Marlinton Smithsonian exhibition to showcase logging labor history
For six weeks this autumn, part of the nation's museum will be making its home right here in Marlinton.
The Pocahontas County seat was one of six communities recently selected by the West Virginia Humanities Council to host The Way We Worked, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. The exhibition comes to Marlinton September 10 through October 14.
Adapted from an exhibition developed by the National Archives, The Way We Worked explores how work became such a central element in American Culture, tracing the many changes that affected both the workforce and work environments.
Those who worked to bring the exhibition to Marlinton are particularly excited about the exhibit's inclusion of local labor history. While housed in the auditorium of the Marlinton Municipal Building, the focus of the exhibition will be on the logging industry that shaped the town and all of Pocahontas County over the past century.
ﾓIf it weren't for logging, I wouldn't want to guess what this county would be at this point, because moving the logs down the river brought life to the area and families who have stayed on,ﾔ said Gail Hyer, of the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau. ﾓAnd Marlinton itself was hugely affected. It's on a much smaller scale now, but it's still integral to working here.ﾔ
The local CVB is only one of several groups that will be working to make the six-week exhibition in September and October a reality. The cast of those working together on the exhibition includes the McClintic Library, the Town of Marlinton, Beckwith Lumber and Cramer Lumber, West Virginia Mountain Logging Association, GoMarlinton, the Marlinton Rotary and Woman's clubs, the Pocahontas County Opera House, the county's Chamber of Commerce, local historian and author William P. McNeel and Historical Society Preservation Officer B.J. Gudmundsson.
And more will be needed to share their own storiesﾗor that of their familiesﾗpertaining to local logging history.
ﾓOne of the things I'm most excited about is that this will be a very broad-based community effort,ﾔ said Hyer. ﾓThis isn't about one group or even two groups. This is about six, seven or eight groups working as a team. It's about individuals bringing their life experiences or that of their parents or their grandparents and the information that they have about logging in this area.ﾔ
With the exhibition in Marlinton during Autumn Harvest Festival and Huntersville Traditions Day, Hyer is excited about the local component of the exhibition.
ﾓThis is an opportunity for a lot of local groups to work on something fun,ﾔ Hyer added. ﾓWe see this as being for 2011 one of the big visitor draws in the county.ﾔ
ﾓOne of the things that helped us really get this exhibit is that most museum exhibits are marked 'do not touch,'ﾔ said Hyer. ﾓWe want ours to be hands-on. We want to make sure people can hear things, people can taste things, people can touch things, people can take things home, relative to logging and lumbering in this county.ﾔ
Hyer noted that a wealth of research into Pocahontas County's logging history has already been completed.
ﾓWe don't have to make anything up for this,ﾔ she said. ﾓEverything is out there. This is an instance where our heritage is our brand, and that is a wonderful thing.ﾔ
But many stories still remain to be collected. Pocahontas County Historical Society and its Preservation Officer, B.J. Gudmundsson, will be working closely with the exhibition to gather local stories and interviews about the county's logging heritage, said Hyer.
A team of volunteers has also offered to build one of the arksﾗthe makeshift rafts with improvised living quartersﾗthat were used by those driving the logs down the Greenbrier River to Ronceverte.
ﾓWe want people to actually be able to get in one of those arks so people will know what those workers lived through,ﾔ said Hyer. ﾓWe don't want to just have pictures of logs. We want people to actually feel it and experience it.ﾔ
Other groups, such as Pocahontas Woods, may provide workshops that show raw timber turned into a finished wood product, said Hyer.
In addition to touching and seeing, the exhibition will also satisfy the sense of taste. A typical woodhick lunch will be served daily to give visitors to the exhibition a sense of the simple foodﾗbeans, cornbread and cornmeal mushﾗthat sustained loggers of the early days.
The sense of hearing won't be left out, either. The Pocahontas County Opera House would not have been built without the arrival of the logging industry and the railroad that served that industry. A series of regular musical performances is also in the works, Hyer said.
The groups working on the various components of the exhibition will also receive technical support from Smithsonian Institution experts, said Hyer.
Of its six stops throughout West Virginia, the exhibition's stop in Marlinton will be the only one that will be highlighting logging as part of its local contribution.
ﾓI hope people gain a whole new respect for how tough the logging industry was,ﾔ said Hyer.
More than that, however, Hyer hopes the exhibition will show what many working together in Marlinton and Pocahontas County can accomplish.
One group cannot get this done,ﾔ said Hyer. ﾓThat's why we have stretched out and are working with other groups. Our hope is that anyone who wants to work on this willﾗeither as an individual or a group. This is something that should matter to all of us, because it is part of our historyﾗpart of our heritage.ﾔ
Those who would like to be involved in helping with the local components of the exhibit are invited to meet at the McClintic Library 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 10.