West Virginia Archives and History
Collection Development Policy for the State Archives


This collection development policy defines the role of collections in the State Archives of West Virginia Archives and History and sets forth the guiding principles and objectives that relate to the acquisition, management, use, and disposition of these collections. It defines the scope and content of the collection, provides a framework for appraisal decisions, and establishes standards to ensure consistency in the selection of archival materials for continued preservation.


Since 1905, West Virginia Archives and History has been charged with the responsibility of collecting and preserving West Virginia's public records and historical materials and making these materials available to the public.

Specifically, Archives and History is mandated under 29-1-6 of the Code of West Virginia:


West Virginia Archives and History was created in 1905 with the mandate to collect and preserve materials on West Virginia's settlement and statehood era specifically and to serve as the state archives. It was directed to acquire the property of the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society, a quasi-public organization that existed from 1890 to 1905. At the time of its creation, Archives and History included a state museum, but the two were separated more than two decades ago. Today, Archives and History is a section within the Department of Arts, Culture and History. Archives and History consists of two main parts: the West Virginia Archives and History Library and the West Virginia State Archives. In addition, legislation calls for the director of Archives and History to serve as staff for the Records Management and Preservation Board, which assists county officials in managing and preserving their records, and RMPB staff work out of the section. The West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives also is housed at the State Archives.


West Virginia Archives and History collects, preserves, and makes available materials related to the history of West Virginia and its citizens. The collections preserved in the State Archives include, but are not limited to: state government records; diaries, correspondence, and other manuscript materials of private citizens and organizations; photographs, negatives, and slides; special collections, audio-visual materials, and maps; and books, pamphlets, and microfilm.

State Archives Acquisitions

The West Virginia State Archives collects materials related to West Virginia in all periods of its history, pre-statehood and after statehood. Only materials relevant and valuable to the mission of the State Archives will be considered for acquisition and accession. The State Archives has the right to refuse any donation that does not fit into the mission and collection policy. Other factors contributing to the acceptance or declination of a donation include conservation issues, space and storage factors, and processing costs.

The State Archives does not guarantee that all materials in a given donation will be stored together as a unit. Materials may be dispersed within the overall Archives and History collections depending on format; e.g., books will be transferred to the library, manuscripts placed in the manuscript collection, and moving images in the audiovisual archives.

The State Archives does not promise to keep every item donated to it. During processing, those materials that are not within the mission and collection policy or are otherwise not wanted for the collections will be removed and disposed of according to donor instructions spelled out in the Deed of Gift or, in the absence of such instructions, as the Archives sees fit.

The State Archives does not collect items generally classified as three-dimensional objects, such as paintings, weapons, and glassware, nor does it accept clothing and archaeological artifacts. Except in special circumstances, the State Archives will not accept photocopies of materials held by other repositories or individuals. Although there are instances where the State Archives is the recipient of materials that are affected by access restrictions due to governmental regulations on privacy (such as vital records, materials with Social Security numbers or covered under HIPAA), the State Archives will not accept collections from individuals that are closed to public access in perpetuity; however, the Archives will consider collections that can be opened within a reasonable period of time.

West Virginia Archives and History will not accept materials for the State Archives unless they are accompanied by the completed Transfer form (government agencies) or Deed of Gift form (non-government donors).

The director of Archives and History must approve all acquisitions.

State Archives Collection Area Scope and Priorities

State Government Archives
The West Virginia State Archives hold more than 8,000 linear feet of state government records from the beginning of the statehood period in 1861 to the present. The inclusion of records from the early years of the state's existence is primarily due to the efforts of Virgil A. Lewis, the first state historian and archivist, who retrieved long-forgotten materials from obscure parts of the capitol building, thus saving from destruction government records that otherwise might have been lost forever when the capitol burned in 1921.

The collection is particularly strong in its holdings of governors papers, in particular those of recent governors. The State Archives also collects original records that have exhausted their required retention period or have been preserved in an approved alternative preservation format, but have research or historical value, from state agencies. In addition, the State Archives collects certain county records that have exceeded their required retention periods.

While the State Archives does not function as the state records administrator, the director of Archives and History does play a role in determining whether a given agency record "has no further administrative, legal, fiscal, research or historical value." If the administrator determines that such records may be destroyed or disposed of, the director has the option of retrieving them for deposit in the State Archives (Code, 5A-8-17).

State Documents
Classified separately from the state government records, the state documents collection largely consists of printed/published materials issued by state agencies. The collection holds more than 56,000 items. The collection includes the biennial/annual Acts of the Legislature and journals of the House and Senate, printed volumes of governors' papers, press releases, annual reports, agency brochures, and similar material. Records are incomplete and vary in depth by agency, although much effort has been made in recent years to accumulate documents as they are issued.

Under the Code, all state officers, boards, commissions, departments, and institutions are required to submit annual reports to the governor, in printed or electronic form, and copies of these reports, again either in printed or electronic form, are to be given to Archives and History for keeping as a permanent record ( 5-1-20). Likewise, the Ethics Commission is required under the Code annually to furnish copies of all advisory opinions issued during the preceding calendar year to Archives and History ( 6B-2-3).

Manuscript Collection
The State Archives holds more than 4,300 linear feet of primarily non-government records created by private individuals and organizations. This collection includes diaries, correspondence, personal papers, ledgers, business and organizational records, and the like that document the state's history. Among the notable collections are the Boyd B. Stutler Collection, which contains one of the most important privately assembled collections of John Brown material in the country; the William Blizzard Collection, containing correspondence and papers of the early United Mine Workers of America organizer and District 17 president; the A. Spates Brady Collection of correspondence, financial records, reports, publications, and account books of the Randolph County businessman; the Judith Herndon Collection, which contains the papers, correspondence, campaign materials, personal effects, and other materials of the late state legislator; the Logan Coal Operators Association Collection and the Kanawha Coal Operators Collection files and publications; and the Jennings Randolph Collection of the political papers of the longtime senator.

The State Archives seeks historical materials on all areas and time periods of the state's history but has a special interest in papers of legislators and other public officials and in increasing the number of twentieth century and recent collections.

Photographic Collection
The photographic collection consists of more than 225,000 items, including photographs, postcards, negatives, digital images, and slides depicting West Virginia people, places, and events. In 1984, the State Archives initiated a project to copy photographs statewide, a project that has added thousands of copy negatives to the collection.

Audiovisual Archives
The audiovisual archives, established in 1982, collects and preserves the moving image history of West Virginia. A significant portion of the collection is newsfilm and videotape from local television stations in Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling, and Bluefield, along with footage from West Virginia Public Broadcasting stations. The audio component contains recordings by the Division of Culture and History, West Virginia Public Radio News, and smaller collections of oral histories, music, etc. In addition, private individuals and groups have shared their collections with the State Archives. Holdings number approximately 1,370 audio, 11,098 videotapes, and 90,000 newsfilm.

Special Collection
Special Collections holds more than 865 linear feet of material, including, but not limited to, architectural drawings and blueprints, Bibles, broadsides, calendars, certificates, philately, posters, programs, sheet music, scrapbooks, and yearbooks. The two largest components of this collection area are architectural drawings, with more than 25,000 items, and yearbooks, with more than 3,000 volumes.

Map Collection
The State Archives holds more than 2,000 maps ranging from one-of-a kind property surveys to printed highway maps, and from individual items to bound multi-map volumes.

Microfilm Collection
The microfilm is a shared collection, with the bulk of the user copies being part of the Archives and History Library collections. However, the State Archives holds master negatives of film shot by staff. In addition, rolls of microfilm of archival collections for which the film replaced the originals are part of the archival collections from which the original materials came. The Department of Mines records from Ar1790 that were reformatted to microfilm are a prime example.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Access to collections of the West Virginia State Archives generally is through use of the Archives and History Library during its regular operating hours. Public records transferred to the State Archives are open to the public unless specifically exempt from disclosure by law. Materials not defined as public records will be made available to researchers unless donor-imposed restrictions on access or use are spelled out on the Deed of Gift form or except to the extent it is determined that such records contain materials that are subject to privacy laws.

Deaccessioning and Disposition of Materials

Recommendations for disposition of accessioned materials may be made as a result of archival re-appraisal. Records that are determined to have no permanent value or historical interest will be returned to the donor or otherwise disposed of according to donor wishes as stated in the Deed of Gift. If no provision is made in the Deed of Gift, the State Archives will use its discretion in disposition of unwanted materials.

Loans of Material

The State Archives does not loan original materials from its collections for any purpose except those authorized by the director.

The State Archives will accept the loan of original materials only for the purpose of evaluation for acceptance into the collections or for the purpose of making copy negatives or microfilm for inclusion in the collections. The acceptance of a loan will only be made with the approval of the director, and the loan must be for a specified period only.

Tax Appraisals

The State Archives does not appraise donated materials to determine their fair market value. To qualify for income tax use, an appraisal must be performed by an objective, qualified appraiser not connected with either the donor or the institution. All appraisals must be paid for by the donor.

The State Archives cannot provide tax advice or interpretation of tax laws.


As stated on the Deed of Gift form, all materials transferred to the State Archives become the sole and absolute property of West Virginia Archives and History. All rights, title, and interest in and to these materials, along with all literary property rights that the donor(s) possesses, are transferred to the State Archives, and West Virginia Archives and History may reproduce, manage, display, conserve, and dispose of such materials as it shall see fit.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine the status of copyright in any record that he or she uses. The researcher is liable for any copyright infringement arising from use of the materials.

West Virginia Archives and History