Even in the best of times, life in West Virginia was never easy.
And music - always an important part of life in the Mountain
State - has always been a direct reflection of that life. The
dark, bittersweet melodies, many of which were borrowed
from Irish and English tunes, were informed by dangerous,
labor-intensive jobs; hardscrabble living; geographic isolation;
a dismal economy; and, perhaps most importantly, the resilient spirit of the people.

But the music heard in the Southern West Virginia coalfields also resonated with
the sound of Eastern European instruments, African-American spirituals and
country ballads. In the early 1900s, when thousands of immigrants flocked to the
coalfields for work, they brought with them a culture of their
own. Hungarians, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Lebanese and
African-Americans lived together in the coal camps, each
with their own distinctive culture and music.

This exhibit was made possible by the support of the United Mine
Workers of America and the National Coal Heritage Area Authority.
Other assistance was provided by the West Virginia Humanities
Council, Goldenseal Magazine, the West Virginia Department of
Culture and History, and the Regional Coal Archives.