FAIRMONT, W.Va. -- Judy Byers, the director of the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, knew at a very young age she would spend her life working in preserving folk culture. She believes her work is far from being completed.
Byers uses oral storytelling as a method to preserve West Virginia folklore culture.
She's been doing this work for several years, and she discovered her love for folklore at a very young age.
"I sat on my grandmother's knee and heard her and my mother tell so many stories, and teach life through the story, through the sayings, through the beliefs. I became very much intrigued, and yes it did formulate my life," she said.
As a girl, Byers says she would hear family stories Sundays when her Italian family met to eat after church services.
Byers also credits her love for this field to her mentor, Ruth Ann Musick. Musick collected about 400 ghost tales.
"Ruth Ann Musick was a folklorist, a regional folklorist, and probably the prima folklorist of West Virginia. She came into the area, in 1946, to teach math and English at Fairmont State," Byers said.
"She died in 1974, right here in Fairmont. When she was here, she was the predominant collector of the supernatural story."
Byers said Musick would come to her home on those Sunday afternoons, and bring a tape recorder to document the family stories.
It inspired Byers to see Musick at work. Byers is also quick to point out that folklorists are not writers.
They do not invent or create the stories they orally present, or publish in books.
They are collectors, assembling a database of stories, artifacts, sayings, pictures, and other information, that are told to that person through others.