During my term with the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia’s AmeriCorps program, I have been granted the opportunity to serve the local community of Morgantown, West Virginia. Early on during my service, I noticed that local historical resources were not being utilized by the public. To generate interest in local history I contacted the Morgantown History Museum to coordinate with their institution in administering educational programming for children. I decided to make children the primary audience because of the importance of creating an appreciation and interest in history at a young age. I thought if more opportunities were available for local children regarding humanities such as history, it would lead to an overall community change in engaging with local historical institutions. The objective of this civic service project was to provide assistance to a local museum in connecting and engaging with their community and to also serve the local youth through providing free educational opportunities.
In March and April, I held a total of eight programs. The programs were administered on select Saturdays at the Morgantown History Museum with two programs available for each day. All programs were available for ages 8-12 and consisted of a lesson, activity, and snack.
Each program was designed for the children to learn about an important part of West Virginia’s history with a particular focus on Morgantown. The programs were as follows: Native Peoples of West Virginia, The Textile Industry in West Virginia, Mining in West Virginia, and the Wildlife of West Virginia. Every program incorporated artifacts held at the museum that children were able to interact with.
During that two-month time frame, several children attended the Morgantown History Museum for the very first time. Throughout the programs, the children had a lot of fun and were able to learn and engage with their local history. All of the children were excited to have been able to attend and informed me that they would attend other events like it. The programs encouraged the local youth to visit the Morgantown History Museum where they were able to expand their knowledge of their state and local history in an enjoyable manner. Many of the families who partook in the programs enjoyed the experience immensely and made plans to visit again.
The programs had made such an impact on the local community and for the museum that this summer they were held again as part of my regular site duties. For the summer two programs were held in accordance with a local daycare center. For Kindergarten through 2nd grade, the children attended the Native Peoples of West Virginia Program and 3rd grade through 5th grade attended the Wildlife of West Virginia Program. During both programs, the children were excited to learn something new and engage with all of the artifacts that they had access to. After the programs, the children took a tour of the museum to see all of the exhibits. They were all very curious about all of the artifacts and asked numerous questions as they excitedly went about exploring. Many of the children informed me that they hoped to visit the museum again with their families.
I am thankful to the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and the Friends of the Morgantown History Museum who provided funding, to have had the opportunity to positively impact both the Morgantown History Museum and the local community. The programming provided the museum with materials that can be reused to connect and engage with their local community, especially the youth. As well as generate excitement and appreciation of the state and local history among the children in the community.
Autumn Martino served as a Preserve WV AmeriCorps member with the West Virginia Association of Museums during the 2021-2022 program year.
Preserve WV Stories