West Liberty University Instructor Ryan McCullough recently visited the Sago mine disaster memorial and the Sago Baptist Church in Sago, West Virginia. He also visited the memorial to the mining disaster in Philippi, WV. Mr. McCullough was joined by Aron Massey, Instructor of Geography, in WLU’s department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Their visit was part of a collaborative research project.


Mr. McCullough and Mr. Massey are currently studying the ways in which Appalachian towns, communities, and cultures memorialize victims of mining accidents and disasters. The WLU faculty members are planning on presenting their research and findings on this subject at the Appalachian Studies Association’s 35th annual conference held at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in March. Their hope is to eventually publish their findings in the Journal of Appalachian Studies.


“For years, public memorials have been studied from geographical and rhetorical perspectives; however, we are not aware of any studies that take an interdisciplinary approach.” says Mr. McCullough. “I think we are really breaking ground by studying these sites from both geographic and rhetorical perspectives, and I think our visit to these sites were very productive. My hope is that we will get a great paper out of it,  and I think we can make some significant theoretical and methodological contributions.”