Inspired by the “history from the bottom up” tradition of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), Traveling 219: The Seneca Trail collects and documents stories from communities along US Route 219 in West Virginia and Maryland. This web-based multi-media project serves to revive and continue the work of the FWP in West Virginia by bringing the communities’ local voices to the radio, web, and newspapers.
The mission of the Traveling 219 Project has been to engage the public in local stories that highlight the history and natural landscape found throughout the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia and Maryland along US Route 219. As part of the Works Progress Administration; the FWP printed a series of guidebooks depicting each state’s “historical, economic, social and spiritual whereabouts,” but most of the material researched and recorded in the West Virginia area was filed away and never published.
The Traveling 219 team conducted interviews with over 100 local people throughout the Allegheny region in West Virginia and Maryland. Through this documentary, these individuals share the ways they interpret their own history and value their surrounding landscapes, while also helping to tell each community’s history with a focus on human interest. Using these interviews, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers have produced 130 articles and 51 audio stories for Traveling 219‘s website. Traveling 219 also draws on material from two FWP state guidebooks, as well as the archived documents from the FWP’s writings, uncovering many rich stories based on the people, geography, and culture of the region.
Traveling 219‘s energy has been driven by collaborations between academic historians, artists, and community organizations who came together to envision a project that would help tell America’s story. The project has produced radio stories that air weekly and bi-weekly on local radio stations, articles featured in local newspapers in West Virginia, and storytelling performances at venues across West Virginia. As new content is added to the site, Traveling 219 continues to serve and celebrate local communities by helping tell their rich stories of history and culture.