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Challenges of Fragile WWII Era Films

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 21st, 2017

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC


The WVRHC is more than a fantastic repository of the history and culture of West Virginia and the central Appalachian region—we are the Special Collections division of the WVU Libraries, so we also preserve selected materials beyond our state and regional scope.  This is a story of some of those out-of-state materials—56 reels of 16mm motion picture film that have nothing to do with Appalachia.


I picked up these films from the Potomac State College library in 2014.  The library director at the time told me that the films had been in the library since at least 1986, with no indication of where or who they had come from or whether they had a connection to Potomac State College.  PSC librarians gave the films to the Center so we could try to identify them, preserve them, and make them accessible.  Each film was housed in a plastic case, and some of those were carefully cataloged in a wooden box.  The labels on the film cases indicated World War II subject matter, and those labels formed the foundation of the collection’s contents list, available online.


Interior of box meant to hold film canisters

View of interior of a box meant to hold film canisters, with labels at each slot.

In the photo above, you can see the effort that a previous owner went to in order to keep the photos organized.


In addition to our lack of information about the creation of these films and how they got to Potomac State College, we faced a few other challenges with these films.

Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Back (and Up) at Spruce Knob

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 14th, 2017

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

Spruce Knob is West Virginia’s highest point and one of my favorite places. Located in Pendleton County, the Knob, the summit of Spruce Mountain, stands 4,861 feet above sea level.  The mountain takes its name from the growth of Red Spruce trees.  At Spruce Knob, many of these trees grow one-sided or in a flag shape due to high winds.

Scenic view from Spruce Knob, July 2017

Scenic view from Spruce Knob, July 2017

Scenic views from Spruce Knob, July 2017, photos by Lori Hostuttler.  Read the rest of this entry »

WVRHC receives fourth grant to digitize historical newspapers

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
August 11th, 2017

Newspaper front page

The West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia & Regional History Center has received a $210,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue digitizing newspapers published in West Virginia from 1836 to 1922.

The award is the Libraries’ fourth NEH grant as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program. The collaboration between the NEH and the Library of Congress enlists libraries and institutions from around the country to create a digital database of historical United States newspapers.

“We are honored that the NEH recognizes the tremendous value of the historical newspapers archived in the WVRHC,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said. “We are thrilled to make more of these resources accessible to the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

What is a 21st century research library?

Posted by Karen Diaz.
August 9th, 2017

A phrase being used with more frequency in higher education is the “21st century research library.” In fact, you often hear library leaders discussing how their goal is to help their organization become one.  What you often don’t get is a definition of what that means exactly. One reason for this is that the definition is still being discovered.  But even though we don’t have a complete definition, we certainly have the clear outlines of one. Here are elements of a 21st century research library that resonate with me:

Focus on the needs of the campus and changes in higher education

In the 20th century there was much effort on modernizing the systems of the library, but much of that work tended to be internally focused.  This work provided good results that are continuing to make access to our resources easier, thus bringing us to the place where we can now begin to look more outside of ourselves. We now need to be looking at what the challenges of our campuses are and leveraging our resources to support those new challenges. At WVU the big challenges set forth by our president include action on Education, Prosperity, and Health. In the libraries we are looking at new and innovative ways we are uniquely poised to support these.

Evolving role of liaisons

Libraries of the 20th century created liaison roles with academic colleges and departments to ensure the library collection reflected the needs of the unit’s research and teaching. With increased access to content outside of the library and the emergence of a digital approach to research and teaching, there are opportunities for new areas of engagement. Libraries have made great strides in evolving in support of teaching through more developed pedagogy around information literacy and are developing new strategies to support the research needs through new collaborations and services for scholarly communication, data management, data visualization, data analysis, copyright, GIS, and attending to the complete research cycle. This is a growth area for WVU Libraries that we are working on.

Increased access

WVU Libraries is in a difficult spot with this right now as our funding streams are tightened. But it also highlights the new reality of libraries that access is not simply about what we own.  It is about what content we can make available to you. This means we are engaged in digitization projects for items that are unique to us; we are promoting and developing new ways to support open access to both research and teaching content; we are continually improving our technology and partnerships with other libraries for more seamless resource sharing.  The most challenging area we face today is moving to more sustainable models for continuing and building our own collections. This is especially true in the sciences where the scholarly communication model has become too expensive and too vast for even the best-resourced library. In fact, what the 21st century research library is evolving into is a “Just in time” model (we provide the information just in time for the researcher) from a “Just in case” (we house as much as we can just in case an item is needed) model of collection development. Libraries are now talking about this in terms of the owned vs the facilitated collection.

New methods of content creation and curation

The challenged reality of sustainable collection development has led libraries to take a more active role in the publishing process itself. Most libraries have an institutional repository (IR) that allows a campus to host items such as student electronic theses and dissertations (ETD’s), faculty manuscripts, and other campus information fit for open sharing. WVU had an IR that we are in the process of replacing. We are also hosting the Digital Publishing Institute directed by English professor Dr. Cheryl Ball that will provide scholarship, teaching, and publishing of scholarly and educational content, especially for items that are multimedia based. Libraries face opportunities around hosting and facilitating more student content, such as student research journals.

Staff development

Because libraries are changing, so are the staffs that keep them running and changing. This means we need to invest in continuing growth of our staff through professional development, training, and engagement with the profession at large. It also means that we need to be attending to the culture within our organization to ensure that it supports the new demands of evolution, collaboration, and an outward campus focus. Our efforts to become a 21st century library are only as good as having the staff that can make it so.


Last, but perhaps most importantly, collaboration is key in the 21st century library.  We need to be doing so in every direction possible.  Internally, as the demands for new and widening expertise within the library increase, we need to learn to work with each other to put our various insights and experiences together for the best outcomes in new situations. We need to be not only a service to the campus, but a partner as well so that we learn where our resources and expertise can aid in solving large campus challenges. And finally we need to be partnering with peer institutions, not only for resource sharing but also for the development of new systems and services that benefit the academy and libraries in general. We can no longer develop and problem solve in our own bubbles.  Our challenges have gotten too complex and our pocketbooks too thin for such an approach.


What am I missing?  Are there other hallmarks of the 21st century research library that you think we need to be attending to, especially at WVU?

Photo exhibit in Downtown Campus Library documents prison visits in Appalachian

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
August 7th, 2017

The Divide, an exhibit of black and white photographs on display in the WVU Libraries’ Downtown Campus Library Atrium, documents a van trip for families from urban Virginia to visit their relatives incarcerated in Appalachia.

The installation consists of 10 printed photographs as well as an interactive tablet so visitors may see additional photos and learn more about the project created by Raymond Thompson, a multimedia producer for WVU Magazine. A participatory element allows visitors to comment about the impact of the exhibit and share their own experiences.

Read the rest of this entry »

Award-winning WVU artist’s work to be on display at Evansdale Library

Posted by
August 7th, 2017

Inspired by the realism and symmetry of the Renaissance and other times, award-winning West Virginia University senior Patrick Bayly’s paintings are in a style that is uniquely American. Bayly’s work “New American Paintings” will be on display at Evansdale Library in August.

Read more about Bayley and his work on WVU Today.

A New Gift for the Rare Book Room

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 31st, 2017

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

Posed photo of Mike Murphy, Stewart Plein, and John Cuthbert

A seventeenth century book has found a new home in the WVU Rare Book Room.  WVU alumnus, Mike Murphy, above left, with Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian, and John Cuthbert, Director of the West Virginia and Regional History Center, recently donated a religious text published in Seville, Spain by Ioannis (Juan) de Cardenas of the Society of Jesus, a Jesuit monastic order.   Read the rest of this entry »

WVU Libraries hosts WVU Press author, former student presentation on Appalachian music

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
July 25th, 2017

West Virginia University Libraries will host a presentation Aug. 4, 3-5 p.m., by Associate Professor of Music History Travis Stimeling about his recent research on musician Charlie McCoy which culminated into his new book from WVU Press, Fifty Cents and a Box Top: The Creative Life of Nashville Session Musician Charlie McCoy (2017).

Travis Stimeling

Stimeling will be joined by former student Dizzandra Linger (BA, 2017), who will present her research on Melvin Wine (1909-2003), a Mountain State fiddler and folk music educator. Linger’s research looks at the impact of the environment of Wine’s performances. The reading will be held in the Downtown Campus Library’s Milano Room, which houses the Appalachian Collection and displays Wine’s portrait.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diaz appointed interim dean of WVU Libraries

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
July 25th, 2017

Karen Diaz

West Virginia University’s associate dean of Libraries, Karen Diaz, has been appointed interim dean of Libraries effective July 31. Diaz steps into the role following the departure of Dean Jon Cawthorne, who left for a position at Wayne State University.

“Having been a professional librarian in higher education for 30 years, Karen obviously has tremendous experience,” said Provost Joyce McConnell. “She also has a clear understanding of how university libraries like ours need to redefine their role and the nature of their collections in the 21st century. I know that under her leadership, our talented library staff will flourish and our libraries will grow as extraordinary campus resources.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Orchesis, Dance at WVU

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 24th, 2017

Blog post by Jane Metters LaBarbara, Assistant Curator, WVRHC


National Dance Day is celebrated on July 29th (the last Saturday in July), and is in its 8th year.  While you check out this year’s dance routine, crafted by Dizzy Feet, you can think back on all the dancers who paved the way and all the dance options we have now, from the Argentine Tango to the YMCA.  There are a lot of options for WVU students who want to dance, including through classes like PE 188 “Folk, Square, and Ballroom Dance”, the WVU Swing Dance Club, or a Zumba group class at the Student Rec Center.  WVU even offers the first Dance Major degree (a BA in Dance) in the state of West Virginia!  But we didn’t always have so many options—all great things have to start somewhere, and a part of the origin story of dance at WVU lies in a group called Orchesis.


Female dancers in costume

Folk Dancers in 1908—this is the earliest dated photo of dancers at WVU in our database.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recent Discovery: John Hacker, Pioneer and Frontiersman, Appears in Court Records

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 10th, 2017

Blog post by Michael Ridderbusch, Associate Curator, WVRHC.

Recently, while processing our voluminous Harrison County Court records collection at the History Center, a record documenting one of western Virginia’s earliest pioneers was uncovered.  Although a routine court record dating from 1809 regarding a financial transaction, it nonetheless includes the name of John Hacker (1743-1823), a pioneer who led the way into Virginia’s western frontier.  According to the West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia edited by Jim Comstock, “…he was the first permanent settler in what is now Lewis County.”  Though he settled in the region that became Lewis County, this 1809 case fell under the jurisdiction of the Harrison County Court since Lewis County was established later in 1816, from the territory of Harrison County.  The Encyclopedia further reveals that “in 1774 Hacker was given a 400-acre grant of land there, near what is now called Hacker’s Creek after him.”  His notable exploits included serving in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, including service with George Rogers Clark in the Northwest Campaign of 1778-1779, and serving as a representative of Hacker’s Creek at the peace conference that concluded the Northwest Indian War of 1785-1795.


Handwritten Harrison County Court Record involving John Harker and Adam Hickman, 1809

Harrison County Court Record involving John Hacker and Adam Hickman, 1809.  Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-campus collaboration results in unique rotating sculpture at Evansdale Library

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
July 6th, 2017

An interactive sculpture on display at West Virginia University’s Evansdale Library is the result of the Community Engagement in Science through Art program, which has assembled a team of artists, chemists and engineers from WVU and three other universities.

“CESTA gives its participants the unique opportunity to collaborate with others from very different viewpoints to create an original project. I don’t know of anything else like it,” said Todd Hamrick, assistant professor of engineering, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

The CESTA 2017 teams includes WVU students Trevor Brison, engineering; Cornelius Hugo, sculpture; and Umida Nurjanova, computer science; Owen Phillips, chemistry, Georgetown University; Eric Schreiber, chemistry, The College of New Jersey; and Bridget Stamp, sculpture, Kent State University.

Read the rest of this entry »

Long May She Wave: Celebrating Independence Day in WV

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
July 3rd, 2017

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian

One thing is common to all Independence Day celebrations: the American flag.  Cities and towns across the state of West Virginia have celebrated Independence Day with banners and flags of all sorts, sizes and styles.  Here’s a look back at some high flying flag celebrations for the Fourth of July across the state and over the years.


Woman with flag pinned to her dress

Young woman with a flag pinned to her dress, Helvetia, early twentieth century.

Five African American drum corps members with drums and flag

African American Drum Corp, 1915.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Library is Open….So you better READ! LGBTQ+ Literature in Appalachia

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 26th, 2017

Y'all Means All

By J. Tyler Chadwell, MAIS

To celebrate LGBTQ+ pride month I wanted to share some incredible reads in LGBTQ+ literature and nonfiction that you can access locally at the West Virginia & Regional History Center at the WVU Downtown Library. LGBTQ+ literature in Appalachia can be viewed as more of a trickle than a flood in quantity. In fact, there are even today a limited number of publications and authors who write about our region and who are openly LGBTQ+ to the public. Progress has been slow to come but acceptance has come much more quickly. This is because regionalism (being from Appalachia or a specific place there) trumps sexual identity in terms of acceptance from a community. For example, the sentiment, “[h]e may be queer, but he’s our queer” which can be found in West Virginia author Jeff’s Man’s newest novel, Country. This is a sentiment I have also found in my fieldwork as a folklorist working in Appalachia. To begin, I’d like to narrow the focus of this post to highlight those works that took place in West Virginia.

Cover of Jeff Mann's Country Read the rest of this entry »

New video blog series debuts

Posted by
June 19th, 2017

In this debut video-blog of the WVU Libraries’ new series, Checking Out!, West Virginia and Regional History Center Assistant Director Lori Hostuttler shares about the significance of the monumental exhibit, Flowing Outward and Beyond: West Virginia University, 1867-2017, celebrating WVU’s 150th Birthday opening Tuesday, June 20th and one of her favorite objects featured in it…

You are Invited: Celebrate West Virginia Day and Birthday of WVU with the WVRHC on Tuesday

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
June 19th, 2017

Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC.

June 20th is a special day here at the West Virginia & Regional History Center.  Every year we honor the anniversary of the creation of our great state through a speaker’s forum, exhibit opening, poster giveaway, and of course – birthday cake!  This year is an especially significant celebration as we recognize 150 years of West Virginia University history.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 20, beginning at 9:00 a.m., you are invited to enjoy a continental breakfast in the Milano Room in the Downtown Campus Library before the keynote address. Our featured speaker, Dr. Ron Lewis, Professor Emeritus in the WVU Department of History begins his talk at 10:00 a.m. Dr. Lewis is the foremost expert on the history of the University and is the author of Aspiring to Greatness:  West Virginia University Since World War II, published by the WVU Press in 2013.

Dr. Ron Lewis Cover of book "Aspiring to Greatness" Read the rest of this entry »

West Virginia Day program explores WVU history

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 9th, 2017

Much has occurred since that first day of class in the fall of 1867 when West Virginia University consisted of just two buildings, six faculty members, six college-level students, and 118 young men preparing to attend college.

WVU Libraries and the West Virginia & Regional History Center will provide a crash course in history to celebrate the University’s sesquicentennial as part of this year’s West Virginia Day program on June 20.

“As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of West Virginia University, it is essential for us to reflect on the early years of the institution to truly understand our land-grant mission and to appreciate the many significant milestones that have brought us this far,” WVRHC Director John Cuthbert said.


Evansdale Library exhibits student works

Posted by
June 1st, 2017

Five ceramic students and a recent graduate from West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts School of Art and Design are exhibiting their work at Evansdale Library this summer.

George Jae Hyun Cho, Kari Kindelberger, Andrew Kellner, Brandon Schnur, Luke Doyle and Ken Lu are members of the WVU Clay Club whose mission is “to create a community of people with interest in ceramics to educate each other, promote our department and participate in the community.”

“We’re delighted to exhibit the WVU Clay Club’s beautiful ceramic works and Ken Lu’s meticulous paintings. They expose our summer visitors to outstanding examples of the work coming out of WVU’s School of Art and Design,” Creative Arts Librarian Beth Royall said.

ceramic sculpture

“Caught in Between,” College of Creative Arts Ceramics graduate student Ken Lu, stoneware with acrylic, 2017

The exhibits are part of WVU Libraries’ Art in the Libraries initiative to fill library spaces with art exhibits and pieces created by nationally recognized artists with ties to West Virginia or WVU and noteworthy art created by WVU students.

This display at Evansdale shows the breadth of talent and style of the artists, from Cho’s figurative, embracing porcelain figures, to Lu’s geometric brightly colored abstract forms, to Kellner’s hushed-toned, textured stacked houses, Schnur’s sleeping dog, Doyle’s tiny but exquisitely crafted pastel lidded jar, to Kindelberger’s humble, intimate almost invisible 2-d porcelain figures.

Evansdale Library is also hosting a series of Lu’s paintings about optical illusions which he continues to develop for his master’s thesis exhibit next spring.

“Applying atmospheric perspective (color), I am able to play with visual effect to create an illusion of depth or relief. The position of the hexagons creates voids, questioning what image comes to mind first – the cubes or the void it created,” Lu said.

Two of his larger paintings will be on view in the Downtown Campus Library later this summer.

See the works on view during Evansdale Library’s summer hours: Monday-Thursday 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Fridays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays 1-5 p.m.

WVU groups seek submissions for Women of Appalachia spoken word event

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
June 1st, 2017


West Virginia University will be host to the first of an annual series of events this fall—the Women of Appalachia Project, which invites residents of all 420 Appalachian counties to submit writing to be featured in “Women Speak.”

WVU Libraries is partnering with the LGBTQ+ Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, and WVU Campus Read to bring the juried spoken word event to campus on September 30, in conjunction with the Libraries’ Looking at Appalachia exhibit.

(Read more)

"Passed From Death Unto Life" Finding Major Eugene Blackford and His Final Resting Place

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
May 30th, 2017

By Jarrad Fuoss, Masters Student at West Virginia University and Seasonal Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park.


Full body portrait of Major Eugene Blackford in uniform

Major Eugene Blackford[i]


The shrill sound of rusty hinges creaked as we passed into the graveyard of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland. Unable to contain my excitement I immediately scoured the first row of graves looking for his name. For nearly eight years I had been on the tail of Eugene Blackford’s centuries old story. Through countless hours of research and thousands of words written, the incredible story of an individual who came of age during America’s most divisive crisis emerged. Filled with adventure, heartache, and turmoil Eugene’s life read something like a modern movie script, and I was the closest of anyone yet to finding his final resting place.  Read the rest of this entry »