James E. Morrow Library and Marshall Special Collections
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Backstory and Context
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Before Morrow Library was established in 1930, the college’s library was housed on the second floor of Old Main. Marshall’s first recorded librarian, Mrs. Lizzie Myers, was hired during the 1902-1903 school year. James E. Morrow Library was dedicated on January 31, 1931, and was named after a former president of the university. James E. Morrow’s son, Dwight W. Morrow, was born in Old Main and was a major donor for the library. In 1929, $200,000 was appropriated by state legislation to create a new library, however that was not enough. Marshall University President, Morris P. Shawkey, wrote two letters to Dwight W. Morrow asking for $25,000 to fund the project, and in turn the library would be named after his father. Dwight W. Morrow eventually donated the funds; however he requested that the donation remain anonymous and did not desire the Morrow name to be attached to the new structure. The new library was constructed with a soundproof main reading room, fireproof amenities, an electric elevator, marble accents, and large windows throughout the building. The students at Marshall were responsible for moving the college’s book collection from the old library in Old Main to the new library in 1931. Morrow Library was designed to accommodate 130,000 volumes along with study room for 400 students. Originally, the main floor of Morrow held the stacks and reading areas, while the second floor held the large reading room.
Three murals decorate the Hoffman Room in Special Collections. These murals were originally displayed in the Morrow Library reading room in 1937 in celebration of the Marshall University centennial celebration. Marshall University, West Virginia Literature and American Literature were painted by Marshall University art faculty member, Marion Vest Fors, during the Great Depression without compensation. After renovations were made in Morrow during the 1960s, the murals were taken down and placed in cold storage until they were unveiled in the Hoffman Room collectively in November of 2007. Marshall University was the first to be restored and displayed in 2005, while West Virginia Literature and American Literature were restored and displayed in 2007. Helen Chamber Hensley was the model chosen by Marshall’s President James Allen to represent the Alma Mater of Marshall in the murals, and she was present at both unveilings. The murals were restored by nationally recognized conservator Michael Ruzga before being put back on display, and depict the evolution of education.
In 1965, Marshall University once again needed a larger library to accommodate both the growing student population and the university collection. Renovations were made to Morrow library that transformed the two story second floor into two separate floors. A wrap around addition was also made to the sides and the back of Morrow and were completed in 1967. Morrow had again outgrown itself in the 1990s, and plans for a new campus library were created. At first, many thought that the new library would completely replace Morrow, however as plans became more concrete, it was clear that the new facility would not be able to fulfill all the needs of campus and Morrow would remain necessary. Only 200,000 of Morrow’s 600,000 holdings were transferred to Drinko. With the opening of Drinko Library in October of 1998, Morrow’s stacks were closed except to staff and students would have to request books that would be delivered to them. A campus petition by students and faculty successfully reopened the stacks to the public.
Major renovations began in 1999 to reorganize the library’s documents. Today Morrow Library houses Marshall’s testing center on the ground floor, a federal depository of government documents, university offices, and the entrance to the Morrow Stacks on the ground floor. The second floor holds the Rosanna Blake Civil War collection, the Chuck Yeager collection, the Hoffman Medical Science collection, the West Virginia rare book collection, WSAZ tapes archives, and the Special Collections Department. The Rosanna Blake Civil War Collection was formally dedicated in April of 1990. Rosanna Blake was a Marshall alumnus, and her collection was thought to be the largest private collection of Confederate material anywhere. The main doors on the 3rd avenue facing side of Morrow were walled up in 2003 when a new study area was established. In September of 2012, Morrow was remodeled to reorganize the stacks. The collections were organized by floor and in the Library of Congress call number order. After the process was complete, the stacks were once again reopened to students. Although there is no genealogist on staff, the Family History room in Morrow Library holds numerous documents that aide in genealogical research for West Virginia and the surrounding areas.
Thorn, Colin. "Centennial Murals Restored." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington).
Taylor, Andre. "Historic Marshall Murals to be restored." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington), May 04, 2005.
Belanger, Bill. "Morrow Murals Stored; Survived Time, Flood." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington), December 08, 2016.
Maurice, Jack. "Previewing Mrs. Marion Vest Fors' Murals, To Be Unveiled Next Sunday." The Herald Advertiser(Huntington), May 23, 1937.
"Contract for Morrow Hall is advertised." The Parthenon(Huntington), September 25, 1929.
"New Library at Marshall to be called Morrow Hall." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington), June 04, 1929.
"Ground is Broken for Marshall's new Library." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington), November 23, 1929.
"$25,000 Gift of Morrow's is Revealed." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington), March 27, 1930.
Myers, F. Wallace. "Morrow Student at Marshall to be Guest of Honor at Dedication of Library Today." , January 30, 1931.
Wooten, Tessa. "Morrow Library reopens door to stacks." The Parthenon(Huntington), September 13, 2012.
Sebert, Paul. "James E. Morrow Library evolves into a housing for many special collections, historical pieces from around the area." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington), August 02, 2009.
Parsons, Charlotte. "Dedicating the collection of a lifetime." The Herald Dispatch(Huntington), April 24, 1990.
Marshal University Special Collections