizations (USO), a nonprofit organization established by request of President Roosevelt in 1941, provided such support.  Although many entertainers answered the call, the comedian Bob Hope has become most identified with the USO, so much so that the organization is currently known as the “Bob Hope USO.”  He not only entertained during World War II, but also during the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.  Lesser known and even forgotten, however, is Elsie Janis, a vaudeville star who also entertained troops, albeit during World War I.  Her rapport and connection to audiences of soldiers was so great that she was immortalized as “the sweetheart of the AEF” (American Expeditionary Force).  The History Center has recently acquired memorabilia regarding Elsie Janis, including photographs, clippings, and other material documenting both her vaudeville years and World War I service.  Read the rest of this entry »

An Afternoon with Isaac Asimov: Talk and Exhibit

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
November 7th, 2018

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

Wednesday, October 31, the Rare Book Room, part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center at the WVU Libraries, hosted an event to highlight one of our extraordinary collections: the works of Isaac Asimov.  This event was designed to recognize our extensive Asimov collection and to celebrate our donors.

The event included an exhibit, shown below, that was on display in the Downtown Campus Library Atrium, and a talk by Nebula award winning author Andy Duncan, Professor of Writing at Frostburg State University.

Student viewing Isaac Asimov materials in glass cases in the library atrium

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Soup Beans and Archives Month

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 23rd, 2018

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

Beans mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Growing up outside Appalachia, I remember seven-bean soups being prepared, glass jars full of artfully layered dry ingredients, and sold by church ladies for charity purposes, frequently around the holidays. When my family bought a jar, it always felt like a treat. The other bean-treat of my youth was our neighbor’s chili. I’m fairly certain that it contained multiple kinds of beans, plus a few green veggie bits, and such a good flavor. (I invite you to imagine my dismay when we moved to Texas and I was told that “real” chili contained no beans at all.)

For people across the country and across the globe, beans are a staple food. You can have baked beans, beans on toast, falafel, hummus, refried beans, red bean paste, red beans and rice, succotash, lentil soup, shiro, etc. As I grew up, I learned about and tried a variety of bean-related dishes. Then I moved to West Virginia and I heard about soup beans. Not bean soup—soup beans. Like many modern-day armchair researchers, I started my research into soup beans on the internet, but I was not satisfied. My next step was to take a look at what library resources we had on soup beans.

Two women in a kitchen demonstrating bean canning

Two Women Demonstrate How to Can Beans at State 4-H Camp in Jackson’s Mill, Lewis County, W. Va.

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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.”

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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 »