West Virginia State Archives

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West Virginia State Archives

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West Virginia State Archives: A Treasure Trove of History

The West Virginia State Archives is a repository of the state's rich history and a treasure trove for researchers, historians, and genealogists. Established in 1905, the West Virginia State Archives serves as the official custodian of historical and archival materials of the state. With an extensive collection of documents, photographs, newspapers, maps, and artifacts, the West Virginia State Archives provides a comprehensive look into the past of the Mountain State.

A Brief History of the West Virginia State Archives

The West Virginia State Archives was created by an act of the West Virginia Legislature in 1905. The establishment of the archives was a response to the need for a central repository to preserve, catalog, and make accessible the wealth of historical materials pertaining to the state. In its early days, the archives were housed in the State Capitol in Charleston. However, as the collection grew, the need for a dedicated facility became apparent.

In 1994, the West Virginia State Archives moved to its current location in the Culture Center on the grounds of the State Capitol Complex. The state-of-the-art facility offers ample space for the ever-growing collection, as well as research rooms, a library, and an auditorium.

The Collection at the West Virginia State Archives

The West Virginia State Archives houses a vast array of historical materials, including documents, photographs, maps, newspapers, and artifacts. Some of the key collections housed at the archives include:

  1. Manuscript Collections: The West Virginia State Archives boasts a substantial collection of manuscript materials, including personal papers, business records, organizational records, and government documents. These manuscripts provide a unique insight into the social, economic, and political history of the state.

  2. Photograph Collections: With over a million photographs in its holdings, the West Virginia State Archives offers a comprehensive visual record of the state's history. The collection includes images from the late 19th century to the present, capturing the lives of West Virginians, their communities, and the events that shaped the state.

  3. Map Collections: The map collection at the West Virginia State Archives contains over 10,000 maps and atlases, ranging from early 17th-century maps to modern topographical maps. The collection includes county maps, city and town maps, and geological surveys, providing a wealth of information for researchers and historians.

  4. Newspaper Collections: Newspapers have been an essential source of information since the early days of West Virginia. The West Virginia State Archives holds an extensive collection of newspapers dating back to the 19th century, offering a glimpse into the daily lives and events of the time.

  5. Audiovisual Collections: The audiovisual collections at the West Virginia State Archives include oral histories, film reels, and audio recordings. These materials offer an immersive look into the past, capturing the voices and stories of the people who lived through significant events in West Virginia's history.

  6. Artifact Collections: In addition to the wealth of documentary materials, the West Virginia State Archives also houses a diverse collection of artifacts that provide tangible evidence of the state's history. The collection includes items such as textiles, furniture, tools, and artwork, each with its own unique story to tell.

Researching at the West Virginia State Archives

The West Virginia State Archives is open to the public, and its staff is dedicated to assisting researchers, historians, and genealogists in accessing the wealth of information contained within its collections. The archives' research room offers a comfortable and quiet space for patrons to examine materials, with knowledgeable staff on hand to provide assistance and guidance.

Researchers are encouraged to make use of the West Virginia State Archives' online catalog, which provides a searchable database of the archives' holdings. This invaluable tool allows users to identify and locate materials relevant to their research, streamlining the process and saving valuable time.

In addition to in-person research, the West Virginia State Archives also offers remote research services. Requests for information can be submitted via email, phone, or mail, and the archives' staff will conduct research on the requester's behalf. Copies of documents, photographs, and other materials can be provided for a nominal fee, making the wealth of information at the West Virginia State Archives accessible to researchers around the world.

Educational and Outreach Programs at the West Virginia State Archives

The West Virginia State Archives is committed to promoting the state's history and making its resources available to the public. As part of this mission, the archives offer a variety of educational programs and outreach initiatives, including:

  1. Lectures and Workshops: Throughout the year, the West Virginia State Archives hosts a series of lectures and workshops on various topics related to the state's history. These events feature expert speakers and provide attendees with an opportunity to learn about and engage with West Virginia's past.

  2. Exhibitions: The West Virginia State Archives regularly curates exhibitions that showcase the diverse materials in its collections. These exhibitions highlight significant events, individuals, and themes in West Virginia's history, offering a unique and engaging way to explore the state's past.

  3. Educational Resources: The West Virginia State Archives provides a range of educational resources for teachers and students, including lesson plans, primary source materials, and online resources. These tools are designed to support and enhance the teaching of West Virginia history in the classroom.

  4. Tours and Group Visits: The West Virginia State Archives offers guided tours of its facility and collections for school groups, community organizations, and other interested parties. These tours provide an in-depth look at the archives and the valuable work being done to preserve and share the state's history.

Preserving West Virginia's History for Future Generations

The West Virginia State Archives plays a crucial role in preserving the state's history and making it accessible to researchers, educators, and the general public. Through its extensive collections, research facilities, and educational programs, the archives ensure that the rich history of the Mountain State is preserved and celebrated for generations to come.

With its dedication to collecting, preserving, and sharing West Virginia's history, the West Virginia State Archives serves as an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the state's past. Whether you are a researcher, a history buff, or simply curious about your own family history, the West Virginia State Archives offers a wealth of information and resources to help you uncover the stories that shaped the state we know today.

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