Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia

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Features:

  • Essays
    • American Ginseng and the Idea of the Commons
    • Historical Maps of the Study Area
    • Landscape and History at the Headwaters of the Big Coal River Valley
    • Ramp Suppers, Biodiversity, and the Integrity of "The Mountains"
    • Seasonal Round of Activities on Coal River
    • Seining for Hellgrammites on Coal River
    • Stalking the Mother Forest

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Selling ramps on the side of the road.
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Overview

Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia incorporates 718 excerpts from original sound recordings, 1,256 photographs, and 10 manuscripts 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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Essay

Landscape and History

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