FROM LIFTING LOGS TO RESTORING STAINED GLASS: PRESERVE WV AMERICORPS MEMBERS PROVIDE HANDS-ON HELP DURING SERVICE PROJECTS
By Kelli Shapiro, PhD
I’m not an outdoorsy person, and my level of physical activity is typically so low that I would barely consider a third-floor apartment when I moved to Morgantown last year. That being the case, although I love architecture, the built environment, and historic preservation, I’ve always greatly preferred the type of preservation activities in which I could participate from the comfort of an office, museum, or archive. Thankfully (from my perspective), that has primarily been the situation during my past year of service as PAWV’s Preserve WV AmeriCorps member. I’ve been proud of my efforts doing historical research, writing press releases, updating webpages and social media, creating PowerPoint presentations, and helping the organization apply for grants – among many other activities. The Preserve WV AmeriCorps program requires all its members to participate in several hands-on service days, though, as well as to each organize their own service project – and those have forced me to come out from behind my keyboard (to my benefit, I’ll admit).
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Seventeen Preserve WV AmeriCorps members have been deployed across the state to provide direct services in the areas of historic preservation and heritage tourism. A statewide service initiative, the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program places service members at historic non-profit sites or local government agencies for a one-year period where they complete specific projects aimed at improving historic resources and managing volunteers for special events. The end goal of these projects is community revitalization, with a focus on long-term historic preservation and increased use of historic properties and museum collections. “AmeriCorps member projects have a heritage tourism and community development focus. The main purpose of these projects is to increase visitation at historic sites, encourage visitors to spend more money in our communities, and re-develop these properties for new uses. The projects meet the long-term mission of the alliance, which is to preserve the Mountain State’s cultural heritage for future generations,” explained Danielle LaPresta, the program director for Preserve WV AmeriCorps and executive director for the alliance.
By Edward Pride, Preserve WV AmeriCorps serving at the Waldomore (Clarksburg – Harrison County Public Library)
Beginning in Spring 2016, a buzz of activity has taken over Waldomore, a historic library and museum located in Clarksburg, WV. Over the past couple of months, an extensive renovation of the building has been ongoing. From electrical to plaster work, a myriad of improvements have brought the structure back to life. As the restoration continues, the development of new planning and programs are helping to set up the next chapter for Waldomore.
Constructed in 1842 by Waldo P. Goff, Waldomore originally served as residence to the Goff Family. After almost a century as home of the Goff’s and their heirs, May Goff Lowndes donated the building and site to the City of Clarksburg on the condition that it was to be used as a library and museum. From 1931 to 1975, Waldomore operated as the Clarksburg city library. After the completion of a new library structure in 1975, Waldomore was repurposed as a center for historical and genealogical research as well as a civic meeting and event space. Today, Waldomore continues to serve the citizens of Clarksburg and the North Central Region.
By Edward Pride, Preserve WV AmeriCorps at the Waldomore (Clarksburg – Harrison County Public Library)
Since April 2016, extensive renovations have been ongoing at Waldomore, a historic library and museum located in Clarksburg, WV. Improvements being performed during the restoration include the replacement of aging electrical wiring with a new system, the repairing of damaged plaster throughout the structure, as well as the installation of new carpeting and paint. Due to the nature and scale of the project, the contents of the building had to be removed and placed in temporary accommodations. Before Waldomore Staff could begin the moving process, extensive planning had to take place in order for the move to be executed with little to no issue. Although every collections move has different characteristics and challenges, the items covered below provide a basic framework for any museum or archives to use when planning their move.
Typically when the HCWVHS has school-age visitors, we do a short presentation on the history of the Vance House, and then the students participate in our “Identify the Artifact” activity. Rarely is there time to do the all-inclusive tour, and the younger students are generally more interested in the “old stuff” rather than the house itself. Even rarer is the school tour after the end of the school year. So much to my surprise, I was contacted by Greg Phillips, Upward Bound instructor and history teacher at Robert C. Byrd High School, for two separate Vance House tours in June. Upward Bound is a federally funded educational program for high school students from low-income families or from families where neither parent holds a bachelor’s degree. Over the summer, the students take courses to prepare them for college and advanced classes in high school. Mr. Phillips’s group was from the Upward Bound program at Salem International University, and he specifically asked for a tour focused on Vance House’s architecture. By using the architecture, Mr. Phillips wanted his students to learn how the Vance House visually represents the economic and social aspects of 19th century Clarksburg
By Michael Langmyer, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
The term archive is associated with large square rooms and extensive wall length and height, a room with halls and corridors that seems endless in capacity. These are places like the National Archive in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Institute, or the British Museum of Natural History. These three are major examples of what a large archive might be, but most towns, cities, businesses, and non-profits have an archive to manage. These institutions do not have the unlimited space that the larger museums and conservation centers have, and must take actions based on those limits in available space. Those actions are made every day by the people who work in small archives so that objects of value can be held in those institutions. There are four in total that can help maximize the storage capacity of an archive. The purpose of these four points is to make every inch of space count with the storage of items. I will base all examples from my work in the Historic Shepherdstown Commission’s archive.
The first action to take in conserving space is the organization of the collections and the physical archive. The layout of the archive can be done any way imaginable. A typical archive has shelves, either metal or wood, filing cabinets, pull out drawers, and archival boxes scattered throughout. With these materials in hand, two or three of the four walls covered with metal or wooden shelves. Whatever space is left will be dedicated to any filing cabinets or other forms of storage. There should be a small spaced saved for supply shelf in your archive as well. This does not need to be large, but can hold everything that you would need to run an archive. The archive at the Historic Shepherdstown Commission has seven metal shelves on three different walls with three filing cabinets sandwiched into three small spaces around those shelves. One of those shelves, as I mentioned above, is dedicated to storage of office materials. The other six shelves are to hold historical objects.
However, the Marshall County Historical Society actively tries to show the local community that history is for everyone, and is so much more than weighty textbooks and easily forgotten dates. In May, the museum began a yearlong partnership with the John Marshall High School’s Public Relations course, taught by Jonna Kuskey. Working with Mrs. Kuskey, the students decided to produce updated promotional materials and new exhibition text for the museum’s permanent exhibit. Featuring themes and objects curated by Elizabeth James, the AmeriCorps service member serving through the Marshall County Historical Society, students were able to get hands-on experience with real historical objects.
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