West Virginia & Regional History Center

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The West Virginia and Regional History Collection, now called the West Virginia & Regional History Center,[1] is the largest archival collection housing documents and manuscripts involving West Virginia and the surrounding central Appalachian region.[2]

The WVRHC is part of the Special Collections division of the WVU Libraries. According to the University, the Center includes over 4,500,000 manuscript documents, 30,000 books, 15,000 pamphlets, 1,200 newspapers, 100,000 photographs and prints, 5,000 maps, and 25,000 microfilms, oral histories, films and folk music recordings. It is often called simply the "West Virginia Collection."[3] Through donations, the WVRHC provides access to and preserves information on the history and cultural aspects of West Virginia and the central Appalachian Region.[4][5]


The WVRHC covers all aspects of West Virginia history, including the formation of the state during the American Civil War, its political development, and its economic and industrial heritage. Contained in its Civil War collection are numerous journals from soldiers, personal papers from many of the states early politicians, and two rare 35-star American Flags, of only 6 known to still exist. Immediately after the birth of West Virginia as the nation's thirty-fifty state in 1863, Union forces returning from the Battle of Gettysburg raised the flag over Sheperdstown.[6]

The Center was created in the 1920s when WVU history professor Charles Ambler began to actively seek support for the preservation of state historical records and resources. In 1930 the University set aside space for storage and offices to support the Center's first manuscript acquisition, the "Waitman Willey Papers". Waitman Willey was an early Senator for West Virginia and the man who proposed the formation of the state on May 29, 1862 to the United States Senate.

Throughout 1931, Ambler traveled through West Virginia and inventoried hundreds of small local manuscript collections stored in attics and churches across the state. Among the collections located, many were donated to the university including the papers of Henry Gassaway Davis, Francis H. Pierpont, and Johnson Newlon Camden, all key political figures in West Virginia history.

The WVU Board of Governors formally authorized the library’s growing “Division of Documents,” as the collection was initially known, in 1933. The collection was made an official depository for state government records by an act of the West Virginia Legislature the following year.[7]

Eventually, with the addition of Monongalia and Ohio County records, as well as numerous city records from throughout West Virginia, the Center began to grow rapidly. It advanced again with the acquisition of the papers of Governor Arthur I. Boreman and several of his successors. Money provided by President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration, the first archival assistants were hired and in 1935 the first full-time archivist was hired.[8]

In the 1940s and 1950s, the WVRHC continued to grow with photographs, rare books, periodicals, and multimedia being added. An active collecting program resulted in the Center growing from 375 holdings in the 1930s to over 1,500 by 1970. It doubled again by 1990 and continues to grow as West Virginia's leading historical reference center.


West Virginia History OnView[edit]

The West Virginia and Regional History Center has been engaged in a digitization project since 2004, and has digitized over 50,000 historical photographs from its broad and deep holdings as of 2013.[9] The archive contains a total of over 250,000 photographs, and more are being digitized each day. The digital archive is the largest collection of West Virginia and Appalachian photography accessible online, and draws more than half a million visitors to the WVRHC website annually, accounting for more than a third of all traffic on WVU Libraries' website.

West Virginia Day[edit]

The West Virginia and Regional History Center participates in the yearly West Virginia Day Event. WVRHC takes part in hosting a reception and showcasing various aspects of the center's collection during this time. The theme is different every year. Depending on the collection, the reception includes: speakers, panels, book signing, readings, and viewings.[10]


  1. ^ "WVU Libraries Rename WVRHC". Retrieved 2013-07-15. 
  2. ^ "Librarian Receives National Recognition". The Daily Athenaeum. Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  3. ^ "WV & Regional History Center". Mainstreet Morgantown. Retrieved 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. ^ "Collection to Collections State By State" (PDF). Institute of Museum and Library Services. 
  5. ^ "About MWV". Museums of West Virginia. Retrieved 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/news/newsletter/1985-1994/v1n2.pdf
  7. ^ http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2013/04/16/wvu-libraries-renames-its-west-virginia-and-regional-history-area
  8. ^ https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/news/newsletter/1985-1994/v3n2.pdf
  9. ^ "Unearthed at WVU Libraries: Stories you've never been told from West Virginia's attic". The Fayette Tribune. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  10. ^ "Reception Held to Celebrate West Virginia Day and 150th Anniversary of Storer College". WBOY Channel 12 Clarksburg. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 

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