PHI Intern Ashley Tickle Creating an Exhibit at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library on a Day in the Life of a Miner

By Ashley Nicole Tickle

This image shows coal miners standing around in Walker County.
Coal Miners in Walker County, Alabama
Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress

I decided to do the project at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library because I am interested in museum work. I felt that creating an exhibit using

the materials in the collection would give me the best experience for that type of work. Lewis and I met with Dr. Kate Matheny, the Reference Services and Outreach Coordinator for Special Collections at Hoole, in mid-December 2016 to discuss what materials are available to work with. She presented us with three ideas. First, was an exhibit on industry in Birmingham using the Woodward papers and the Working Lives interviews. Second, was an exhibit using papers from a Harvard psychologist who used and experimented with LSD. Finally, she indicated that Hoole had a collection of old church hymnals. We decided that the Birmingham project would work best because of the interest it would have to the local population and a wide audience.

This image shows Ashley Tickle reviewing archival materials.
Ashley Tickle reviews archival materials at W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library

Having looked through much of the material, Lewis Whilden and I are going to create an exhibit displaying a “Day in the Life of a Miner” with focus on the types of work available, how much miners were paid, how miners used strikes and membership to labor unions to leverage pay and benefits, what kinds of risks were involved in mining (including accidents and health risks), and what miners did for entertainment (including baseball). In looking at these aspects of miner’s lives we will also have some focus on race relations and segregation since race affected what kinds of jobs one could get and thus how much one was paid.

From this experience I would like to gain a better understanding of the process of creating exhibits in museums and libraries. I hope that this will make me better able to read displays and exhibits when I go to museums in the future and will cause me to think more about what went into creating these exhibits. Finally, I hope that this experience will help me to be a better communicator since I will not be able to explain my findings in pages worth of print but instead must condense my findings into comprehensible snippets in a display case.

Our creation of this display furthers the mission of Hoole because it advertises to the public what is available in their collections. Several research papers could be written from the information in our exhibit. Further, one of Dr. Matheny’s goals is to have a well-researched academic exhibit displayed. This showcases how students in particular can use the library’s materials and can help get people into the library to use such material available in their collections.