Robert C. Byrd traveling exhibit makes its debut
The Robert C. Byrd traveling exhibit made its first appearance during an invitation-only unveiling event in Shepherdstown Friday evening. The 18-panel exhibit, which was created by the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education over the course of about two years, was displayed in the lobby of Erma Ora Byrd Hall on the Shepherd University campus. Ray Smock, director of the Byrd Center, said he was happy with the reception of the exhibit during the event. “So far, the reaction has been great. Several people said a couple of the quotations from Sen. Byrd almost brought them to tears,” Smock said. “A lot of these people here tonight either worked for Sen. Byrd or knew him in various capacities, so for them to say nice things is really touching to us because we worked on this for a long time.” During the event, Smock acknowledged and praised the work of both Jay Wyatt, director of programs and research at the Byrd Center, and Jody Brumage, archivist and office manager at the Byrd Center. Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s grandson, Erik Fatemi, also spoke during the unveiling. “I think what people miss most about him is his dedication to public service,” Fatemi said. “This exhibit reminds us why we respected him so much. All of us, in our own ways, can serve the public, and I hope that his life, as illustrated so well in this exhibit, can inspire you to do that.”
Shepherd’s recently inaugurated president, Mary J.C. Hendrix, shared a memory with the people in attendance about an experience she had with Robert C. Byrd. “Without a doubt, Sen. Byrd was the patron saint of West Virginia, and we all appreciate that,” Hendrix said. Hendrix told the story, which she said had never before been shared, of a time when Byrd visited her and her mother at their family farm. During the visit, Hendrix said Byrd told them his vision of transforming the farm into what is now the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown. Among the panels included in the exhibit, the information displayed on them ranges from Byrd’s involvement with civil rights, his contribution to infrastructure in the state, his pastimes including fiddling and his role as a statesman. “(The exhibit) tells a lot of stuff about Sen. Byrd that people may have forgotten or never knew in the first place,” Smock said.
“There’s a lot of material here no one has seen.” Beginning May 2, the exhibit will be moved to the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education until May 20. It will be open to the public for viewing Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After its stint in Shepherdstown, the exhibit will be packed up and transported to the Parkersburg Art Center from May 22 to June 20. From June 10 to July 6, the exhibit can be seen at the Tamarack in Beckley, and it will move to the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. for a viewing on the evening of June 22. The exhibit will then make its way to the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lewisburg from Sept. 2 to Sept. 30. No other dates or locations have been finalized for the exhibit, but it will be on tour for the next two years.
For more information on the exhibit, visit byrdcenter.org/traveling-exhibit.