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West Virginia: State Resource Guide

Digital Collections

The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of primary source materials related to West Virginia, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, motion pictures, photographs, sheet music, and sound recordings. Provided below is a link to the home page for each relevant digital collection along with selected highlights.

Written materials in the Library's digital collections include books, government documents, manuscripts, and sheet music. Examples of written materials related to West Virginia are provided for most of the collections listed below.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consist of approximately 20,000 documents, which include correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection

This collection presents a panoramic and eclectic review of African-American history and culture, spanning almost one hundred years from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, with the bulk of the material published between 1875 and 1900. 

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 to 1940

These life histories were written by staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-40. The Library of Congress Manuscript Division collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states. Search on West Virginia or coal miners to locate personal accounts of coal miners in West Virginia.

The Capital and the Bay: Narratives of Washington and the Chesapeake Bay Region, 1600 to 1925

This collection comprises 139 books on Washington, D.C. and the Chesapeake Bay region including first-person narratives, early histories, historical biographies, promotional brochures, and books of photographs that capture in words and pictures a distinctive region as it developed between the onset of European settlement and the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Selected highlight from this collection:

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation consists of a linked set of published congressional records of the United States of America from the Continental Congress through the 43rd Congress, 1774-1875.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920

This collection documents the historical formation and cultural foundations of the movement to conserve and protect America's natural heritage.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training

This collection presents a window into the lives of American diplomats. Transcripts of interviews with U.S. diplomatic personnel capture their experiences, motivations, critiques, personal analyses, and private thoughts. The collection includes interviews from diplomats who were born in West Virginia.

Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

This collection is a rich repository of Americana. In total, the collection comprises 28,000 primary source items dating from the seventeenth century to the present, encompassing key events and eras in American history. 

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The visual material collections at the Library of Congress contains thousands of images documenting the history of West Virginia. Selected images of West Virginia are provided for each collection listed below. Search on terms such as Charleston, Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County, etc. to locate additional images.

Detroit Publishing Company

This collection of photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company Collection includes over 25,000 glass negatives and transparencies as well as about 300 color photolithograph prints, mostly of the eastern United States. The collection contains more than 100 photographs of West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives

The photographs in the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection form an extensive pictorial record of American life between 1935 and 1944. The collection contains more than 2,500 black-and-white photographs of West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Color Photographs

Photographers working for the U.S. government's Farm Security Administration and later the Office of War Information between 1939 and 1944 made approximately 1,600 color photographs that depict life in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Gottscho-Schleisner Collection

This collection is comprised of over 29,000 photographs primarily of architectural subjects, including interiors and exteriors of homes, stores, offices, factories, historic buildings, and other structures concentrated chiefly in the northeastern United States. Search on West Virginia to locate more than seventy images.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) collections document achievements in architecture, engineering, and design in the United States through a comprehensive range of building types and engineering technologies. The collection contains more than 7,000 items pertaining to West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Horydczak Collection

This collection documents the architecture and social life of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, including exteriors and interiors of commercial, residential, and government buildings, as well as street scenes and views of neighborhoods. The collection contains more than forty photographs of West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Panoramic Photographs

This collection contains approximately 4,000 images featuring American cityscapes, landscapes, and group portraits. The collection contains more than twenty images for West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Quilts and Quiltmaking in America, 1978 to 1996

This collection showcases materials from the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection (1978) and the Lands' End All-American Quilt Contest Collection (1992, 1994, 1996), providing a glimpse into America's diverse quilting traditions.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

This collection includes extensive interviews on native forest species and the seasonal round of traditional harvesting (including spring greens; summer berries and fish; fall nuts, and roots such as ginseng, fruits, and game). It also documents community cultural events such as storytelling, baptisms in the river, cemetery customs, and the spring "ramp" feasts that use the wild leek native to the region. Interpretive texts outline the social, historical, economic, environmental, and cultural contexts of community life, while a series of maps and a diagram depicting the seasonal round of community activities provide special access to collection materials.

The Library of Congress has custody of the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world with collections numbering over 5.5 million maps, 80,000 atlases, 6,000 reference works, over 500 globes and globe gores, 3,000 raised relief models, and a large number of cartographic materials in other formats, including over 19,000 CDs/DVDs.

Cities and Towns

This category includes maps that depict individual buildings to panoramic views of large urban areas. These maps record the evolution of cities illustrating the development and nature of economic activities, educational and religious facilities, parks, street patterns and widths, and transportation systems. This category contains from this time period more than 30 maps for West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Civil War Maps

This presentation contains approximately 2,240 Civil War maps and charts and 76 atlases and sketchbooks that are held within the Geography and Map Division, 200 maps from the Library of Virginia, and 400 maps from the Virginia Historical Society. This collection contains more than ninety maps for West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Military Battles and Campaigns

This category contains maps showing campaigns of major military conflicts including troop movements, defensive structures and groundworks, roads to and from sites of military engagements, campsites, and local buildings, topography and vegetation. Some of the maps are manuscripts drawn on the field of battle, while others are engraved including some that have manuscript annotations reflecting the history of the battle or campaign. Browse this category by location to locate more than 140 maps for West Virginia.

Panoramic Maps

The panoramic map was a popular cartographic form used to depict U.S. and Canadian cities and towns during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Known also as bird's-eye views, perspective maps, and aero views, panoramic maps are nonphotographic representations of cities portrayed as if viewed from above at an oblique angle.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Sanborn Maps

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Online Checklist provides a searchable database of the fire insurance maps published by the Sanborn Map Company housed in the collections of the Geography and Map Division. The online checklist is based upon the Library's 1981 publication Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress and will be continually updated to reflect new acquisitions. Browse the collection by location to locate more than sixty maps for West Virginia.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Transportation and Communication

These maps document the development and status of transportation and communication systems on the national, state, and local level. Transportation maps can depict canal and river systems, cycling routes , railway lines and systems, roads and road networks, and traffic patterns. Communication maps illustrate the location and distribution of telegraph routes, telephone systems and radio coverage.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

The Library oversees one of the largest collections of motion pictures in the world. Acquired primarily through copyright deposit, exchange, gift and purchase, the collection spans the entire history of the cinema. The following moving image collections contain materials related to West Virginia.

Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies

This site features 341 motion pictures, 81 disc sound recordings, and other related materials, such as photographs and original magazine articles. 

Selected highlight from this collection:

The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

The Songs of America presentation allows you to explore American history as documented in the work of some of our country's greatest composers, poets, scholars, and performers. From popular and traditional songs, to poetic art songs and sacred music, the relationship of song to historical events from the nation's founding to the present is highlighted through more than 80,000 online items.

Selected highlight from this collection:

The Library of Congress holds the nation's largest public collection of sound recordings (music and spoken word) and radio broadcasts, some 3 million recordings in all.

American English Dialect Recordings: The Center for Applied Linguistics Collection

This collection contains 118 hours of recordings documenting North American English dialects. The recordings include speech samples, linguistic interviews, oral histories, conversations, and excerpts from public speeches

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection

This online collection incorporates 184 original sound recordings, 19 pages of fieldnotes, and 69 musical transcriptions with descriptive notes on tune histories and musical features; an illustrated essay about Reed's life, art, and influence; a list of related publications; and a glossary of musical terms.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes: