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Museums, Labor, and Social Activism: A Symposium Presented by WVAM

Museums and historic sites are active places of discovery and learning, but these sites aren’t just for interpreting the past. They can also take an active role in social and political events.

As part of the Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial, join the West Virginia Association of Museums for a two-session panel on the morning of Saturday, September 4th at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Charleston, WV, to learn how events are contextualized and passed down through generations and what roles museums should or could take on with regard to contemporary issues.

Session one, from 9am - 10:30am, is called “Interpreting Labor History at Museums and Historic Sites.” The interpretation and scholarship on labor relations and unionism has evolved over time, with underrepresented elements of workers' history eventually moving out from obscurity and into the larger narrative. This panel discussion will explore how events and issues related to labor history have been contextualized and passed down through generations and how museums and historic sites have interpreted this history both in the past and present. Featuring panelists Daniel Golodner of Wayne State University, Ryan Henderson of Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, Dr. Charles Keeney of Southern WV Community and Technical College, and Dr. Robert Linne of the Remember the Triangle Factory Fire Coalition.

Following a short refreshment break, session two, “Museums and Social Activism: Neutrality vs. Non-Neutrality,” will take place from 11am - 12:30pm. This panel will explore various points-of-view and positions that a museum might consider taking on past and present social issues. Panelists will also discuss the pros and cons of actively taking a stance on controversial matters in museums. Attendees will leave the symposium with a better understanding of museums and cultural sites as active places of discovery and learning, and a more nuanced perspective on interpretation and activism in their own projects and endeavors. Featuring panelists Shaun Slifer of the WV Mine Wars Museum, Sally Brown of West Virginia University Libraries, and Danielle Linzer of the Andy Warhol Museum.

This project is presented with financial assistance from National Coal Heritage Area Authority and West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Please email with any questions or concerns. To learn more about the Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial and all of the planned events, please visit


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