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WVU Libraries receives sixth NEH grant to digitize historical newspapers

This is an image of the front page of the Saturday, Oct. 14, 1922 issue of The West Virginian newspaper. A bold headline across the top reads:

With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, West Virginia University will digitize Mountain State newspapers published in six counties — Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Nicholas, Randolph, Tucker and Webster — between 1791 and 1927. (WVU Photo)

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The National Endowment for the Humanities is awarding the West Virginia University Libraries' West Virginia and Regional History Center a grant —  its sixth from the NEH, this one totaling $162,155 — allowing it to continue its important work of digitizing newspapers published in West Virginia from 1791 to 1927.

The award is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a collaboration between the NEH and the Library of Congress to enlist libraries and institutions around the country to create a digital database of historical United States newspapers.

This grant brings the NEH’s total funding of the WVRHC’s efforts to more than $1.29 million.

"We are honored that the NEH continues to support our efforts to enhance access to the historical newspapers preserved in the WVRHC," said Lori Hostuttler, WVRHC interim director. “It’s a testament to the incalculable value of these resources and the influential role West Virginia has played in our nation’s history.”

The Chronicling America website provides access to more than 15 million newspaper pages from 1690 to 1963. So far, the WVRHC has contributed 500,000 pages from more than 105 historic West Virginia newspapers. Because of this grant, another 100,000 pages will soon be added to the site.

WVRHC curator Stewart Plein said this round of newspapers will focus on the timber industry and its three major impacts within the state: its exponential growth, the effects of deforestation, and the rise of conservation and reforestation.

Newspapers selected for this grant cycle will cover six counties —  Greenbrier, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker and Webster — all in the mountainous region of the state.

“The story of the timber industry in West Virginia is as much a boom and bust cycle as that of the lumber towns that rose and fell in the path of clearcutting and deforestation.  The unprecedented growth in lumbering operations not only changed the face of West Virginia, but as the only state entirely within the borders of Appalachia, the impact on forestry and timbering was felt across the region,” Plein said.

Newspapers have been essential to documenting the timber industry because most companies destroyed their records as they left the state.

“West Virginia’s historic newspapers will reveal every pro-development argument, every move a company made after stands were clear cut, every accident, the travails of immigrants, the aftereffects of deforestation, and the rise of conservation in a state that has played a major role in the timber industry, in West Virginia, Appalachia and across the nation,” Plein said.

Stephen Kidd, National Humanities Alliance executive director, lauded the NEH for awarding $31.5 million in grants to support 226 humanities projects nationwide.

“The National Digital Newspaper Program grants will aid in the continued preservation of our nation’s history and culture through the digitization of local newspapers, including those that covered underrepresented histories,” Kidd said. “We are immensely proud of the NEH’s impact across the U.S. and will continue advocating for increased federal support for future grants in 2022 and beyond.”

Previously, the NEH funded WVU projects that focused on the Mine Wars, African American newspapers, the Civil War with reporting from both sides of the conflict, struggles between eastern and western Virginia, West Virginia’s statehood movement and establishment, West Virginia’s 1872 Constitution, reconstruction and the U.S. centennial.



MEDIA CONTACT: Stewart Plein
West Virginia and Regional History Center  

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