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Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia
From the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

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Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia incorporates 679 excerpts from original sound recordings and 1,256 photographs from the American Folklife Center's Coal River Folklife Project (1992-99) documenting traditional uses of the mountains in Southern West Virginia's Big Coal River Valley. Functioning as a de facto commons, the mountains have supported a way of life that for many generations has entailed hunting, gathering, and subsistence gardening, as well as coal mining and timbering. The online collection includes extensive interviews on native forest species and the seasonal round of traditional harvesting (including spring greens; summer berries and fish; and fall nuts, roots such as ginseng, fruits, and game) and documents community cultural events such as storytelling, baptisms in the river, cemetery customs, and the spring "ramp" feasts using the wild leek native to the region. Interpretive texts outline the social, historical, economic, environmental, and cultural contexts of community life, while a series of maps and a diagram depicting the seasonal round of community activities provide special access to collection materials.
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The Library of Congress presents these documents as part of the record of the past. These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which may contain materials offensive to some readers.

Special Presentations

Seasonal Round of Activities on Coal River

Stalking the Mother Forest: Voices Beneath the Canopy

American Ginseng and the Idea of the Commons

Ramp Suppers, Biodiversity, and the Integrity of "The Mountains"

Seining for Hellgrammites on Coal River

Understanding the Collection

About the Collection and the Field Research Project

Historical Maps of the Study Area

From the Learning Page
Collection Connections

Working with the Collection

How to View: Audio | Text | Photos

How to Order Audio and Photographic Reproductions

Building the Digital Collection

Copyright and Other Restrictions


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