ELKINS - The history and culture of the local Appalachian region unfold in the more than 30 field recordings and numerous documents housed at Davis & Elkins College. Now, the College is one step closer to its goal of preserving these archives for future generations.
As part of a $5,994 National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance Grant awarded to Davis & Elkins in 2015, Jessica Bitely of the Northeast Document Conservation Center recently assessed the College’s Special Collections. Recommendations from the assessment will aid in developing a long-term plan to improve collection care and practices, as well as a guide for future projects.
“The College and the region are so rich in history,” says Mary Jo DeJoice, assistant director of Booth Library at Davis & Elkins. “As we investigate these collections I learn something wonderful about Elkins or West Virginia every day.”
DeJoice, along with Coordinator of Special Collections Mark Lanham and Evening Coordinator at Booth Library Megan Albee, make up the Special Collections Project Team who work together to preserve and display the items as well as coordinate accessibility to students, scholars and the public.
The team met with Bitely to discuss building and storage conditions, and provide a review of materials, workflow, policies, procedures, staffing, budget and intellectual control.
Bitely will later submit a written assessment with recommendations for short- and long-term conservation planning for overall collection management, building and environmental conditions, storage, handling and exhibit practices, security and disaster preparedness. In addition, the report will include documentation of the existing conditions of the Special Collections and offer recommendations for treatment.
“Currently many of these collections are not accessible to scholars and researchers,” DeJoice says. “These reports are designed to assist staff in prioritizing the projects in order to eventually make the resources available.”
Davis & Elkins College’s Special Collections consists of a large and diverse assortment of materials relevant to the cultural and natural history of Appalachia and the local area. Notable collections housed within Booth Library include Augusta Collection of Folk Culture, the Jim and Ola Comstock Collection and Davis & Elkins College Archives. The Stirrup Gallery in Myles Center for the Arts houses nine collections representing more than 3,500 years of history and culture: The Darby Collection, The Lincoln Collection, Howard-Sudbrink Collection, Eleanor Gay Collection, Foster Collection, Senator Davis Collection, Swezy Collection, Gary North Collection and J. Richard and Dotty S. Kendig Collection.
This is the second grant the College has received for its Special Collections in recent months. In late summer, Davis & Elkins was selected to participate in the national Museum Assessment Program (MAP), which will provide expert consultation for the curation and future development of its Special Collections.
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.
Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.
Photo Caption: Jessica Bitely, right, from the Northeast Document Conservation Center meets with Megan Albee, evening coordinator at Booth Library; Mary Jo DeJoice, assistant director of Booth Library; Amy Mattingly, coordinator of Information Services; Mark Lanham, coordinator of special collections; and Wally Neel, executive vice president and provost. Bitely’s visit focused on assessment of special collections in order to provide advice on the care and preservation of the items.