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The mission of the West Virginia & Regional History Center is to acquire, provide access to, and preserve information resources in all formats which elucidate the history and culture of West Virginia and the central Appalachian region. As the Special Collections division of the WVU Libraries, the WVRHC also preserves selected information resources beyond the state and regional scope which contribute to the teaching, research, and service mission of West Virginia University.
Units of the Center
The WVRHC is the special collections library of WVU, which means we work with materials that are rarer, more varied in format, and/or more comprehensive than the general Libraries' materials. The WVRHC is divided into multiple units: the regional history collection, the rare books collection, and other special collections.
I. West Virginia and Regional History Collection
Sometimes called the West Virginia Collection, this unit encompasses our main West Virginia books collection, newspapers, microfilms, oral history, printed ephemera, folk music collection, and Archives and Manuscripts. The Archives and Manuscripts collections include personal, family, and business papers, most of which have a connection to West Virginia or Appalachia. It also includes the University Archives collections of material related to WVU's offices, faculty, student organizations, etc. Today, the Archives and Manuscripts division of the WVRHC contains more than 4,000 collections consuming nearly 20,000 linear feet of shelf space.
II. Rare Books Collection
The premier collection of rare books in West Virginia contains printed and manuscript books from the late 1300s to the present. Housed in the Rare Books Collection are the first books printed in what is now West Virginia and the early histories of frontier western Virginia. In addition to published rarities of West Virginia and Appalachia, the Rare Books Collection is eclectic but strongest in literature, history, and the natural sciences, reflecting the interests of bibliophiles who donated their collections of books to the West Virginia University Libraries. Among the rare books of great significance are William Shakespeare's Four Folios; the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493; Denis Diderot's Encyclopedie; Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language; and first editions of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (also known as Mark Twain), and many other literary giants. Representing more recent rarities are shape-note hymnals and comprehensive collections of twentieth-century authors Isaac Asimov, Jesse Stuart, and George Bird Evans.
III. Special Collections
As the Special Collections division of WVU Libraries, the WVRHC preserves selected information resources beyond the state and regional scope. A highlight of special collections is the International Association for Identification Collection. Consisting of more than 100 linear feet of material, including archives and manuscripts, books, periodicals, and a wide assortment of ephemeral publications, the IAI Collection is the most comprehensive forensics information resource in existence. Included are materials dating back to late 19th century when the field of scientific criminal investigation was in its infancy.
The West Virginia and Regional History Center is the foremost historical archives library in West Virginia, preserving the finest gathering of archives and manuscripts pertaining to the history of West Virginia and the central Appalachian region in existence. The Center dates back to 1930, when the University Library accepted the responsibility of preserving the papers of Senator Waitman T. Willey, a founding father of West Virginia. The papers of other key political and industrial leaders soon followed, including those of Francis H. Pierpont, governor of the Reorganized Government of Virginia (1861-1863), and capitalist titans Henry Gassaway Davis and Johnson Newlon Camden.
The West Virginia University Board of Governors formally authorized the Library's growing "Division of Documents," as the Center was initially known, in 1933. The Center was designated as a permissive depository for public records by an act of the state legislature the following year and thus became a center for preserving the court records of many of West Virginia's oldest counties during the WPA period. During the 1950s, the Center's scope was expanded to include printed materials, audio-visuals and other historical information resources regardless of their format.
Today, the West Virginia and Regional History Center maintains leading collections in many fields and formats. Its library of West Virginia books and periodicals is unmatched, as are its holdings of early West Virginia photographs, maps, broadsides, and folk music. The Center's archives and manuscripts division continues to embrace the majority of deposited papers of West Virginia's political leaders, from the first governor, Arthur I. Boreman, to those of Governor Arch Moore, as well as outstanding archival resources regarding virtually all aspects of the state's economic, cultural, and social history.