The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

July 29, 2013

Unearthed at WVU Libraries: Stories you’ve never been told from West Virginia’s attic

MORGANTOWN — While he is surrounded by words, John Cuthbert has numbers on his mind.

30: The dollar amount of Stonewall Jackson’s last purchase – a lifetime membership in a Bible society.

3,000: The approximate number of annual visitors to the West Virginia and Regional History Center at the West Virginia University Libraries.

250,000: The number of original photographs held in the collection.

647: The very first number he met in the collection – the number of antique aluminum records holding authentic Appalachian music that he transcribed into musical notation.

Cuthbert is curator of the equivalent of West Virginia’s attic, where the property of governors mingles with that of nobodies. But there really isn’t such a thing as a nobody on the sixth floor of the Wise Library in Morgantown where the inquiries and life stories of all are welcome.   

You might seek out the Center when researching your own genealogy or our nation’s brightest diamonds.

You can find a telegram from Abraham Lincoln that urges the governor of the Restored Government of Virginia – the loyalists who would form West Virginia – to “make haste slowly’ on his plans.

There’s more, endlessly so:

A reporter’s sketches from John Brown’s raid.

All four of Shakespeare’s “Folio” editions.

George Washington’s 1781 surveyor’s compass.

Notes from the man who discovered fingerprints as an investigative tool.

More than 600 works and memorabilia relating to sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov.

Original drafts of speeches by Pearl Buck.

A journal from an officer of the all-black regiment featured in the Civil War film “Glory.”

It never seems to end and leads to the question, “Why does WVU have all of this?”

Partly because we have friends – and friends of friends – who entrusted the valuables in their attics to us. Also, the state lacks a historical society comparable to that found in other states.

“The lack of a state historical society with a facility, staff and a comprehensive collecting mission has led us to, by default, end up with a lot of the most unbelievable treasures in the state,” Cuthbert said.

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