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CHARLESTON, W.Va.What was the earliest book published in West Virginia? Who was the first African American to become a registered architect? What legendary astronaut did Senator Jennings Randolph invite to the National Youth Science Camp luncheon?

The answers to these questions and more can be found in the Division of Culture and History’s new sesquicentennial-themed exhibit, now on display in the Archives and History Library.

“For the Division of Culture and History, celebrating the state’s sesquicentennial is an opportunity to showcase our people, culture and history in so many ways,” said Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith.  “We are able to highlight the key dates and events that helped form our state and, at the same time, share the stories that bring human touches to our statehood.  When visitors come to see the Archives exhibit, I hope they will take the time to read the materials and appreciate the care with which our State Archives staff preserves our past.”

The exhibit covers the period from 1749 through 2013. It is divided into four sections: pre-statehood and three 50-year periods of West Virginia’s existence. The exhibit contains a handwritten letter from John Brown to his family, an original topography map of the Little Kanawha River, the “Friends of Coal Bowl” contractual agreement and the official Sago Mining Disaster report.

“Staff archivist Debra Basham selected a number of letters, documents, photographs and maps from the State Archives that highlight some important events in West Virginia history,” said Joe Geiger, director of Archives and History. “These materials are representative of the rich heritage preserved in our numerous collections.”

The exhibit will be on display through June 22 and is free to the public. The Archives and History Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

For more information, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, at (304) 558-0220 or at [email protected] 

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org.

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