Print | Back to e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia

West Virginia Archives and History


The West Virginia Archives and History section of the Department of Arts, Culture and History is the state agency responsible for the collection, preservation, and dissemination of our state’s history. Created in 1905 by the legislature as the Bureau of Archives and History, its roots extend to the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society, a quasi-public organization formed in 1890. This society collected materials relating to the state’s history and maintained a museum and library in the state capitol. Upon formation of the bureau, these materials were transferred to Archives and History. Prominent historian and author Virgil Lewis of Mason County was appointed the first state historian and archivist and took charge of the new agency on June 1, 1905.

Initially located in the capitol annex in downtown Charleston, the Archives and History library, state archives, and museum moved to the new state capitol in 1929 and to the adjacent Culture Center in 1976. In 1977, Archives and History was made part of the newly formed Department of Culture and History (now Arts, Culture and History).

The state archives houses thousands of books and bound periodicals, pamphlets, state newspapers and newspaper clippings, and microfilm copies of state and county records. Specialized collections include manuscripts, special and archives collections, state documents, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, and audiovisual materials.

In addition to preserving these documents pertaining to the history of the state, the Archives and History section is also responsible for the administration of several programs. Unclaimed Civil War medals continue to be distributed to descendants of the state’s Union soldiers under the supervision of the director of Archives and History. In 1967, the director was placed in charge of the highway historical marker program, begun in 1934. The director also serves as staff for the Records Management and Preservation Board, created in 2000 to establish programs for the management and preservation of the counties’ public records. In addition, the state archives maintains the West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives.

Each year, thousands of people consult materials in the archives library, on its website, or through research correspondence. The state archives publishes a monthly newsletter featuring articles on collections and research tips for West Virginia genealogical and historical research. Until 2006, it also published West Virginia History, the state’s history journal.

Archives and History website

Written by Mary Johnson and Joe Geiger


  1. Reports of Archives & History,1905-72, Annual Reports. .

  2. Reports of Culture & History, 1997-2003, Annual Reports. .