Ask A Librarian

US Congress exhibit opens April 2

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
March 28th, 2018

Photograph of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressing a joint meeting of Congress, December 26, 1941, from the Senator Harley Martin Kilgore papers, WVRHC

The United States Congress is the branch of the federal government closest to the people, where representatives and their constituents most directly engage over the issues of the day. Yet many Americans view Congress with a mix of frustration, confusion, and disapproval.

To promote a better understanding of Congress, the West Virginia and Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries will open a new exhibit, “The People’s Branch: Exploring the U.S. Congress with Archives,” on April 2, in the Downtown Campus Library’s Rockefeller Gallery. It will remain on display through December 2018.

“The People’s Branch” uses archival materials to explore the basic functions of Congress and the importance of the institution in American democracy. It highlights the representative responsibilities of the body and the interactions between politicians and constituents. It encourages visitors to consider how Congress has evolved over time and how it continues to shape politics and public policy.

“With the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, the exhibit offers a chance to look at the legislative branch broadly and to reflect on how the institution has remained consistent, and changed, over time” said Danielle Emerling, WVRHC assistant curator and congressional and political papers archivist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Harriet B. Jones, West Virginia Physician, Suffragist, and Activist

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 26th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Harriet B. Jones was born in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Terra Alta, Preston County, West Virginia from the age of seven.  She attended Wheeling Female College in Wheeling, West Virginia, with a focus on music and art, graduating in 1875. Soon thereafter she concluded four years of Chautauqua courses.  Despite completing the traditional training for middle class women of her day, Jones was discontent.  She recognized the need for female physicians and pursued a medical degree at the Women’s Medical College of Baltimore.  She graduated in 1884 and later finished post-graduate studies to specialize in gynecology and abdominal surgery.

Portrait of Harriet B. Jones, ca. 1897

Harriet B. Jones ca. 1897. Image from American women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 Portraits: a Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women during the Nineteenth Century, page 425.  Read the rest of this entry »

Book dealer honors Forbes with massive book collection to WVU

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
March 21st, 2018

Harold Forbes, retired rare books curator, peruses a book dealer Jim Presgraves donated to WVU Libraries in honor of Forbes as library associate Autumn Summers and work study student Jamie Rood look on.

When Harold M. Forbes retired from West Virginia University as curator of Rare Books in 2013, bookseller Jim Presgraves wanted to pay a proper tribute to his colleague’s long career.

Rather than sending a card, Presgraves, approaching retirement himself, donated a large portion of his inventory at Bookworm and Silverfish Books in Rural Retreat, Virginia, to WVU Libraries in honor of the former Rare Books Curator. Library staff calculate the gift at more than 10,000 books, pamphlets, archives, maps and other materials with a value more than $500,000.

“WVU has been a very good customer over the years, and that was my reward,” said Presgraves, who secured books on West Virginia, Appalachia and other topics for Forbes.

As part of his donation, he requested the Libraries identify 100 books and add special bookplates recognizing Forbes. Rare Books Curator Stewart Plein, who worked with Forbes prior to his retirement, selected books she knew would interest him and invited Forbes back to the Rare Book Room in the West Virginia and Regional History Center to unveil the tribute.

“At first, I thought, ‘What a terrific selection’, and then I was stunned to see my name in the books,” Forbes said. “To receive something like this, something so substantial, it was exceptional. I felt truly honored.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Interview with Elaine Sheldon, Director of “Heroin(e)”

Posted by
March 19th, 2018

As part of Women’s History Month, West Virginia University Libraries screened the Oscar nominated “Heroin(e)”, directed by Peabody Award-winning documentarian Elaine McMillion Sheldon alongside an exhibition photography of three West Virginia-based photographers.

West Virginia native and WVU alumna Sheldon (BSJ, 2009) thereafter discussed the Netflix Original Documentary short following three women fighting the opioid crisis in Huntington, as well as the work of the artists whose work is seen in “A Knowing Intimacy: A photography exhibit by West Virginia Women” on display in DCL Room 1020 through April 13.

Sheldon, the exhibit’s curator, explained that the name comes from the shared intimate quality among her work and the work of photographers Lisa Elmaleh, Rebecca Kiger and Meg Elizabeth Ward.

Before the event, Sheldon sat down with WVU Libraries’ Exhibits and Programs Coordinator Sally Deskins to discuss how growing up and living in West Virginia impacts her work as well as her time at WVU, making documentaries about her homeplace, her podcast She Does, curating this exhibit and much more. The interview was created using StoryCenter’s Listening Station and is archived with the StoryCenter.

Click here to learn more about the exhibit and artists.

“A Knowing Intimacy” is supported by the Libraries’ Arts in the Libraries program. For more information contact Sally Deskins, exhibits coordinator,

Call for Art Created by Health Professionals at WVU

Posted by
March 13th, 2018

WVU Art in the Libraries, in collaboration with Health Sciences Center, is seeking visual artists in the health care field working at WVU and WVU Medicine to participate in a group exhibition to take place in the fall of 2018 in the WVU Health Sciences Library.

Through art, relationships of medical professionals and their patients and the impact thereof can come through, such as in Luke Fildes’ famous 1891 painting, The Doctor (below) or Thomas Eakins’ Gross Clinic (1875).  Too, artwork can prove a fun hobby, personal release or second creative profession for those in such a scientific, sociable profession as health, like mid twentieth century illustrator Frank Netter or the contemporary painter Lissa Rankin (Both Sides Now painting, below), who retired as OBGYN to make art.

tan and white with wide strip down center and hourglass and colorful dots.

Both Sides Now by Lissa Rankin

Man watching young girl sleeping on chairs with man in background

The Doctor by Luke Fildes

We want to know what WVU health professionals are making visual art!

Any part or full time staff or faculty, may submit any media, ready-to-display, work of any theme for this exhibition.  We’re interested in all types of work addressing contemporary issues or concerns, health or medical issues or concerns, or completely abstract artwork.  You do not need to be an “established” artist! We are looking for health professionals who create artwork, any level or media will be considered.

The facilities include limited wall space and display cases in the Health Sciences Library, on the 2nd floor of the Health Sciences Center of West Virginia University. There is ample natural and artificial overhead lighting. Traffic includes medical undergraduate, graduate students, faculty and other professionals in the health and medical field as well as prominent campus visitors and others using the library facilities. Artists are encouraged to visit the space before submitting.

Artists are responsible for transporting artwork to and from the Library if their work is accepted.  Libraries hold the University insurance if loan form is filled out and signed, though security is limited to the access services staff of the Library during open hours.

To participate: Contact WVU Libraries Exhibits Coordinator, Sally Deskins,, 304.293.0369, feel free to send images, ideas, websites, etc. by May 31, 2018.

About: Art in the Libraries develops exhibits and related programs in the Downtown Campus Library, Evansdale Library, and Health Sciences Library, highlighting the creative endeavors and scholarship of WVU faculty, staff, and students, reaching across the University, the region, and the broader academic community. This program demonstrates how art, libraries and scholars encourage the community to explore, reflect, and discuss what they encounter in the WVU Libraries which seeks to embody the mission of West Virginia University by excelling in discovery and innovation, modeling cultural diversity and inclusion, promoting vitality and building pathways for the exchange of knowledge and opportunity.

WVRHC Debuts New Archives Research Website

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 13th, 2018

The West Virginia & Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries has launched a powerful new tool to assist researchers anywhere in the world who have an interest in exploring the history of the Mountain State and its region.

The Center’s new Guide to Archives and Manuscripts provides enhanced descriptions for more than 4,300 archival collections, and that number grows every week. The new site is available at

The website is built with ArchivesSpace, an open source, web-based archives information management system supported by a community of over 300 member institutions and the LYRASIS network of museums, archives and libraries. WVU Libraries has been a member of the ArchivesSpace community since 2015.

For more information, check out the article in WVUToday:

If you have any questions about using the new site, please contact us!


Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 12th, 2018

Blog Post by Jessica Eichlin, Photographs Manager and Preservationist

Driving on the back roads of West Virginia is one of my favorite parts of traveling to visit family in Virginia.  The natural scenery is gorgeous, I get to see incredible farm houses, and, as a bonus this last trip, I saw a Mail Pouch Tobacco sign on a barn.  I had heard of these rustic billboards before, but did not know much about the history behind them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Be an Advocate for Change

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
March 7th, 2018

As part of Open Education Week (March 5-9), West Virginia University Libraries, faculty and students are focusing on the high cost of textbooks.

Since 1978, the cost of college textbooks as risen 812 percent, a rate faster than medical services (575 percent), new home prices (325 percent) and the consumer price index (250 percent), according to statistics from the American Enterprise Institute.

The rising cost of textbooks can not only affect a student’s bank account, but their grades as well. The Florida Virtual Campus, formerly the Florida Distance Learning Consortium, has been studying the effect of rising textbooks costs on students’ purchasing decisions, their academic success, and their awareness of Open Education Resource (OER) options.

Their 2016 study found that the cost of textbooks continue to be a negative influence on students’ grades and success.

2016 Florida Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey chart

Florida Virtual Campus. (2016). 2016 Florida Student Textbook & Course Materials Survey. Tallahassee, FL.

Read the rest of this entry »

University Archives Update, Part 2: Beyond University Records

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
March 7th, 2018

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

In January, I wrote about WVU’s new records retention efforts and how that helps the University Archives collect WVU’s history.  University history goes beyond departmental and administrative records, though, so the University Archives collects more than just records created by the University. If you are interested in what the University Archives wants to collect, take a look at our Collection Policy.  It describes additional types of records and materials that we are collecting, including the following categories:  Read the rest of this entry »

The Niagara Movement in West Virginia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 28th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

In August 1906, a group of African Americans signed a register to designate their entry into John Brown’s Fort in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  This burgeoning group, dubbed the Niagara Movement, made a special pilgrimage to the Fort during their first meeting on American soil held on the campus of Storer College. The Fort, the former U.S. Army Arsenal Engine House, was the site of Brown’s failed raid to foment a slave rebellion 1859, a precursor to the Civil War.  It had become a shrine for African Americans and many others who saw it as a symbol of freedom.  Read the rest of this entry »

Libraries to host exhibit and Heroin(e) screening for Women’s History Month

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 27th, 2018


Elaine McMillion Sheldon

As part of Women’s History Month, West Virginia University Libraries will showcase the work of Peabody Award-winning documentarian Elaine McMillion Sheldon and three other West Virginia-based photographers.

West Virginia native and WVU alumna Sheldon (BSJ, 2009) will screen her most recent film, the Oscar-nominated “Heroin(e)”, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Downtown Campus Library, Room 104. The Netflix Original Documentary short follows three women fighting the opioid crisis in Huntington.

It will be followed by a reception and panel discussion to include the artists whose work can be seen in “A Knowing Intimacy: A photography exhibit by West Virginia Women” on display in DCL Room 1020 March 8-April 13.

Read the rest of this entry »

Snapshots of WVU in the 1960s, Part 1, The Computer Center

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 19th, 2018

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

Not long ago the History Center received a collection of archival photographs from University Relations that contains images documenting people, activities, and events at West Virginia University from the 1960s to more recent times.  This blog will focus on photos that show the beginning of computing services at WVU.  Read the rest of this entry »

WVRHC launches George Bird Evans digital collection

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 15th, 2018

George Bird Evans poses with Blue and Dawn, ca. 1940. 

West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Center has launched a digital collection that chronicles more than six decades of work by acclaimed outdoorsman, author and illustrator George Bird Evans.

The George Bird Evans Collection contains sixty-five years of detailed handwritten hunting journals in which Evans meticulously recorded the results of hunting excursions, primarily in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains.

“George Bird Evans was one of the world’s foremost authorities on upland bird shooting and fine bird dogs,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said. “His eloquence and philosophical bent earned him an avid following among hunting literature enthusiasts across the nation and beyond.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Purpose of a Library

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 14th, 2018

By Karen Diaz, Interim Dean of Libraries

Recently, I attended a leadership training event. The trainer encouraged attendees to think about the difference between our function and our purpose.  To illustrate the issue the trainer showed us a photo similar to those in this news story. Clearly, the function the men in superhero costumes were performing was cleaning windows.  But by dressing in superhero costumes to do this work they fulfilled a larger purpose. They provided a healing environment for children who were suffering from pretty horrible diseases by including a sense of fun and happiness.

Bringing this thinking into a library context, it’s hard to pinpoint the function of a library, much less its purpose.  Some might say that a library’s function is to preserve the cultural record. Others might say it is to promote lifelong learning. Yet others might consider it to be a community center focused on meeting both educational and entertainment needs. Many library vision statements include language like “collect, preserve, and provide access to information.” When you look at staff positions there are all sorts of more traditional functions that are carried out: such as cataloging and archival processing, acquisitions of materials, reference, interlibrary loan, systems and technology support, circulation, instruction, and communication. There are newer functions in some environments such as learning technology, open access publishing, copyright services, and more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read All About It! More Historic Newspapers Available on Chronicling America

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 12th, 2018

Masthead of American Union Newspaper

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Woman reading newspaper

The West Virginia and Regional History Center is pleased to announce that an additional eighteen historic West Virginia newspapers have recently been uploaded to the Library of Congress Chronicling America database.  These newspapers have been digitized as part of the National Digital Newspaper Project (NDNP) grant awarded to WVU Libraries and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the Library of Congress. These newspapers have been digitized under the receipt of WVU’s third NDNP grant award.  All of these historic West Virginia newspapers now on Chronicling America are available free to read and download in the comfort of your own home.  Read the rest of this entry »

Help lower textbook costs for students

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 12th, 2018

The cost of textbooks is rising at a rate of four times inflation. Sixty percent of students have delayed purchasing textbooks until they’ve received their financial aid. Seventy percent don’t purchase a required textbook during their academic career because of cost.

You can help by attending the Open Textbook Workshop and Textbook Review where you can discover open textbooks in your field. After the workshop, you will be asked to write a short review of an open textbook. Your review will benefit other faculty considering open textbooks. You’ll receive a $200 stipend for your participation and a written review. The workshop will be held at the Downtown Campus Library, Room 104, March 8 at 10 a.m. Librarians Hilary Fredette and Martha Yancey will lead the workshop.

Read the rest of this entry »

Selected Environmental History Archives and Manuscripts Collections at the WVRHC

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
February 5th, 2018

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

West Virginia is known for mountain vistas, beautiful rivers and forests, and rural scenery.  The natural beauty of the state is one of its greatest assets.  This blog post compiles a number of collections at the West Virginia & Regional History Center that document efforts to preserve the natural environment in West Virginia.  Click on the link to see the finding aid for each collection.  This list is not comprehensive – there are many more relevant sources in the Center’s holdings.  Search the Guide to Archives and Manuscripts for additional collections and review the WVRHC website to find books, photographs, maps, and printed ephemera among other resources.  Read the rest of this entry »

Applications being accepted for Faculty/Staff Exhibition Award

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 1st, 2018

West Virginia University Libraries and the Art in the Libraries committee have created the WVU Faculty/Staff Exhibition Award to help promote the art and scholarship of faculty and staff. Current faculty and staff may submit ideas for an exhibit that visually showcases their scholarship in new and experimental ways, provides a visual evolution of their work or answers a research question. One awardee will receive a $1,000 professional development award and an exhibition, including promotion and public programming. Application deadline is February 28. More information is available at

Art Crawl to highlight art, history, nature on Campus

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
January 30th, 2018

West Virginia University Libraries encourages University and Morgantown community members to participate in the Campus Art Crawl on February 15, from 4-6 p.m. In addition to exhibits, the tour will feature activities, such as a scavenger hunt, and food and drink. Admission and participation are free.


Downtown Campus Library Atrium: This exhibit celebrates a decade of College of Creative Arts Professor of Photography Michael Sherwin teaching a workshop on Jackson Hole photography. Beginning at 4 p.m., Sherwin and a group of his students will give a presentation on their work.

West Virginia & Regional History Center: A selection of documents and artifacts from the Center’s archives illustrate the University’s founding and early years. Read the rest of this entry »

Server Updates

Posted by
January 24th, 2018

We will be updating the following systems.  The sites may be down briefly, but downtime should be minimal.

January 24:

January 25:

January 26: