My name is Charlotte Riestenberg, and I am the half-time Preserve WV AmeriCorps Member for the Harrison County WV Historical Society. I am from Clarksburg, WV but was born in West Palm Beach, FL. I graduated from Robert C. Byrd High School in 2015. During my time in high school I was a member of the Robert C. Byrd show choir Vocal Intensity, a member of the theater department, president of the RCB FFA Chapter, and co-captain for the colorguard. In the fall of 2015, I started my college career at Fairmont State University. For my first semester I was an Undeclared Major. I was struggling to find a major that I was interested in. I did not want to be one of those students who constantly changed their major. While I decided on a major, I decided to join the Collegiate Singers and Fairmont State Marching Band as a color-guard member because these were things I knew and loved. This made my first semester easier. Finally, by spring of 2016, I decided on majoring in history with minors in folklore studies, outdoor recreation leadership, and museum studies. I started getting more involved in the activities at the Frank and Jane Gabor Folk Life Center at Fairmont State. I and other students collected and edited stories for the Traditions Magazine that the Folk Life Center produces every year. We gathered stories from the Ruth Ann Musick collection. I started gaining interest in archival work and preservation.
Most recently, I received my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science, along with a Graduate Certificate in Archives and Special Collections, from University of Southern Mississippi. As part of the certificate program, I spent the summer of 2014 in their British Studies Program, touring libraries, archives and museums in and around London and Edinburgh. My new AmeriCorps member position, at Eastern Regional Coal Archives, dovetails perfectly with this newly acquired education. My scholastic experience is being practically applied in the field, creating valuable hands-on opportunities.
I chose to enlist a second, nonconsecutive term of service with AmeriCorps because I wanted to continue an institutional relationship that had begun in the summer of 2015. To elaborate, my graduate certificate program required an informational repository internship, which allowed me to work with Eastern Regional Coal Archives last summer. To be honest, I knew I wanted to continue assisting ERCA when I finished my degree, but didn’t know how to approach the issue, since I knew they operated on a tight budget. Toward the end of my collegiate program, while pondering the idea of re-enlisting with AmeriCorps, I had the exciting realization that ERCA might be able to become a host site for me. After several phone calls and meetings, in a relative blink of time, the process was underway. Through collaboration with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and National Coal Heritage Area, this dream with ERCA became a reality.
Since beginning my year, it has been an exciting time for all of us at the archives. In part, because this is the first time that an AmeriCorps member has been stationed here. Therefore, we are all learning as we go. We are making and taking our projects one day at a time, after having created short and long term goals for the year. A strong personal reason for wanting to be at Eastern Regional Coal Archives is to be immersed in the history of my home. Volunteering with the archives allows for research and projects that connect me to the past, and occasionally, to my hometown of Welch, in McDowell County.
Eastern Regional Coal Archives is a repository of coal-related history. The scope of this archives focuses on the Pocahontas Coalfields, which is mostly under southern West Virginia and a bit into southwestern Virginia. Mining company records, correspondence, industrial artifacts, railroad memorabilia, photographs, architectural materials, et cetera consist of the core of the archives. ERCA was founded in 1983, during the centennial celebration which marked the opening of the Pocahontas coalfields, a main seed collection being donated by the Pocahontas Operators Association. The archives is located on the second floor of Craft Memorial Library in historic downtown Bluefield, WV.
Preserve WV Stories