Folklife Center Hosts Talk on "Preserving the Past through Heirloom Textiles"

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A special presentation at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on Sunday, March 22, will provide information on protecting and preserving our material culture. The event also will celebrate the closing of the exhibit, “Hanging by a Beautiful Thread: Celebrating the Fiber Arts,” which highlights the beauty in traditional fiber arts created in the home.

The Folklife Center will open at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 22, to allow visitors to tour the exhibit. Dr. Beth Newcome, Program Coordinator for Applied Design at Pierpont Community & Technical College, will present “Preserving the Past through Heirloom Textiles” at 3 p.m. in the Great Hall of Cultures. A reception will immediately follow the talk. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, call the Folklife Center at (304) 367-4403.

Newcome’s presentation will focus on the artifacts and archival materials that are part of a family’s possessions and are a vital aspect of culture and tradition.

“They are pieces of history that can help tell our story. It is crucial to preserve these heirlooms in order that future generations may learn from and interact with these pieces of their past,” Newcome said. “We each play a role as conservator of our history. Our parents saved family possessions because they placed value on them, and so should we. But the stories get lost and the meanings fade over time. Preserving our past through heirloom textiles helps connect us to our ancestors and ensures that history is passed on to the next generation.”

The exhibit “Hanging by a Beautiful Thread: Celebrating the Fiber Arts” includes items such as feed-sack clothing and household items, dolls created by Lee Anne Barnes, knitted and crocheted wearables and quilts. 

Of the exhibition, Newcome says: “This exhibit includes the fiber, the yarn, the fabric and the thread that run through each item as they contribute to a better place for the homemaker and her family. Early traditions of the region, illustrated through the artifacts from Prickett’s Fort, help to tell the fiber story. It is the yarn, though, that plays the vital role to bind the fibers for greatest strength. Thus, the yarn must do the work, to add the strength to endure.  This telling of the story, or ‘spinning the yarn,’ is an expression of the enduring nature of the fabric and the story. Often the strings of the folk instruments would play gently in the background, adding the zing and harmony to the telling of the tale. This exhibit also includes a salute to JoAnn Lough and the contribution she has made to telling the story and ‘spinning the yarn.’ Through our actions and the trail we leave behind, we each add to the narrative. The common theme is the thread that binds the story together of how we lived and left our legacy upon the land.”

The exhibit was researched, designed and constructed by Tiffany Martin, graduate assistant, and intern Jessica Linger; Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College students in Folklore Studies and Museum Studies; Newcome; Dr. Marian Hollinger, Professor Emerita at FSU and WVU; Dr. Judy P. Byers, Director of the Folklife Center; and Greg Bray, Executive Director of Pricketts Fort.

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, located on the shared main campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College, is dedicated to the identification, preservation and perpetuation of our region’s rich cultural heritage, through academic studies, educational programs, festivals and performances and publications. For more information about the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, visit