Note: This post was previously listed under our "News from the Grey Box" blog series
By Jody Brumage
On June 20, 2013, West Virginia celebrated its 150th Anniversary. Events and ceremonies took place throughout the week to commemorate this momentous occasion, including the opening of a new exhibit in the West Virginia State Museum telling the story of Senator Robert C. Byrd.
After examining each scene depicted on this artifact, an interesting story develops, examining how West Virginia has changed not only in its first century, but now over a century and a half.
A seal just above the center of the plate bears the words “Chemical Center of the World,” reflective of the several large chemical plants that operated and are still present in Kanawha County. These industries, built on minerals such as coal, silica, and salt mined from the mountains of south-central West Virginia, have both enhanced and devastated local economies and the environment. The Belle DuPont Chemical Plant, depicted at the base of the plate, employs over 500 people today, though it has employed upwards of 5,000 people in the past. Established in 1925, Belle Plant was the first commercial ammonia synthesis site.
At the Byrd Center, artifacts are one in a thousand, but each has the potential to provide a unique insight on West Virginia’s history, a fact of which Robert C. Byrd would be proud. Combined with information collected from an artifacts owner, we built a collection of facts that become an object’s provenance. As we celebrate West Virginia’s 150th Birthday, artifacts such as this commemorative plate enhance our knowledge of the state which Senator Byrd so proudly represented for over 60 years.
Charleston 175 – The Charleston Gazette, by John G. Morgan (1970)
The West Virginia Encyclopedia – West Virginia Humanities Council, Edited by Ken Sullivan (2006)
West Virginia Department of Commerce – DuPont Belle