Anyone who wants to know more about John Brown can now find the controversial abolitionist's letters, photos and other documents at their fingertips.
Gov. Joe Manchin and officials from the state Division of Culture and History on Tuesday announced the launch of
an online exhibit called "His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown."
The site, which includes more than 300 images and dozens of documents, is meant to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Brown's Oct. 16 raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry. It can be viewed at www.wvculture.org/history/jbexhibit/jbintroduction.html
Visitors can find digital images of materials like the proclamation for Brown's execution, his personal correspondence, and newspaper sketches of Brown's raid, trial and burial.
"Primary sources are what we're all about here," said state Archives and History Director Joe Geiger.
Most of the material comes from the state's Boyd B. Stutler collection, one of the largest compilations of John Brown memorabilia. The online exhibit includes 14 chapters, starting with Brown's birth and ending with the legacy he left after death.
The site is set up so that visitors can either skim over the material or delve in to each chapter -- much like taking a trip to a museum, Geiger said.
The exhibit also includes lesson plans for teachers whose classes are learning about Brown. Most of the lessons focus on the raid at Harpers Ferry, said Bryan Ward, Archives and History assistant director.
"It's pivotal to what happens later on with West Virginia's statehood," he said.
In recent years, the state has stepped up efforts to digitize its archives, said Geiger, who added that most visitors to the Archives Library are genealogy buffs researching their family history. People can now find birth, death, and marriage certificates on the division's Web site as part of the Vital Research Records Project.
Officials hope to create another online exhibit on the Civil War, he said.
Through December, 40 images of Brown and the raid will be displayed in the north wing of the Culture Center's Great Hall.