Library displays roots of W.Va.

WHEELING — As the nation looks ahead to its 250th birthday in 2026, a traveling exhibit about West Virginia’s origins is already making the rounds.

Born of Rebellion: West Virginia Statehood and the Civil War is the new flagship history exhibit from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the creators of the West Virginia Encyclopedia.

“This is a complete revitalization of an exhibit the Council first released in 2005, and toured again during the sesquicentennial,” said council Program Officer Kyle Warmack. “The original was fantastic, but focused narrowly on the legal question of statehood. This time, we widen the lens to include a kaleidoscope of West Virginia perspectives. 2024 is the 50th anniversary of the council’s founding, so it felt appropriate to return all the way to the state’s roots.”

One way to do that was by digging into the stories of individuals around the state. The exhibit’s section titles are drawn from the diary of Upshur County teenager Sirene Bunten,who was only 16 when West Virginia achieved statehood in 1863.

“The original diary is part of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s collections,” Warmack noted. “Experiencing this history feels different when reading the inner observations of a young girl who loses two brothers to the war.”

Other quotes and experiences were drawn from the recollections of soldiers and civilians across the state.

Born of Rebellion was made possible with funding from American Water and the NEH’s “A More Perfect Union” initiative, as well as support from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History

The Ohio County Public Library at 52 16th St. Wheeling will host the exhibit until Jan. 12. The exhibit is free and open to the public during OCPL hours (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday).

A complimentary component from the library’s archives will feature Gordon Battelle, a Wheeling-based pastor and abolitionist who was elected as a delegate to the new state’s first Constitutional Convention in 1861 and later died while serving as chaplain to the First Virginia Volunteer Infantry.

For more information, contact Laura Carroll at laura.carroll@ohiocountylibrary.org, or visit ohiocountylibrary.org. Full tour information can be found at wvhumanities.org.


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