Jack Walker Published

New Exhibit Brings W.Va. Coal Mining History To Nation’s Capital

Dusted from mining coal, a group of men walk downhill on a dirt path, past houses whose residents watch them from porches.
In this 1947 photograph by Russell Lee, miners walk home from a shift at Mullens Mine in Wyoming County, West Virginia. The photo will be on display in a new exhibit this week.
Russell Lee/National Archives

Coal mining has long served a place of importance in Appalachian history. But a new exhibit in Washington, D.C. will help the region’s industrial past reach a wider audience later this week.

From March 16 to July 6, the National Archives will display a new exhibit entitled “Power & Light: Russell Lee’s Coal Survey.” It features more than 200 photographs taken by documentary photographer Russell Lee.

In 1946, Lee conducted a survey across 13 U.S. states, documenting the inner workings of the coal industry and its impact on miners and their families.

Alongside his wife Jean, Lee captioned the collection of works slated for display. His survey followed a series of strikes from coal miners that had originally been met with national skepticism, according to the National Archives website.

The exhibit spans 3,000 square feet of the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery. It also features a handwritten note from President Harry Truman on the strikes, and several other primary sources.

The exhibit is free and open to members of the public.

For more information visit the National Archives website at https://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2024/nr24-13.