By Carra Higgins
West Virginia is not just physically unique. Its heritage, people and history are, too. Thursday, the Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia celebrated the state’s 150th birthday with not just cake and song, but also by sharing stories from the past to help shape the future.
Director of the Museums Leslie Baker explained that the Beckley attraction was a near perfect place to mark 150 years of statehood and share with residents and visitors. Earlier in the day Thursday, a group of people from Canada stopped by the museum and learned more about West Virginia heritage, Baker said.
“The more you tell them, the more they want to know,” Baker said about visitors to the museum.
Although the Exhibition Coal Mine focuses on the late 19th and early 20th century mining, and how the state’s signature industry had a large influence on the United States’ industrial revolution, the two museums are able to help visitors have a better understanding of West Virginia. Baker explained that a survey has concluded that 64 percent of people who live outside of West Virginia do not know enough about the state to form an opinion about it.
Baker says there are plenty of opportunities for West Virginia and its residents to help outsiders form a positive opinion and learn more about the 35th state’s past and future. It’s just not visitors who should experience and learn more about West Virginia. Baker says that this summer, especially, is a great time for residents to remember the trials and tribulations of the state and think about its future, including industries that play a major role in the economy. Between a stop at the exhibition mine, a performance of “Honey in the Rock” by Theatre West Virginia, and a visit to Tamarack, Baker says she can’t think of a better way to celebrate statehood, the culture and “re-enforce pride.”
“If you do those three, you have a good idea of what we’re about,” Baker said.
Some youth might not know all the words to “West Virginia Hills,” but they certainly were excited to sing “Happy Birthday” to their state as part of the celebrations at the museums before eating cake.
Crescent Elementary School student and Youth Museum day camp participant Celia DellaMea, 6, after a slice of cake, explained that she enjoyed singing in honor of the state during the celebration. DellaMea added that she not only likes to sing, but she also likes her state and the outdoor activities it offers.
“I like the mountains,” DellaMea said.
Her day camp classmate Aidan Jarrell, 7, of Beckley, had been having a good day outside, reading a book about West Virginia before the afternoon activities began.
“The cake is good!” Jarrell exclaimed while eating a slice.
Today, the Youth Museum and Exhibition Coal Mine will celebrate “Juneteenth” from noon until 4 p.m. Outdoor activities are free and open to the public.
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