MARTINSBURG - History is coming alive for West Virginia University students and staff, as well as hundreds of state school children and other interested individuals, who've taken time to experience a special exhibit that encourages real hands-on learning.
The Center for Democracy and Citizenship Education's "Touching History" program has attracted hundreds of people since it opened Aug. 24, primarily because it allows them an opportunity to handle famous historical documents including the Emancipation Proclamation, the Federalist Papers and the Magna Carta, said director Dr. Robert
"It really is a special opportunity to have this kind of access, because many of these kinds of documents are locked away somewhere out of sight or housed in a container that means you can look, but not touch, them," he said, adding that various university faculty members have collaborated on this project and some are giving presentations on various historic events as part of the event.
Open to the public, this rare document exhibit is from The Remnant Trust, a public foundation that shares some of history's most important works on the topics of liberty, human rights and democracy, said Waterson, who worked for months on bringing this project to
Perhaps that's not too surprising considering his passion for social studies and inspiring students to appreciate history so they will ultimately become good citizens.
Waterson, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction/literacy studies in the College of Education and Human Services, created the center, which is now six years old and has "some amazing offerings," he said.
One of his goals is "bringing a greater sense of appreciation to the next generation about our history and the American ideal," said Waterson, who has introduced other programs focusing on constitution and election literacy, remembering 9/11, Lincoln literacy, World War II and heroes in history.
He also created a digital textbook on civics and actively works with several national organizations - including We the People and Project Citizen - that promote citizenship.
"We have had 10 major programs in the six years we've been here, and I try to create them so I can connect my social studies methodology students. I'm pretty sure this is the only program in the country where social studies students who want to be teachers can connect in this kind of hands-on way," Waterson said.
His message has not been ignored by former students, including some who come back even after becoming teachers, he said. For example, a former student is responsible for bringing students from Capital High in Charleston to see the current exhibit, Waterson said.
"This really is an educational experience, and I'm glad so many people appreciate it that way," he said.
That became even more real recently, when a young student from Charleston said she plans to become a teacher after seeing the Touching History exhibit.
"I have to say that was a real a-ha moment," Waterson said proudly.
The exhibit will close Sept. 18, but is open to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. It is being housed at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center's Nutting Gallery Room.
Sunday presentations are also open and will be held Sept. 7 and 14, 2-3:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 speakers will include history professor Kenneth Fones-Wolf, whose topic will be "Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830," as well as associate history professor Jason Phillips, who will speak on the Emancipation
On Sept. 14, history professor Elizabeth Fones-Wolf will speak on the Gospel of Wealth and assistant history professor Krystal Frazier's topic will be "Up from Slavery: An Autobiography."
Additional information on the Touching History exhibit is available online at: issuu.com/edhs/docs/final-touchinghistorybooklet.