By Rachel Niswander, Preserve WV AmeriCorps serving at Happy Retreat
My name is Rachel Niswander and I am the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member with Happy Retreat. One of my duties was to create an archive for the organization during my year of service. Over the course of ten years, Happy Retreat has accumulated plenty of donations and various documents, letters, and blueprints from a previous owner of the home. In order to sort, document, and archive all these items, I began archiving all these items into the museum archiving software Musarch.
I had previously used Musarch at an internship I had in college. This, along with the fact that Happy Retreat wouldn’t have to pay anything to obtain it or set it up, was the primary reason I chose this archiving software. After I set up Musarch, I began the process of putting all the items that Happy Retreat has acquired into the software. I first began with the McCabe items.
The McCabes owned Happy Retreat in the 1950s and conducted a substantial restoration of the home. We have in our collection blueprints showing the alterations and modifications done to the home as well as correspondence and letters between the McCabes and the architect. The blueprints are incredibly helpful for Happy Retreat to have, as they show every change and alteration that the McCabes did to the home. These include putting in a bathroom, a curved staircase in the west wing of the house, bookshelves in the parlors, and other small alterations throughout the house.
Other items put into the collection are furniture and books. Most of the furniture was either donated by board members or purchased from estates. Happy Retreat's books, however, came from donations. With over 300 history books donated, this took up the bulk of my time. It was a difficult task not to read every single book that I archived!
In my final weeks of service with Happy Retreat, I set up a training session for interested Happy Retreat board members to learn the software and continue the efforts to maintain Happy Retreat’s archive.
PRESERVE WV AMERICORPS MEETS WITH DR. EMORY KEMP - ESTEEMED WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR EMERITUS AND PAWV CO-FOUNDER
Written by Samuel Richardson, Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving at the West Virginia & Regional History Center (Samuel (left) pictured above with Dr. Emory Kemp (right))
It was no surprise that I was going to face some serious challenges in my Year of Service with AmeriCorps. I would be examining and arranging the life’s work of Dr. Emory Kemp, with the goal of making his 300 box collection of blueprints, maps, restoration project reports, structural analysis papers, drawings, correspondence, and much more accessible to patrons of the West Virginia and Regional History Center (WVRHC). Public History, as an academic field, was foreign territory for me. However, as a graduate from the Public Administration program at West Virginia University, I was prepared to tackle any project that served the public’s interest. The transdisciplinary shift was a challenge, but complimented my “Clifton Strength’s Finder” examination which discovered my strength in adaptability.
Transdisciplinary shifts into public history are not unheard of, as according to Dr. Kemp, the structural mechanics PhD, was moved from civil engineering to the History Department at West Virginia University. Despite resistance in his early educational career to studying history as an academic discipline, he choose to remain in engineering. His resistance however, was no match for the orders of West Virginia University President James G. Harlow, who would implore Dr. Kemp lead the newly founded Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology in the Department of History, not engineering.
This was one of the many anecdotes that developed in the Monday afternoon meeting with the retired academic stalwart. Perhaps, in the process of officially retiring, as he promises his newest developing book on the Big Sandy River will be his last.
The materials in the collection were assembled to support projects over Dr. Kemp’s 50 year career. The materials were arranged in a manner with no particular emphasis on a preserved original order. Dr. Kemp stated that he expected the professional expertise of the faculty and staff at the WVRHC to arrange the materials in a fashion that would make his work most accessible to researchers.
Kemp also agreed with the proposed series arrangement, where WVRHC faculty member, Jane LaBarbara, and I hope to divide the collection into three major series, Kemp’s Personal Library, Publications by Kemp, and finally, “Subject Files” or “Research Projects.”
In hopes of understanding which areas of the large collection are appropriate to highlight and exhibit, Dr. Kemp will provide Jane and I with a list of 35 projects that were of noteworthy accomplishment and could be listed as potential engineering breakthroughs. Some of which, were his role in the construction of the Sydney Opera House, and saving the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company potentially millions of dollars, by engineering a way for them to integrate new equipment without completely destroying an older building. Kemp hopes to sit down with LaBarbara and me to discuss each of the projects in further detail.
Efforts to nominate a former coal-mining town in southern West Virginia to the National Register of Historic Places could spur economic growth there, according to a spokesman for three development agencies engaged in the effort.
Once a mining boomtown, Helen, with a population near 125 residents, is among the last coal camps that remain in the mountains southwest of Beckley, and financial incentives for historic rehabilitation there would be provided if the nomination succeeds.
According to Kyle Bailey, Preserve WV AmeriCorps member serving with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, who is conducting the survey to nominate the community, financial incentives such as grants and tax credits will supplement the costs of expenditures needed for property repairs and improvements.
The nomination would also secure the community's status as historically important on official state and federal levels, he said.
"This would help homeowners and other property owners in Helen fund tasks such as replacing the roof, preserving the windows, and updating electrical systems," Bailey said.
"Helen could once again experience growth and expansion, especially in light of recreation initiatives, such as the development of hiking and ATV trails, and transportation initiatives, such as the completion of the adjacent Coalfield Expressway."
A joint effort by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, and the Winding Gulf Restoration Organization, the effort builds on projects already established in the town, including the development of a Coal Miner's Memorial Park and the stabilization of a historic apartment building there.
Helen was recently selected as a stop along the African American Heritage Auto Tour, sponsored in part by the coal-heritage authority, and wayside that interpret the town's history will soon be installed, Bailey said.
Like other camps of the Winding Gulf Coalfield, Helen experienced rapid growth through the early and mid-20th century. Mines there produced some of the highest quantities of coal in the state, and by 1940 almost 2,000 people lived in the town.
Bailey, who grew up in a coal camp in nearby Amigo, is a member of the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program, a statewide service initiative established to help communities capture their history and preserve beloved West Virginia landmarks.
By Patrick Corcoran, Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member Eastern Regional Coal Archives/National Coal Heritage Area
West Virginia continues to gain value, due to successful historic resource improvement projects, just like the one recently undertaken at Old Stone Church Cemetery in Lewisburg, WV. Preserve WV AmeriCorps members partnered with Friends of the Old Stone Cemetery for a day of historic burial preservation education, as well as, hands-on restoration experience.
On Monday, June 26, 2017, at the Old Stone Cemetery, 25 volunteers from local communities and the Preserve WV AmeriCorps program, cleaned and repaired over two dozen tombstones under the instruction of cemetery preservationists, Morgan and Kate Bunn, of Friends of Old Stone Cemetery. This was a record number of tombstones cleaned in a one day workshop. In addition, volunteers helped uncover most of the antique fencing of a lost family plot dating to 1857.
The restoration workshop, organized by Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV) and Friends of Old Stone Cemetery, began with a short instruction of the do’s and don’ts of tombstone restoration and a demonstration of the process of cleaning the stones with plenty of water and D/2 (a non-toxic biological cleaner that removes stains from molds, algae, lichen, and air pollutants). Each volunteer was given a take-home bucket of the necessary cleaning tools.
By Mercy Klein, Preserve WV AmeriCorps
November 2015 About a year before I became an AmeriCorps member, I was introduced to the Dunbar School while I was volunteering as a community member with Lynn Stasick, PAWV’s Field Representative. She was conducting an AmeriCorps training at the school on how to perform historic site evaluations and Prioritized Needs Assessments. Fortunately, I decided to tag along that day as an interested observer. Who would have known that a year later I would become an official AmeriCorps member whose first big project was to organize a Day to Serve Civic Service Project at the Dunbar School!
When I think back to that day of my first visit to Dunbar School, one of the things that made an impression on me was listening to Houston Richards and Charlotte Meade (members of the Dunbar School Foundation) speak about what the Dunbar School meant to them. They spoke of the memorable times and the friendships that developed during their attendance there as students. By the tone of their voices, I could really feel just how important it was for them to preserve this school and thus their memories of their time there.
The Dunbar School Foundation, the benefited organization, is working to preserve and repurpose the Dunbar School for a community and recreational facility.The school is the only nationally-recognized historic site in Marion County that considers the segregated African American educational experience.
Attire: Wear closed-toed shoes and work clothes
Supplies: Tools and paint will be provided.
Lunch: Lunch will be provided
To sign up and for more information, please visit:
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).
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.
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