The history of the Midland Trail extends far deeper than its current incarnation as US Route 60, an interstate highway that began construction in 1926 and extends east-west through seven states from Arizona to Virginia (though the route originally terminated in Los Angeles). In West Virginia, Route 60 follows a road far older: settlers knew these rough-hewn byways as the Kanawha and James Turnpikes, which allowed their wagons to follow the rivers westward from the young Commonwealth of Virginia to the dangerous frontier in Ohio and Kentucky. And these thoroughfares, in turn, merely formalized pathways previously well known to Native American tribes and migratory animals in the epochs before European colonization.
Charting the evolution of the Midland Trail in West Virginia through six counties provides a cross-section of America's development through history. From Paleolithic hunting peoples following in the footsteps of their nomadic prey to the Archaic settlements of the Adena Mound-builders (who built 50 massive burial mounds in the Kanawha Valley alone); from Shawnee raiding parties to pioneers pushing westward; from early captains of industry to the massive chemical and weapons manufacturing complexes of the 20th Century that belched forth everything from medicines to implements of war. Within this monumental framework lived and toiled glassworkers, coal miners, slaves, settlers, soldiers, natives, immigrants, politicians, engineers, and people from every other imaginable walk of life.
Through rotating exhibits the Interpretive Center gathers and contextualizes this collective past, allowing visitors glimpses into the many eras of the Midland Trail. At present the Center features collections about Union Carbide, Blenko Glass, the coal industry, Belgian glassworking in the early 20th Century, and the prehistoric Adena peoples.
For researchers and visitors alike, the Center has books, CDs, and a wide variety of print records on these various subjects, plus a vintage film of the Midland Trail in 1929 which can be checked out by teachers. Schools also exhibit their work in the Center. Programs are offered to churches, schools and organizations.