Wheeling Jesuit University

Former MSHA Assistant Secretary Among Speakers at Photo Exhibit on Health & Safety in Appalachian Mining Communities

Former Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health J. Davitt McAteer will be among the guest speakers at the unveiling of a new photography exhibit, "Our Future in Retrospect? Coal Miner Health in Appalachia.”

The exhibit, sponsored by the Wheeling Jesuit University Appalachian Institute, opens 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 9, at the Wheeling Artisan Center.

The Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University hired photojournalist Earl Dotter to help them celebrate the impending 60th anniversary of "A Medical Survey of the Bituminous Coal Industry"' (1947), also known as the Boone report. The Appalachian Institute, which is compiling current research on health conditions in the Appalachian region, invited Dotter to photograph health conditions in today's southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky coal field region. From this trove of pictures, they have developed an exhibit that documents the progress and regress in health practices and conditions in Appalachia

“In light of the tragic events of the week, we hope this exhibit and our guest speakers will help spark more interest and reflection on health and safety in mining communities,” says Dr. Jill Kriesky, executive director of the Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University, WV.

The exhibit includes photographs taken by Russell Lee in 1946 and runs though January 31, 2006.

McAteer is Vice President for Sponsored Programs at Wheeling Jesuit University. He helped enact the 1969 Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, founded the Occupational Safety and Health Law Center in the 1970s and served as Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Clinton administration.

Other guest speakers scheduled to appear include Rev. Joseph R. Hacala, S.J., founder of the Appalachian Institute and President of Wheeling Jesuit University. Fr. Hacala is one of the contributors to the landmark Catholic document on powerlessness in Appalachia, “This Land is Home to Me.” This document addresses the social justice issues relating to mining in Appalachia and was signed on the WJU campus in 1975. A former resident of Charleston, he has led many service projects throughout Appalachia. He has served as executive director of the Domestic Anti-Poverty Program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and positions at Housing and Urban Development.

Dotter began photographing the Appalachian coal fields over 30 years ago. His first contact with coal miners came when he joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). After VISTA, he remained in the Tennessee area to photograph the rank-and-file movement to reform the United Mine Workers Union. When the UMWA election was won by the union reform candidates in 1972, Dotter was invited to work for the UMWA Journa, where he remained until 1977. The Journalemphasized improving coal mine safety. Dotter's position enabled him to record the intimate details of daily life - the dangers of mining underground and also the joys, dignity and culture that sustained coal mine families. He strives not to touch viewers who are already sympathetic to his subject's concerns, but to command the attention of those who might normally pass them by.

The Artisan Center's third-floor Loft Gallery is open from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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