Exhibits celebrating the history of work in America and in the local community are coming to the Randolph County Community Arts Center this spring.
The three exhibits will open at noon May 12 and run daily through July 7.
"The Way We Worked," a traveling exhibition by Museums on Main Street and the Smithsonian Institution, will explore how work became a central element of American culture by tracing the many changes that affected the workforce and work environment. The exhibit, adapted from an original exhibition developed by the National Archives, focuses on why Americans work and the needs that the jobs fulfill.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Joe Blankenship
Dave Ickes, head pressman at The Inter-Mountain, checks color quality on recently printed newspapers as the press runs behind him. Photos like this featuring Elkins workers will be part of a special photo exhibit titled ‘Elkins Works — A Photo Documentary by The Inter-Mountain.’ The exhibit will take place in conjunction with ‘The Way We Worked,’ a traveling exhibition by Museums on Main Street and the Smithsonian Institution that will be at the Randolph County Community Arts Center.
Work takes place everywhere - on the land, on the streets, in offices and factories, in homes and even in space. An exploration of the tools and technologies that enabled and assisted workers also reveals how people sometimes found themselves with better tools, but also with faster, more complex and often more stressful work environments.
"The exhibits from the Smithsonian are really incredible," said Beth King, Arts Center executive director. "They are beautifully curated and built. It is truly a bit of the Smithsonian here in our own community - easy to get to and free to visit."
As with past Smithsonian exhibits it has hosted, the Arts Center is developing a companion display celebrating local work history and culture. Historian Rob Whetsell is curating and developing the local portion of the exhibit with the assistance of historian Don Rice. This companion exhibit will celebrate the specific working history of Elkins and Randolph County residents.
"Overall, the exhibit hopes to provide a visual and artifact representation of the key and important industries and businesses that shaped Elkins, as well as Randolph and surrounding counties, from the 1890s to present," Whetsell said. "These include agriculture, railroads, timber/lumber, mining (coal and stone quarries) and manufacturing/commerce. With that in mind, we are focusing on several sub themes, which include goods manufactured in Elkins and Randolph County, such as beer (Elkins Brewing Co.), baked goods (Elkins bakeries), bricks (Elkins Brick Co.), etc."
Another component will include a special photo exhibit titled "Elkins Works - A Photo Documentary by The Inter-Mountain."
This exhibition will include the work of Joe Blankenship and Grant Jones, employees of The Inter-Mountain who have extensive photography experience.
Blankenship and Jones are collecting a series of photographs of people in the community, from roofers to store owners. This exhibit will be on display in the Maxwell Gallery and is sponsored by The Inter-Mountain, Talbott Frame Shop and Foto 1 Pro Photo LLC.
"The Inter-Mountain is honored to be part of this local photo documentary, which will highlight workers of today," said Linda Howell Skidmore, editor of The Inter-Mountain. "Joe and Grant are both very talented photographers, and their photos will capture the essence of the hard workers we have in our local area."
King pointed out that local individuals can support the exhibits by supplying images and artifacts that could become part of Whetsell's display on the working history of Elkins and Randolph County. They could include anything from pictures of storefronts or construction work to images of waitresses, delivery drivers or police officers. Artifacts could include uniforms or pieces of equipment tied to companies that operated in the local area.
"If someone has an image they think might work, they are encouraged to call the Arts Center office to schedule a time with Rob to scan the images," King said. "If someone has an actual artifact to be included in the exhibit, they should also give the office a call to arrange a time to bring by the item for Whetsell to see it."
A full list of suggested images and items is available with this article online at www.theintermountain.com.
"The Way We Worked" is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. The West Virginia tour of "The Way We Worked" is sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council. The exhibits at the Arts Center are sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Smithsonian Institution, Museums on Main Street, city of Elkins, the Randolph County Commission, Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Inter-Mountain, WDNE Radio/WV Radio Corp., Talbott Frame Shop, Foto 1 Pro Photo LLC and Ajuga Inc./Lisa Armstrong.
The Arts Center can be reached by calling 304-637-2355.