The Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum at West Virginia University has received a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council to support an educational outreach program on coal mining history for senior citizen groups in the northern part of the state.

The Watts Museum’s senior outreach program is designed to foster stronger connections with the surrounding community.

“We want people to know that we’re here, and we have some amazing resources to share,” says Danielle Petrak, museum curator. “Connecting with senior citizens seemed like a good first step to take, because we can not only share with them our research on the social, technological and economic facets of mining history, but we can also learn from them by encouraging them to share personal stories of life experiences in a mining town, life in a family of miners and the like.”

As part of the program, museum staff will discuss the development and mission of the Watts Museum, provide a brief overview of mining history and coal mining communities in West Virginia, using historical objects to help tell that history. They will also address the museum’s care of the historical mining objects in its collection as a priority for preserving our state’s industrial history for future generations. A travelling display of mining artifacts, ranging from coal company scrip to flame safety lamps and an early 20th-century breathing apparatus, along with a slideshow of archival coal mining images will help illustrate the concepts discussed during the program.

The grant will allow the Watts Museum to safely and properly present these historical objects and photographs to the program’s audiences, as well as expand the range of senior centers, retirement homes and assisted-living centers involved.

The West Virginia Humanities Council is a private, nonprofit organization providing lifelong learning opportunities to the state’s citizens. The Council serves West Virginia through grants and direct programs in the humanities, with the goal of helping and encouraging all West Virginians to enjoy engaging and enriching experiences through the humanities.

Housed in the Mineral Resources Building of the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at WVU, the Watts Museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the social, cultural and technological history of the coal, oil and natural gas industries of the state of West Virginia through the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of objects relevant to these industries. The Museum is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1-4 p.m. Admission is free, and parking is available at the WVU Coliseum. For more information or to arrange a tour, please contact the museum at (304) 293-4609 or



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon