The annual celebration of West Virginia Day at West Virginia Independence Hall Museum in downtown Wheeling will take place on Saturday, June 20. The celebration is free and the public is invited to attend.
Activities begin with a 30-minute concert at 10:30 a.m., by Manchester Hazard, a regional band, on the first floor of the historic custom house. The concert is followed by a dedication ceremony for Waving for Liberty and the Union–The West Virginia Civil War Battle Flag Exhibit at 11 a.m. in the historic third floor courtroom. Gov. Joe Manchin, First Lady Gayle Manchin, Cabinet Secretary Kay Goodwin of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, Commissioner Randall-Reid Smith of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History (WVDCH), Linda Comins, president of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation and other guests will be in attendance. The governor and first lady will then lead participants to the exhibit on the second floor for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11:30 a.m.
At 12:05 p.m., the main birthday ceremony will begin on the north lawn. The Rev. Carl Keefer will lead participants in prayer. Jim Stultz of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation will read Lincoln’s proclamation on West Virginia statehood, followed by Frank O’Brien of the Wheeling/Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Walt Warren, local teacher and band member of Manchester Hazard, and Del. Orphy Klempa (D-Ohio) delivering excerpts from speeches by state leaders during the original West Virginia Day celebration in 1863.
Visitors are invited to participate in the proceedings by cheering or booing, as the original crowd did, at appropriate times during the speeches. Speeches will conclude with a cannon salute and Sue-Beth Warren will lead participants in a sing-along of Civil War and West Virginia songs.
Wrapping up the day’s activities is a concert by Vocal Tapestry of Fairmont in the courtroom beginning at 12:45 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Participants are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs for the outdoor activities.
Waving for Liberty and the Union is the largest exhibit of West Virginia Civil War battle flags anywhere. The exhibit features the state’s rare collection of original flags, none of which have been on public display for more than two decades.
The WVDCH partnered with the non-profit West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation to conserve and exhibit a selection of the 140-year-old flags, which for many years were among the most popular items on display in the West Virginia State Museum in Charleston. Because of their fragile condition, however; they have been protected in dark storage for the last 20 years.
Flags in the collection represent regiments of soldiers from what is now primarily central and northern West Virginia. Research has shown many of the banners probably were carried in some of the war’s most important battles and campaigns, including Vicksburg, Second Bull Run and Appomattox. A few flags even have what appears to be battle damage, including bullet holes in the fabric and shattered staffs. Others flew over military headquarters or were used for ceremonial purposes for years after the war.
The exhibit will present the flags displayed in specially designed pressure-mounted frames, complete with a state-of-the-art, motion-activated lighting system to help protect the fabric. The exhibit also includes historic photographs and documents about individual soldiers and regiments, as well as interactive displays that will allow visitors to learn more about the Civil War and its soldiers. In addition, there is a Discovery Room to accompany the exhibition, where visitors can learn more about conflict.
The WVDCH contracted with one of the country’s leading textile conservation firms, Textile Preservation Associates Inc. of Keedysville, Md., to do the first-ever comprehensive assessment of the state’s Civil War flag collection and recommend a plan for conserving and exhibiting the flags. The Design Minds, a Virginia exhibit company, designed the display.
For more information about West Virginia Day activities, contact Melissa Brown, site manager of West Virginia Independence Hall, at (304) 238-1300.
West Virginia Independence Hall, originally built as a federal custom house in 1859, served as the home of the pro-Union state conventions of Virginia during the spring and summer of 1861 and as the capitol of loyal Virginia from June 1861 to June 1863. It also was the site of the first constitutional convention for West Virginia. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988, the museum is maintained and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with the cooperation and assistance of the West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with the exception of major holidays. The museum is located on the corner of 16th and Market Streets in Wheeling.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer
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