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Sunnyside history comes to life in new exhibit and digital history project

sunnyside exhibit

A new exhibit at WVU’s Downtown Campus Library looks at the long and vibrant history of Morgantown’s Sunnyside neighborhood. This exhibit is the result of several semesters of research and collaboration with Professor Jenny Boulware's courses, utilizing research from many students within the history department. Additionally, history major Elizabeth Satterfield worked on Sunnyside research over Summer 2017 as the recipient of a SURE grant. 

Glassblowing to Community Building: Sunnyside’s Changing Cultural Landscape is a collaborative exhibit developed by West Virginia University’s Department of History in partnership with WVU Libraries, WVU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, the West Virginia and Regional History Center, and the Clio Foundation. This exhibit provides an overview of the Sunnyside neighborhood through historic and modern photographs.

Glassblowing to Community Building was inspired by a proposal from Professor Jenny Boulware’s Local History Research Methodology course, which has studied Sunnyside’s history since 2013. The exhibit utilizes original student research to interpret five themes in the history of Sunnyside: industry, culture and society, student life, WVU football, and the neighborhood today. Photographs from the West Virginia and Regional History help visualize past environments and ways of life, while modern photographs chronicle Sunnyside’s changing sense of place. Student researchers used Census records, deeds, city directories, photographs, maps, and oral histories to piece together the stories of individual properties, which collectively paint a detailed and multilayered picture of the landscape.

The area of study, located alongside WVU’s Downtown Campus, includes the Monongahela River from the west to University Avenue on the east and 8th Street on the north to Campus Drive on the south. While referenced generally as “Sunnyside” today, the area from 3rd Street to 8th Street is historically known as Seneca, named for the glass factory that is now the Seneca Center.

Exploring more than a century of history, the exhibit highlights factories, small businesses, and community spaces that reflect Sunnyside’s transition from an industry-centered to a student-centered neighborhood. Though known today for its student housing and parties, Sunnyside was established in the 1890s to encourage industrial development in Morgantown. Since then, Sunnyside has been home to a variety of people – working class families and entrepreneurs, immigrants and native citizens, students and professors – all of whom have left unique imprints on the neighborhood.

A number of WVU students, staff, and alumni worked together to make this exhibit possible. From layout design to label writing and from physical installation to PR, the exhibit team applied unique skills and expertise to share Sunnyside’s history with the public.

jenny boulware

Content for the exhibit was produced by History Professor Jenny Boulware, WVU History Department alumni Pamela Curtin (MA, 2017) Chelsea Elliott (MA, 2016) and Eliza Newland (MA, 2014), Watts Museum curator Danielle Petrak, current graduate student Steven Semmel, and undergraduate students Askar Salikhov and Elizabeth Satterfield.

Plans to create an additional exhibit panel reflect the ongoing nature of historical research. This semester, Professor Jenny Boulware and a team of graduate students are working with the Undergraduate Research Skills course to analyze and interpret Census data of the neighborhood.

In addition to the exhibit, Sunnyside’s sites of historical and cultural significance are documented in Clio, a free, nonprofit website and mobile app developed by the Department of History at Marshall University. An innovative and collaborative platform, Clio uses GPS technology to connect people with nearby history and contextualize the surrounding landscape. Each Clio entry provides a concise narrative along with images, multimedia, and links to primary and secondary sources.

clio

Sunnyside’s Clio entries are based in original research from the Local History Research Methodology course and were edited by Clio AmeriCorps member Pamela Curtin and WVU student Elizabeth Satterfield. Digital walking tours of Sunnyside encourage further exploration of the neighborhood’s history, including a tour of industry and business and another centered on community and culture. Learn more about Clio at www.theclio.com.

Glassblowing to Community Building is on display near the sixth floor Davis Reading Room of the WVU Downtown Campus Library from January through May 2018.

For more information about the exhibit, please contact Jenny Boulware at jenny.boulware@mail.wvu.edu. For more information about Clio, please contact Pamela Curtin at pamela.curtin@theclio.com

 

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