Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness

Diversity in West Virginia and beyond

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center staff at Fairmont State University recently released the 2021 edition of Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness. This edition explores diversity in West Virginia and beyond. This exploration was prompted by the Center’s 2018-2019 Diversity in Appalachia Lecture Series, which the West Virginia Humanities Council supported. 

Section I
At the Elders’ Feet, the first section of this publication highlights a project facilitated by Adjunct Professor of Communication Ilene Evans and funded by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Ms. Evans worked with Mr. Joel Dugan, the Chair of Architecture, Art, and Design; Ms. Ja’ Rhonda Staples, Career Services Counselor; and fifteen Fairmont State University students to interview people aged 70 and above. The group’s conversation inspired professor Dugan’s artwork on the cover of Traditions with Dr. Dolores Johnson, a retired English professor. The students responded to the discussions with the Elders with artwork, stories, and poems. Several of their responses are featured in the edition.

Section II
In the Classroom, the second section was inspired by Dr. Musick’s Trunk of Tales, a Folklife Center project funded by the Daywood Foundation. The project provided copies of Dr. Musick’s book, The Telltale Lilac Bush, and other West Virginia Ghost Tales to three West Virginia school systems. This section features information that accompanied the trunks. Dr. James Matthews, Professor of English at Fairmont State University, wrote an article that explores the idea of the folklorist as an outside observer. The section also contains a lesson plan for “The Cruel Slave Master.” This lesson offers learning activities for a tale that may seem outdated by today’s standards.

old photo of men standing on large rocks

The section titled Labor includes articles by Dr. Marian Hollinger, Adjunct Professor of Museum Studies, and Reverend Richard Bowyer. Rev. Bowyer served as the campus pastor for the Wesley Foundation from 1970 to 2005. Melissa Nichols, a Fairmont State University alumna and an AmeriCorps worker at the Folklife Center, created an article from an interview with Mary Freeman Johnson. Ms. Johnson worked as a coal miner for twenty years. Rebecca Williams, a documentary filmmaker, explores race and gender in the textile industry in her article about the Beacon Blanket Factory in Swannanoa, North Carolina.

Friends & Family
The final section of the 2021 edition, Friends and Family, includes articles by Melissa Nichols, Tiffany Martin, J. Tyler Chadwell-English, and Joe Valencic. In her article, A Handful of Details, Nichols recalls family memories of her grandparents’ migration from Eastern Europe. Tiffany Martin, the special projects coordinator at the Folklife Center, recaps a presentation by Dr. Joe Boback about Native American history in West Virginia. Chadwell-English describes the significance of folkways in the LGBTQIA+ community. Joe Valencic, the vice president of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, traces the lives of Slovenians in West Virginia. Tribute is also paid to the storyteller, Fred Powers, in this section. 

old sepia photo of a couple of a man sitting in a chair and a wife standing beside him

The last article in the edition explores how information about gender is passed from generation to generation. Like all the editions of Traditions, the 2021 edition includes stories pulled from the Ruth Ann Musick Archives. This edition features stories of immigration and folklore from Hungary and Poland. So many people worked on the 2021 edition of Traditions, A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness. Dr. Donna Long spent hours editing, proofreading, and helping the staff make this edition as consistent and readable as possible. Ms. Lynne Conrad beautifully designed the edition. The stunning artwork of Professor Joel Dugan, as well as many of his students, is showcased. Some of the people instrumental in making this publication a reality is Georgeann Cain, Fairmont State University Printing Services, Katie Mallonee, and University Relations and Marketing, and the Folklife Center staff Tiffany Martin, Valerie Woofter, Dr. Marian Hollinger, Lynette Swiger, and the work-study students.

Through the generosity of friends and supporters, the Frank & Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center continues to preserve and perpetuate West Virginia’s rich cultural heritage through programs such as the Phyllis W. Moore Online Author Series and Ruth Ann Musick’s Trunk of Tales.

The Folklife Center has also made additions to their permanent exhibit, A People Upon the Land, showcasing a Civil War display from the collection of Porter Stiles. 

During July, the center is open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and by appointment. Regular hours will resume in August. For a tour, call 304-367-4403.

If you have questions about the Folklife Center, want additional copies, or are interested in supporting Traditions, click here.