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Arthurdale Heritage to host local, national exhibits

ARTHURDALE — Visitors to Arthurdale Heritage will be able to learn about the history and legacy of the Richard Mine while also viewing the traveling Smithsonian “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” exhibit starting Monday.

The Richard Mine exhibit is a partnership between Arthurdale and Friends of Deckers Creek.

The goal of the exhibit is to connect the audience with the past while bringing about the idea of an environmentally friendly feature, said Michaela Collins, environmental education and outreach coordinator VISTA, of FODC.

“I think a lot of times when, especially in rural communities, you tell people, ‘Oh, like I work in environmental services,’ they think that maybe we’re anti-coal or anti-industry. And that’s not true,” Collins said. “So, we definitely want to honor the legacy of the Richard Mine and like, what it meant for the community and what it still means, while we work towards having a cleaner watershed and a cleaner community.”

The Richard mine opened in 1903 and was abandoned in the 1950s. While it was open, it wasn’t just a source of jobs, it was a reason for Richard to exist. It was also its own world, Collins said.

“The miners and the miner’s family that lived there, they didn’t go anywhere else for groceries, like they had to use company money in company stores. They saw coal-company doctors, went to company-owned schools,” Collins said. “It was completely their lives.”

The partnership with FODC is a pilot program in partnering with other organizations, said Claire Tryon, Anthony J Americorp member at Arthurdale Heritage.

The Richard Mine exhibit is being shown alongside “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” starting Monday in Arthurdale’s center hall, Tryon said. “Crossroads” is a traveling exhibit by the Smithsonian and Arthurdale is one of seven locations in the country that will host the show, which it will do until Jan. 21.

She said showcasing the Richard Mine alongside the national Smithsonian exhibit ties West Virginia into the national conversation.

“A lot of times people in West Virginia think of themselves, or at least in my experience, being in West Virginia, as like this, you know, insulated state,” Tryon said. “And sometimes we struggle with understanding our national importance. And I think having the two together kind of shows that.”

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