Secrets of the Grave Creek Mound

During the 2016 Spring semester at California University of Pennsylvania, our group was given the immense and challenging job of creating a digital story that featured a certain site located near Moundsville, West Virginia. This demanding assignment was given to us by our Honors Composition II Professor, Dr. Fisanick. When we were told of our task and options for sites to research, it was extremely clear to us which site we would choose. Our chosen site for this process was Moundsville’s Pride and Joy, the Grave Creek Mound. The digital story that we were to produce would be a video that needed to shape a narrative of something unique and interesting about the Grave Creek Mound. This would be molded through narration, pictures, and music that would eventually turn into a work of art.

Settling on a focus for our feature video was a difficult and enlightening process. We went into Moundsville with honestly no sense of what we wanted the focal point of our story to be. However, while there, we got more information on Moundsville’s towering giant than we could have ever imagined. This crucial information was all thanks to our collaboration with Andrea Keller, the Delf Norona Museum’s Cultural Program Coordinator. After hearing about all of the potential possibilities, we came together and decided on exactly what our story would entail: the unique and fascinating story of how Joseph Tomlinson discovered the mound and the history that followed.

Tomlinson’s discovery occurred while he was hunting in the woods and just happened to stumble upon a great mound of earth that would later become an iconic symbol for the town of Moundsville. Our feature video plays upon this story and also goes very in depth about the different events, proceedings, and excavations that occurred to the Grave Creek Mound. It’s truly astonishing how far we’ve come by the ways of technology. From actually digging into the mound and marring its integrity to using remote sensing to peer into the mound without ever having to pick up a shovel, technology has allowed scientists to do things that nobody had ever thought possible.

Completing this feature video was difficult, but also remarkably rewarding. All of us learned a great amount about the mound’s history and ourselves. While learning about the background of the mound and town of Moundsville, we were reminded of all the trials and tribulations that come with working on a project like this. Setting up appropriate times to meet, operating the software, and finding the perfect balance between all the ingredients that go into a digital story were all challenges that we had to overcome.

The one thing that was exceedingly refreshing was finding a town whose people openly celebrate their history and culture. Unfortunately, our generation takes this rich history for granted. Not many of us take the time to understand how things came about, and why it’s important. The emergence of technology encourages others to explore history right in their communities. We hope that our produced story will not only be a valuable asset for the Delf Norona Museum, but also serve as a bridge between past, present, and future generations.

by Steven Shrenkel, Austin Owens, and Jacob Rice

California University of Pennsylvania Honors Writing Class

Dr. Christina Fisanick, Associate Professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania, and Robert Stakeley, Education Outreach Coordinator at the Heinz History Center, have been collaborating for over three years with historical societies throughout Western Pennsylvania to tell their stories. First-year students from Dr. Fisanick’s Honors writing courses work with several different sites each semester to create digital stories that spotlight their vast and diverse collections. In 2015 they decided to come to Wheeling, where Dr. Fisanick lives, to explore the city’s rich heritage. They worked with five different sites: Oglebay Institute’s Glass Museum, West Liberty University’s Rare Books Room, Oglebay Institute’s Mansion Museum, West Virginia’s Independence Hall, and the Ohio County Public Library’s Special Collections. This is one of those digital stories, along with a brief narrative written by the student creators exploring their creative process and thoughts about making stories about Wheeling.