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Ever wonder how Fenton Art Glass or Blenko Glass Co. got their start in West Virginia? At 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, the West Virginia State Museum’s chief curator, James R. Mitchell, will discuss West Virginia’s rich history of glass production from the antebellum days of western Virginia through the present in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, in Charleston. The program is free and open to the public.

Since 1815, about 450 glass factories, including Blenko, Fenton and Pilgrim Glass, have operated in western Virginia and West Virginia. Another 50 craftsmen who made glass in larger companies and marked their ware with their names or initials have been identified. Glass producers were first attracted to West Virginia because of its abundant supply of silica, limestone and natural gas.

The State Museum’s collection of glass objects, which began with a number of donated items, now includes a number of pieces from a wide range of factories and craftsmen. When the museum’s glass exhibition opened in 1996, 92 factories and craftsmen were represented in the collection. Today, the number is 175 and growing. As part of his “West Virginia Glass in the State Museum” presentation, Mitchell will provide a video tour of the museum’s glass collection and have some samples on hand as well.

Mitchell has been a professional decorative arts and technological history curator for 50 years. Besides the West Virginia State Museum, Mitchell has worked for state museums in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as The Bennington (Vt.) Museum and the former Carborundum Museum of Ceramics in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He has twice held the position of museum director. In his spare time, Mitchell is a woodworker and an amateur musician, singing and playing bass instruments.

Advance registration for the workshop is not required, but is encouraged. To register in advance, contact Robert Taylor, archives library manager, at (304) 558-0230, ext. 163, or by e-mail at [email protected]. Participants interested in registering by e-mail should send their name, telephone number and the name and date of the session. For additional information about the workshop, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.

The Archives and History Library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. The library is closed on Sunday.

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. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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