May 2017 View this email in your browser
Join the AFHA AmeriCorps Team
The 2016-2017 AFHA AmeriCorps team
Come be a part of Central Appalchia's most dynamic program serving the needs of our  
highland communities

Program Associate

AFHA is hiring now for one full-time staff program associate. Help manage the AFHA AmeriCorps team and supervise Hands-On Team preservation projects. Applications by June 1. See detailed description on our website.
AmeriCorps Members
AFHA is recruiting for AFHA AmeriCorps members to serve with sites for one year starting in September. Assignment options include conservation field work, conservation interpretation and outreach, community development, cultural tourism, and heritage museum sites, as well as hands-on historic preservation team. List of available sites will be posted soon! For information and application instructions see
Researching the 2017 AFHA Discovery Center Exhibit
The beginning of the 2017 AFHA Discovery Center exhibit with display case of forestry tools

Jospeh Lancaster
AmeriCorps Member

I sought out my current AFHA position so that I could work on the theme of forestry for the 2017 exhibit in the Appalachian Forest Discovery Center. As a professional forester, our forestry community is always looking for ways to communicate to the public about who we are and what we do. I was so excited to be able to use this exhibit to explore the history of forestry, reveal the important and dynamic legacy that forestry has provided, and also explain what forestry is (and isn’t) and the kind of things foresters do.

To get started I read and researched and learned a great deal about the rich history of modern forestry. It got its start in Europe and later in North America and is full of wonderful characters and compelling stories and anecdotes. I learned how hard it is to tell the story of what you have learned in 250 words of text on a 2’ by 3’ panel – especially if you are excited and passionate about your topic and anxious to share it all. So, I learned a lot about the design and implementation of a museum exhibit, but I also learned a lot about people from a science background interacting with people with a humanities background. I was surprised at what a gap there was and how important it is for these groups to talk with and interact with each other. Each group is important by itself, but each one also needs the addition of the other’s perspective to present a more comprehensive and meaningful exhibit.

One of my favorite parts of planning the exhibit was implementing my vision of having live trees in the exhibit. Each tree is a local Appalachian species with a unique and special story to tell. So I ended up calling them “Story Trees.” I also had fun collecting lumber samples of 23 different Appalachian hardwood lumber species and have them on display for visitors to interact with and try to guess which are which (a key is provided).

The Story Tree triangle with an American Chestnut to the left, a Red Spruce to the right, and the tip of a Canaan Fir in the foreground

Another thing I learned in this process was how to (successfully – LOL!) apply for a grant. Having come from a background in the corporate world this was very foreign territory for me. I ploughed through the process with my ignorance on display. Everyone was real nice and helpful and patient with me as I learned the “code” and buzz-words. Ultimately we were successful in obtaining a West Virginia Humanities Council mini-grant which helped greatly with the cost of supplies and printing for the exhibit.

I could go on and on about this year’s forestry exhibit, entitled "Forestry: Sustaining the Appalachian Forest; Healthy Forests for the Common Good," but the best way is for you to come visit and experience it for yourself. The AFHA Appalachian Forest Discovery Center is open every Thursday through Sunday from now until the end of October, from 9:30am until 5:30pm. Admission is always free. It is located at the intersection of Railroad and First Street in downtown Elkins, just one block south of the train depot and visitors center. Ya’ll come…

Editorial note: check out our coverage in the Inter-Mountain!

Designing the 2017 AFHA Discovery Center Exhibit
The largest panel in the exhibit

Tyler Winstead
AmeriCorps Member

Similarly to Joe, the prospect of designing an exhibit was the primary reason I took on this AmeriCorps position, even though at the time I was unsure what topic the exhibit would cover. I worked closely with Joe and our supervisor, AFHA director Phyllis Baxter, who was of course well-versed with exhibit creation in the AFHA Discovery Center. Perhaps the biggest challenge, aside from the painstaking reconstruction of Gifford Pinchot’s entire forehead pixel by pixel, hour by hour, was navigating a balance among our three backgrounds. Between Joe’s knowledge of, and passion for, forestry, Phyllis’ practical museum experience, and my own design eccentricities, compromise and sacrifice were a necessity. There is a time and place were an image is worth a hundred words, and then there are just as many times and places when they are not. A flair of German Expressionism here, clear and concise photos perfectly aligned there, and you can have an engaging exhibit that is both memorable and informative while not being overwhelming.        
Most important to the exhibit, from my end, was maintaining a sense of visual storytelling. The unfortunate truth to most visitors is that they are not going to read much of anything, but instead look at a panel and decide within a couple seconds if it warrants further investigation. To combat this, I attempted to relay relevant plot points via photographs and composition. The most notable example accompanies this article below. This panel, entitled “Genesis of Forestry,” tells the story of the German reaction to the industrial revolution and the need to develop a scientific approach towards forest management to continue fueling the future. Cool. But how can you show that without stating it? I decided to get a little expressive, and perhaps due to my admiration of early 20th century German art and film, incorporated several graphical elements with minimal historic photos (actually, none; I included two lithographs instead). This was perhaps the most contentious panel, but a healthy balance was found to appease the three of us. 

Forestry panel featuring several expressive graphical elements to aid visual storytelling while still keeping inline with the aesthetic theme of the exhibit
The idea was that it could be read from top to bottom, and then understood moving forward chronologically from bottom to top. The smoke clouds cover much of the panel, billowing from the twisted and dark modernized city skyline (lifted and edited from the 1920 German masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). This industrial skyline is rising from the comparatively smaller spruce forest, with its roots digging into levels of soil with the German flag lightly laid over (note: Germany did not yet exist as a unified country) to the first two men that developed a rigorous scientific approach to forestry. In this direction, I hoped it would be clear that industry depended on these quickly diminishing trees. After reading the bios of each man, if one were to read up again, the reverse order suddenly reveals forest management as supporting and driving the industrial revolution, which is when we move to the next panel. Was I successful? Well, if my grandmother, aged 67, can point out a key visual element totally unprompted, I have good faith that the majority of museum goers will find something to appreciate, in both the composition and the text.
Upcoming AFHA Events

Shop on and support AFHA. Find out more here.
Experience the heritage of your area! Sites of the Month spotlights events and locations within the region, based on AFHA's four themes: forestry, history, culture, and nature.

The Big Draft Wilderness Area in Greenbrier County is made up of 5,144 acres at the southern tip of the Monongahela National Forest. Designated in 2009 by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the wilderness protects the Anthony Creek watershed, a popular stream for fishing trout. Access to the stream can be had using the Anthony Creek Trail and there are 14 miles of trails available to hikers and equestrians (including the Blue Bend Trail on the National Register of Historic Places). In addition, the creek has class I-III whitewater and there are many swimming holes to be enjoyed along the creek. Elevations range from 3,121 feet to 1,800 feet where the creek meets the Greenbrier River. 

The Lost River Museum, located in the Harper Barn beneath the Lost River Artisans Cooperative in Hardy County, has just opened a new exhibit, "Farming Families of Hardy County 1746-1930." Soliciting donations of old family photos and tools from local residents, the exhibit explores nearly 200 years of agricultural industry as practiced in the county. Scheduled activities for the spring and summer include in-character presentations of historic figures, sheep shearing, a bake-off, Appalachian tall tales and storytelling. The exhibit will be up for two years and will be updated over that period, so it is worth revisiting.
Preston Community Arts Center in Kingwood, Preston County, showcases, promotes, and teaches the arts through events and exhibitions. The gallery and store features juried crafts from local artists including paintings, pottery, woodworking, textiles, CDs, books and more.They host the Laurel Mountain Coffeehouse concert series and sponsor a regular Tuesday open jam at Foxfire Coffee & Cafe next door. Other events include talks by authors and presentations by historic interpreters.
The South Branch Wildlife Management Area, located in both Hampshire and Hardy counties, is managed by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and protects four tracts of public game lands along the South Branch of the Potomac River, including a six mile stretch known as the Trough. The Trough is a straight section of the river that forms a narrow canyon running between two ridges (with steep forest on both sides); this section attracts canoers and fishermen. As a young surveyor in 1748, George Washington described it as: "[a] couple of ledges of Mountains, Impassable, running side by side for above 7 or 8 miles and ye River down between them." Including a total of 1,092 acres, the WMA also includes tracts containing bottom land fields, pasture lands, and mixed oak-hickory timber.
Do you have a suggestion for Sites of the Month? Email us at: and let us know your favorite sites throughout AFHA!
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