Experience Appalachian Culture at the West Virginia Folklife CenterJune 8, 2015
Experience Appalachian Culture at the West Virginia Folklife Center
The Appalachian region boasts a rich cultural heritage—from quilting to old-time music to customs to
storytelling and much more. Fairmont is home to one of fewer than 30 folklife centers in the nation that focus
on the preservation and perpetuation of that culture.
Located on the shared main campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical
College on Locust Avenue, the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center offers education
programs, festivals and performances throughout the year. Many are free and open to the public. Stop by and
you’ll meet friendly folks who will be glad to show you around.
The second floor of the center houses gallery space in its Great Room of Cultures including the permanent
exhibit “A People Upon the Land” that celebrates the nationalities of the many immigrants who made West
Virginia their home and shaped the future of the state. A new exhibit also opened this week.
Founded in 1865 as West Virginia’s first private normal school, Fairmont State University celebrates its
Sesquicentennial this year. Alumni visiting the area and local history buffs will enjoy a stop at the Folklife
Center to tour the special exhibit titled “On a Hill by a Dream,” which features FSU history, traditions and lore.
The title for the exhibition was taken from a poem by Louise McNeill, West Virginia’s former Poet Laureate
who taught history at Fairmont State. The following quote is from her “Chestnut Orchard” (“Paradox Hill: From
Appalachia to Lunar Shore”):
“Back through the years beyond time and space,
On a hill—by a dream—we will find that place.”
Part of what makes this exhibit a must-see is that students made major contributions to its creation. Jessica
Linger and Chris Dykes, students in the FSU Museum Studies: Exhibit Design and Construction class;
guest faculty member Patricia Musick; and Dr. Marian Hollinger, Professor Emerita for the School of Fine
Arts and long-time curator of the Brooks Gallery on campus, developed and curated the exhibit, along with
Dr. Judy P. Byers, Executive Director of the Folklife Center.
“Because the exhibition is in the Folklife Center, although it is for the Sesquicentennial which is primarily
historic, we wanted to emphasize the folklore of Fairmont State University,” Musick said.
Linger played a major role in designing the exhibit and visitor experience and selecting donated photos and
artifacts to be included.
“Our goals changed a lot from the beginning as the project evolved. Mostly I looked through the images and
picked ones that were visually interesting but also related to a historical time that would be interesting. Telling
the stories of the old buildings I thought was really cool,” Linger said.
Here are just a few of the items you can see on display:
· Many historic photos from the past 150 years.
· A list of rules for freshmen from 1967. “Everyone who reads it says, ‘That’s just ridiculous.’ It’s just so
different, so strict. I think it’s really funny,” Linger said.
· Dresses and clothing from the Masquers Historical Costume Collection curated by Dr. Beth Newcome
· A plaque made from a tree that once marked a “mini mound” on campus. When Fairmont State Normal
School was located across town on Fairmont Avenue, a Native American burial mound was the center of
campus. In 1929, a small surface portion of the original mound and a seedling from its tree were brought to
the east end of the Locust Avenue campus. The tree had to be removed in 2013, but the plaque made from
its wood and its story survives.
· Fairmont State athletics artifacts. Included in the exhibit are a 1967 football national championship
team photo, football and trophy and baseball uniforms.
· One Room Schoolhouse artifacts. “From the One Room Schoolhouse on campus we have used an
1895 diploma, typewriter and early schoolbooks to set up a feeling of the kind of artifacts teachers would
have in their classrooms because Fairmont State was a normal school preparing teachers to teach children,”
· A few ghost stories. The exhibit prominently features the work of Dr. Ruth Ann Musick, Fairmont State’s
library namesake and the primary female folklore scholar to preserve and perpetuate the cultural heritage of
West Virginia. She did this mainly through the recording of supernatural legends and wrote books including
“The Telltale Lilac Bush” and “Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales.”
“On a Hill by a Dream” will be on display through the fall. The best time to view the exhibit or visit the Center
is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call the Folklife Center at (304) 367
-4403. For more information about the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, visit