In December 2010 in Washington, D.C, Fairmont State University students presented their research on the coal history of the town of Monongah and a proposed coal interpretive center that will explore the historical and ethnic culture and community.
Students Dena Jane Gilchrist of Weston, Arnold Triplett of Farmington, Colby White of Morgantown, Liz Golden of Buckhannon and Liza Russell of Shinnston conducted the research project. The students and their faculty mentors—Dr. Judy P. Byers, Director of the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, and Noel W. Tenney, Cultural Specialist for the Folklife Center—participated in the Appalachian Regional Commission Appalachian Teaching Project conference in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 2-4.
“This year’s project emphasized the cultures of Eastern Europe in Monongah: Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. These cultures have been historically underrepresented in the telling of the story of Monongah,” Byers said.
“We are very proud of the work of these students. Along with the Italian cultural study about Monongah, done in 2009, the need and feasibility of a Heritage Interpretive Center to be developed in Monongah is even more apparent. This diverse ethnic population and the community that developed have had a profound impact upon the culture of Marion County and North Central West Virginia that is still felt today.”
Some of the participating research students also built upon their first person experiences in their FOLK 3399 class, Roads to Appalachia Study/Travel Abroad through Eastern Europe. They connected the traditional roots of these cultures to Monongah, both the historical aspect of the disaster and with Monongah as a modern community. An exhibit of their project, along with their research summary, are on display in the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center.
Students worked with the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, as well as the Monongah Centennial Committee, Monongah Fest Committee, Sen. Roman W. Prezioso, Jr. and other interested community members in exploring the heritage of the Eastern European town as it relates to the history of coal, disaster and community in the town of Monongah, which was the site of the nation’s largest industrial accident on December 6, 1907, when more than 300 miners were killed following an explosion in Mines 6 and 8.
The Appalachian Teaching Project engages students and regional citizens in posing answers to the question, “How can we build a sustainable future for Appalachian communities?”
The project teaches students and communities about the work of the ARC, its state and local partners, and the goals of the Commission’s strategic plan.
The first project was held in the fall of 2001 and emerged from a number of meetings of members of the Consortium of Appalachian Centers with the Appalachian Regional Commission staff. These meetings resulted in a grant that supported pilot efforts to involve students and faculty in a regional teaching collaboration, the ATP.
The Consortium of Appalachian Centers is currently composed of 15 colleges, universities and community colleges from the Appalachian region that are dedicated to working more closely together in service to the Appalachian region to improve the quality of life for its residents.
Other participating institutions are Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, Emory and Henry College, Frostburg State University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Mississippi State University, Morehead State University, Northeast Alabama Community College, North Georgia College and State University, Ohio University, Radford University, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech.