The Smithsonian Comes To Pocahontas
Marlinton, WV – This fall, the town of Marlinton will be one of only six communities in West Virginia to play host to a Smithsonian exhibit called “The Way We Worked”.
“It was adapted from an original exhibit that was developed by the National Archives a number of years ago” says BJ Gudmundsson “and now the Smithsonian has resurrected it and I guess they put it into a program that has to do with Museum On Main Street.”
That’s BJ Gudmundsson, Preservation Officer for the Pocahontas County Historical Society. The Museum on Main Street program is a collaboration between the Smithsonian, state humanities councils and rural museums to bring unique exhibits to more rural areas of the country. She says this exhibit explores how work became a central element in American culture.
States had to submit applications for the exhibit, and West Virginia was granted six slots. It seemed unlikely that Marlinton would get one the slots, but Gudmundsson says the rich logging history of Pocahontas and a great application probably played a part in bringing the exhibit here.
“We are the only ones who are specifically focusing on the logging and timber industry” she says. “They gave you a choice; you could pick three dates that you’d like to have it; the exhibit stays for six weeks once it gets here. We particularly wanted to have it while the Autumn Harvest Festival, the Roadkill Cookoff was going on because then we have one weekend that we can guarantee a really big crowd in town.”
“We put that down as our first choice, and lo and behold, we got first choice.”
That means Marlinton will be the first stop for the exhibit in West Virginia. The exhibit will also visit Lewisburg, Elkins, Morgantown, Weirton, and Point Pleasant. Gudmundsson says the museum coordinators from the other towns will be required to be onsite for training and to see it how the exhibit goes together. Because of the size of the exhibit, and other considerations such as ADA accessibility, the exhibit will be housed in the Municipal building in Marlinton.
“The exhibit is really large – the exhibit itself takes up 800 square feet” she says. “And then we are going to construct our own set of components to go along with the exhibit. The Humanities Council is providing some funding to help us do that.
“Pocahontas County is in a position right now where our growth depends on everyone in the county working together and this exhibit is a wonderful way to do that.”
She says she’ll be pulling people and historical information together to make an interactive component featuring video, audio, and hands on activities. One feature planned is a river ark.
“They built a raft, a very sturdy raft, and then they actually build a cabin; they were of varying sizes and dimensions” says Gudmundsson. “The plan is to construct a replica of a river ark which we can put on the stage area of the municipal building where people can actually get on it to see what it was like to be on and live on that ark.”
If you’d like to be involved in the exhibit planning process or just want to learn more about it, there will be meeting on March 10th from 4 to 6pm at the McClintic Library in Marlinton. Gudmundsson says they hope to have meetings in other areas of the county as well to get as many residents involved as possible.