Folklife Center Hosts Exhibit Featuring FSU Sesquicentennial

Thursday, May 28, 2015

In celebration of Fairmont State University’s Sesquicentennial, the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center has created an exhibit titled “On a Hill by a Dream,” which features FSU history, traditions and lore.

The title for the exhibition was taken from a poem by Louise McNeill, West Virginia’s former Poet Laureate who taught history at Fairmont State. The following quote is from her “Chestnut Orchard” (“Paradox Hill: From Appalachia to Lunar Shore”):

“Back through the years beyond time and space,
On a hill—by a dream—we will find that place.”

The exhibit is now open and will be on display through the fall. The best time to view the exhibit is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Folklife Center at (304) 367-4403.

Founded in 1865 as the state’s first private normal school in West Virginia, FSU celebrates its Sesquicentennial in 2015. Commemorative events throughout the year are planned, culminating in the dedication of a time capsule during Homecoming 2015.

“The Folklife Center is proud to celebrate the past 150 years of history, traditions and culture of this great University through a special exhibit,” said Dr. Judy P. Byers, Executive Director of the Folklife Center.

Jessica Linger and Chris Dykes, students in the FSU Museum Studies: Exhibit Design and Construction class;  guest faculty member Patricia Musick; and Dr. Marian Hollinger, retired faculty member from the School of Fine Arts and long-time curator of the Brooks Gallery on campus, developed and curated the exhibit, along with Byers.

“Because the exhibition is in the Folklife Center, although it is for the Sesquicentennial which is primarily historic, we wanted to emphasize the folklore of Fairmont State University. We have a map showing symbols that represent oral lore, material lore and customary lore; those are the three types of folklore. Throughout the exhibition, visitors can see icons that identify artifacts which are material lore; stories which are oral lore; and customary lore such as painting the Victory Bell,” Musick said.

The icons were selected to represent Fairmont State’s different historic mascots. The customary lore icon is a falcon for Freddie the Fighting Falcon, which hatched in 1947; the material lore icon is spectacles to represent the Fighting Teacher, which was the mascot from 1940 to 1947; and the oral lore icon is a daisy, which was the first school symbol.

Students, alumni, employees and community members were invited to submit FSU artifacts that they would be willing to loan as part of the historic display.

“A number of people got back to us, and we were delighted to use many of the objects that were offered. A number of Mound yearbooks came to us that way and an incredible quilt made from old band uniforms,” Musick said.

“We wanted to create an environment and an atmosphere for the different time periods and also artifacts that could tell a story. Exhibit Design and Construction is the final course for the Museum Studies minor. One of the aspects of museums is that you have artifacts from which you tell stories. We were delighted to collect as many artifacts as we could.”

Dykes built a stand for the Fairmont State Teachers College historic marker, which greets visitors who view the exhibit. Student Jacey Mitchell created a video showing changes to the Locust Avenue campus over the years. Linger played a major role in designing the exhibit and visitor experience and selecting photos and artifacts to be included.

“Our goals changed a lot from the beginning as the project evolved. Mostly I looked through the images and picked ones that were visually interesting but also related to a historical time that would be interesting. Telling the stories of the old buildings I thought was really cool,” Linger said.

Another artifact that Linger said she found compelling was a list of rules for freshmen from 1967.

“The list of rules inspired us in the beginning and ended up being the very last thing I put up for the exhibit. It illustrates how freshmen life used to be. Everyone who reads it says, ‘That’s just ridiculous.’ It’s just so different, so strict. I think it’s really funny,” Linger said.

The exhibit includes dresses and clothing from the Masquers Historical Costume Collection curated by Dr. Beth Newcome of Pierpont Community & Technical College.

Visitors will view athletics artifacts such as the 1967 football national championship team photo, football and trophy and baseball uniforms. There are also a few ghost stories, and a plaque made from a very special tree.

When Fairmont State Normal School was located on the Second Street block of Fairmont Avenue, a Native American burial mound was the center of campus. Typical of mounds of the Hopewell culture, it was 35 feet long, 20 feet wide and 8 feet high and was built between 1 and 500 AD. This is why the yearbook first published in 1908 was named the MOUND. On June 12, 1929, the Alumni Association dedicated a “mini mound” on the new Locust Avenue campus, as a remembrance of the Fairmont Avenue mound. A small surface portion of the original mound and a seedling from its tree were brought to the east end of the Locust Avenue campus. The mound is marked with a bronze plaque placed by the 1938 Fairmont State Teachers College Summer School. Dr. Donald Trisel and Dennis Mitchell of the FSU College of Science and Technology created a special plaque from the tree that stood on the campus “mini mound” until 2013.

“From the One Room Schoolhouse on campus we have used an 1895 diploma, typewriter and early schoolbooks to set up a feeling of the kind of artifacts teachers would have in their classrooms because Fairmont State was a normal school preparing teachers to teach children,” Musick said.

Of course, the exhibit features the evolution of the Folklife Center from a dairy barn to what it is today, along with the work of Dr. Ruth Ann Musick, Fairmont State’s library namesake and the primary female folklore scholar to preserve and perpetuate the cultural heritage of West Virginia. Dr. Ruth Ann Musick did this mainly through the recording of supernatural legends. The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklore Center celebrates and perpetuates Dr. Ruth Ann Musick’s life work. Dr. Ruth Ann Musick taught at Fairmont State for many years and lived in the Folklife Center when it was Colonial Apartments. Pat Musick is the niece of Dr. Ruth Ann Musick, and Pat’s father, Archie, created the artwork for his sister Ruth Ann’s books.

The Design and Construction class would like to extend sincere and special thanks to all who helped bring the exhibition into being: Tiffany Martin, Christy Thompson, McKenzie Baskerville, Dena Charkandy, Jacey Mitchell, Stephanie Blizzard, Jess McIntyre, Katelyn Beckett, Dr. Gary Winn, Lawson Van Dine, Dr. Beth Newcome, Amy Pellegrin, JoAnn Lough, Charley Hively, Connor Haberland, Dr. Judy P. Byers, Porter Stiles, Clark Riley, Dalene Horner and the FSU Athletics Department, Bobbi Mohrman, Dr. Gerald Bacza, Lisa Knutti, Vijay Raol, Dr. Donald Moroose, Ray and Mary Jo Rutherford, Rocco Muriale, Dr. Donald Trisel, Dr. Tia Como, Carol Wilburn and the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center Archives.

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, located on the shared main campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College, is dedicated to the identification, preservation and perpetuation of our region’s rich cultural heritage, through academic studies, educational programs, festivals and performances and publications. For more information about the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, visit


About the photo:

Pictured from left to right are Jessica Linger and Pat Musick.