Thoughts on Working as an Artist in a History Museum: Creating a New Exhibition at the WV Mine Wars Museum
by Shaun Slifer, Creative Director
Pictures are of our newest exhibit “Boots on the Ground” and courtesy of Shaun Slifer and Kenzie New. Click through to see before and after pictures of our stage space. Thanks to the JASMER Foundation for funding this project!
“I have proudly worked as the Creative Director at the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, which I helped to found, since 2014. I always tell people that this is one of the projects I’m most proud of, and that’s not an exaggeration — there’s some serious talent and passion in our working group, and we’ve built something rare and incredible.
This spring, I worked with historian Chuck Keeney to build our museum’s first temporary exhibition, Boots on the Ground: General Bandholtz and Federal Troops at Blair Mountain. I was down in Matewan installing everything just a couple weeks ago, with an opening on May 18 during Matewan’s annual Heritage Day celebrations.
Doug Estepp, a collector and a huge supporter of ours, brought us the opportunity in the form of a military trunk full of the belongings of US Army General Harry Hill Bandholtz. Gen. Bandholtz was the Army commander responsible for leading federal troops in forcing the armed, striking coal miners to surrender during the Battle of Blair Mountain (1921). Doug was willing to loan this trunk for exhibition, and that’s how we got started making an exhibit about the US military’s role in suppressing a popular revolt against corporate interests.”
Read more about Shaun’s experiences putting together Boots on the Ground, and come see us in Matewan on Fridays and Saturdays from 11am – 6pm.
Redneck Pride and Power is Revived in West Virginia
In 2018 and 2019, thousands of teachers across the state took up the tradition of our Mine Wars predecessors, by standing up for their rights to fair pay and a decent living.
Some striking teachers even donned red bandanas, recalling the uniform of miners from the Mine Wars era.
We were proud to see this sign of our hertiage on display and even prouder to see our fellow working women and men showing us what powerful unions look like today in West Virginia.
NEH to Fund Blair Centennial Project!
On August 2, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced that the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is the recipient of a $30,000 challenge grant for The Blair Centennial Project, our long-term plan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in 2021!
The five-day Battle of Blair Mountain unfolded on the border of Boone and Logan counties and pitted unionist coal miners against local law enforcement and citizen militias. The Blair Centennial Celebration will consist of five days of fun, interpretive activities spread out across the coalfield counties where the conflict took place.
The NEH grant committee called the Blair Centennial Project “A bold and collaborative effort to use the humanities to foster cultural tourism and give a challenged community hope for the future through respect for the past.”
Thank you to our partners the West Virginia Humanities Council, the West Virginia Labor History Association, the UMWA Local 1440, the National Coal Heritage Area, the West Virginia Preservation Alliance, the West Virginia Community Development Hub, and Eliza Newland at the Watts Museum for your support!