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Appalachian Resources in Special Collections and University Archives: Home

About the Guide

This guide is designed to help researchers locate resources in Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) relating to Appalachia generally, as well as about specific topics. There are also links to other collections both analog and digital available online and from other institutions. This guide does not contain all of the materials in SCUA related to Appalachia, but is intended to be a helpful starting point for researchers.

This guide is broken up into sections by topic. Under each topic tab you will find links to resources including books, manuscript collections, and media. The "Digital/Online Resources" section contains links to digital paper collections, A/V and oral history collections, and search tools for primary sources and keywords. Digital and A/V materials related to a specific topic can be located under each topic section. 

Rather than just one collection, this guide uses many different source materials from across the archives. If you are interested in learning more about a specific collection or have any questions, don't hesitate to contact a staff member for help or suggestions!

About Special Collections and University Archives

New Theatre (the Lyric) and Store Building for the Blacksburg Realty Company
New Theatre (the Lyric) and Store Building for the Blacksburg Realty Company

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Monday-Friday 8am-5pm & By Appointment

Contact us:
Email: specref@vt.edu
Telephone: 540-231-6308

Twitter: @VT_SCUA
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What is Appalachia?

"Appalachia" refers to a region in the eastern United States, named for its weathered mountain system. The Appalachian mountains stretch from New York to Mississippi, but definitions on what "is" Appalachia are constantly changing. The topography of the mountains is not the only way the boundaries of Appalachia are determined; politics, economics, and culture all play a role in determining what is and isn't Appalachia. Commonly, definitions of Appalachia include areas in and near the mountain range in Alabama, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and all of West Virginia. Occasionally, parts of Mississippi, Maryland, and New Jersey are included. The cultural "core" region (where the ties to the history, culture, economy, and mountain land are considered strongest) generally includes northern Georgia, eastern Kentucky, western North Carolina, east Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, and West Virginia. This definition of a core region is not to exclude those who identify with Appalachia or as Appalachians, but to provide researchers with a starting point.

These definitions, and further information on how they can change, can be found in the introduction of the Encyclopedia of Appalachia.

Locating Materials

Manuscript Collections

Special Collections has well over 1,000 manuscript collections with content relating to Appalachia. You can search for these collections and view their finding aids here. This is more helpful if you already have a specific topic in mind, such as education in Appalachia or a particular region.

Books

All of our books relating to the Appalachian region or Appalachian people can be found using the library's catalog. Most of our books will be in Special Collections, but a few may also be located in Newman Library. To find books generally relating to Appalachia, you can search "Appalachia" or "Appalachian" in the keyword form.

Online

Special Collections has begun digitizing many of our manuscripts. These digitized items can be found at Special Collections Online. You can search for collections or individual items. The search box in the upper right corner of Special Collections Online can be used to find more general keywords relating to Appalachia.

Selections from our Collections

Women picking Winesap apples before making apple butter

Women picking apples before making apple butter, from the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph Collection.

Letter from Isaac Cox to his wife with cutouts

Letter from Isaac Cox to his wife.

Lula Conrad making grit bread

Lula Conrad preparing grit bread, from the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph Collection.

Postcard featuring Draper's Mountain, Pulaski, VA

View of Valley from Highway No. 11, Draper's Mountain, Pulaski, VA. From the Appalachian Postcard Collection.

Crew of miners entering the south portal of the Westmoreland Coal Mine on Black Mountain

Crew of miners entering the south portal of Westmoreland Coal Mine on Black Mountain to begin their 8-hour shift. From the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph Collection.

Several mill employees using large hoses to wash waste products from the mill into the river

Several mill employees use large hoses to wash waste products from the mill into the river. From the Fries Textile Plant Records.

Worker exiting coal mine

Worker exiting coal mine, from the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph Collection.

Master development plan of Blue Ridge Parkway and Parks

Master development plan of the Blue Ridge Parkway and parks in North Carolina from 1940, from the Historic Map Collection.

Master development plan of Blue Ridge Parkway and Parks in North Carolina

Master development plan of the Blue Ridge Parkway and parks in North Carolina from 1940, from the Historic Map Collection.

Wooden plank suspension bridge

Wooden plank suspension bridge, from the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph Collection.

Man working at a moonshine still

Man working at a moonshine still, from the Earl Palmer Appalachian Photograph Collection.

Jackie Sharp administers a flu shot to a woman

Jackie Sharp administers a flu shot to a woman, from the Fries Textile Plant Records.