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Emory L. Kemp Papers regarding Industrial History

Collection Number: A&M 4230

Scope and Contents

This collection includes materials from Dr. Emory L. Kemp’s career of researching, documenting, and preserving historic structures. Kemp was a practicing civil engineer from 1952-1959, then taught civil engineering, historic preservation, and the history of technology from 1962-2003 at West Virginia University. He served as an expert consultant for the preservation of many historic engineering structures, including bridges, waterways, and mills. He also published regularly and remained active in several professional organizations.

Materials includes correspondence, engineering drawings, drawings, various styles and types of maps, photographic prints, photographic contact sheets, photographic negatives, drafts of monographs, bound copies of the United States Congressional Series, published scholarly articles and books, book excerpts, reports, computer-generated data, handwritten notes, oral histories and oral history transcripts, brochures, and realia. A significant amount concerns Kemp’s process of documenting historic structures for the Historic American Engineering Record and the National Register of Historic Places.

All contents fall within 1735 and 2021. The bulk of the original materials are from 1959-1999. Almost all the materials from 1735-1949 are facsimiles that Kemp collected for his research.

Most of the materials pertain to West Virginia and surrounding states: Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Kemp also consulted on projects in other states and countries, such as Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and Zimbabwe. Personal materials discuss Kemp’s experience in Illinois. In addition, Kemp’s research on industrial archeology (the study of the physical evidence of industry and technology) focuses on Great Britain and Australia but also includes places in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Other states and countries appear briefly as part of Kemp’s study of historic bridges, including California, Russia, France, China, and Peru.

Subjects include suspension bridges of West Virginia, covered bridges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the history of suspension bridges, bridge preservation, locks and dams in West Virginia (especially along the Kanawha River), navigation along other bodies of water (especially the Muskingum River), industrial structures and industrial production in West Virginia and surrounding states, civil engineers (especially Charles Ellet, Jr.), cement and concrete, the history of engineering, industrial archeology, principles of historic preservation, the process of documenting materials to the standards of the Historic American Engineering Record, Kemp’s affiliations within West Virginia University (especially WVU’s Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology), his affiliations with the American Society of Civil Engineers, and his affiliation with the Society for Industrial Archeology. Throughout the collection, several of Kemp’s largest restoration projects appear regularly: the Wheeling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River in Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia; the Wheeling Custom House (also known as West Virginia Independence Hall) in Wheeling, Ohio County, West Virginia; and the West Virginia Covered Bridge Survey that Kemp completed for the West Virginia Department of Highways.

Within this finding aid, the term “engineering drawings” was used to describe materials that may be defined within the engineering field as blueprints, measured drawings, or floor plans. The term “contact sheet” was used to describe a photographic print clearly produced to make a rough draft, positive print of an image from a single negative or photographic negatives on a roll of film (created by holding photograph paper emulsion-to-emulsion with the negative). In addition, the following terms that regularly appeared in the collection have been abbreviated:

  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  • Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O Railroad)
  • Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal)
  • United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology (IHTIA)
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER)
  • Historic American Building Survey (HABS)
  • National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)
  • National Forest (NF)
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), previously the Soil Conservation Service (SCS)
  • West Virginia University (WVU)
  • United States Geological Survey (USGS)


  • Creation: 1735-2021


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

All or part of this collection is stored offsite. Please make an appointment prior to visiting.

Researchers may access digitized and born digital materials by visiting the link attached to each item or by requesting to view the materials in person by appointment or remotely by contacting the West Virginia & Regional History Center reference department at

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical / Historical

Emory Leland Kemp was born to Emory Lelan Kemp and Anita Mae Hucker Kemp on October 1, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. His family moved to Champaign, Illinois when he was four, and he attended the South Side School and later the University of Illinois High School. Although his teachers at the high school—faculty members at the university—encouraged Kemp to study history, he chose to enter the College of Engineering, just as his father had studied engineering before him. Kemp graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1952, and the school honored him with the prestigious Ira O. Baker Award as the top-ranked undergraduate student in the Department of Civil Engineering.

Following graduation, Kemp became an assistant engineer with the Illinois Water Survey until war broke out in Korea and the government drafted Kemp into the United States Army. His former boss, now a colonel in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, transferred Kemp to work with the USACE in Alexandria, Virginia. After two years developing a detector for non-magnetic landmines with the USACE, Kemp applied to and accepted a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, England. He studied advanced mathematics and developed an interest in thin concrete roofs. In addition to receiving a Diploma of Imperial College (similar to a Master’s degree) after two years in London, Kemp also met his life’s partner, Janet. The two were married in 1958, and had three children in the United States: Mark, Alison and Geoffrey.

After his diploma, Kemp remained in London and worked on thin concrete shell rooves for Sir Bruce White, Wolfe Barry and Partners. He transferred to Arup and Partners, where he worked on the design behind the Sydney Opera House (developing the pre-stress and post-tension piles on the end of the building) and the hangars at the Royal Air Force Abingdon station. Soon, however, the University of Illinois invited Kemp to return to Champaign to complete a PhD in structural mechanics on full scholarship. He completed a dissertation on torsion in reinforced concrete in 1962. That same year, a faculty position at West Virginia University’s School of Engineering became available. Kemp got the job, so he, Janet, and their children moved to Morgantown, West Virginia. He quickly rose to chair the Civil Engineering Department. Under his administration, the Department grew rapidly and received national acclaim. When James Harlow became president of West Virginia University (WVU) in 1967, he sent Kemp to the University of Oklahoma to study their History of Science program. Kemp was intrigued, and soon acquired approval to plan a similar course of study through WVU’s History Department. He taught classes on the Industrial Revolution and the history of technology, but did not successfully convince the College of Engineering to require its engineering students to take courses in the history of science. During the 1970s, Kemp became involved in a number of historic preservation projects in West Virginia. First, he got involved in restoring the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which needed repairs to its suspension wires. Kemp assisted with multiple rounds of restoration on the historic bridge. Then, West Virginia Independence Hall Foundation consulted Kemp on the restoration of the building in which West Virginia seceded from Virginia (although Kemp always referred to the building by its original title, the “Wheeling Custom House”). Kemp investigated the nine-inch wrought-iron I-beams that supported the ceilings and upper floors of the building, and assisted the foundation in interpreting the building as a museum. By the end of the 1970s, Kemp had earned recognition throughout the preservation community. Government agencies contracted with Kemp to document historic industrial and transportation structures through archival photographs and large-scale engineering drawings, so the materials could be submitted to the Historic American Engineering Record. The West Virginia state government also consulted Kemp for a number of projects throughout the 1970s and 1980s, especially involving work on covered bridges. For instance, when the roof of the Philippi Covered Bridge burned in a fire in February 1989, the state hired Kemp to oversee the restoration. Using innovative techniques for covering the top and supporting the old frame with new beams, Kemp gave the bridge its original 1861 appearance. He also assisted in the restoration of the Staats Mill and Barrackville Covered Bridges. Kemp’s personal research interests centered on industrial processes in West Virginia, including mining, milling, glassmaking, and railroads. Kemp also founded and co-founded a number of organizations. First, Kemp got involved with a movement to bring the British discipline of industrial archaeology (the study of physical remnants of industrial structures as a method to understand our manufacturing past) to the United States. Kemp helped to found the Society for Industrial Archeology (SIA) in 1971, served as the first editor of the affiliated journal, IA, in 1975, and eventually became SIA’s president from 1988-1990. Kemp also founded the historic preservation and repurposing organization, Vandalia Heritage Foundation, in 1999. He was a founding member of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia in 1981. In 1990, Kemp received Congressional funding to establish an Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology (IHTIA) at WVU. The IHTIA, which became Kemp’s full time job, provided historic preservation consultations, documented historic structures, held workshops and field schools, and published monographs. Over the course of its history, the IHTIA generated $13 million of research funding and worked on an estimated 86 projects. For all of Kemp’s work to preserve historic structures and encourage the spread of information about the history of industrial technology and transportation, the American Society of Civil Engineers named him a Distinguished Member in 2004. By the time he retired in the early 2000s, Kemp had devoted a lifetime to studying and celebrating America’s industrial past.


154.83 Linear Feet (152 document cases, 5 in. each; 92 document cases, 4 in. each; 68 document cases, 2 1/2 in. each; 32 record cartons, 15 in. each; 1 flat storage box, 1.5 in.; 7 flat storage boxes, 3 in. each; 4 flat storage boxes, 4 in. each; 1 small storage box, 6 1/2 in.; 1 index card box, 12 in.; 2 oversized items, 1.5 in. total; 2 microfilm reels, 1.75 in. each; 146 oversized folders, 18 in.)

6.31 Gigabytes (678 files, formats include ASC, BK!, CAP, CHP, CIF, DOC, DOCX, ED, ELK, JPG, FRM, M4A, MON, MOV, MP4, PAP, PDF, PPT, PPTX, R2D, RTF, TIF, TRE, TXT, VGR, W51, WMA, WP, WPD, WPS, XLSX. )


All materials are processed and described at the box level, and the boxes are sorted into nine series by the primary purpose for which Kemp used the materials within the box. One series has been broken down into six additional sub-series based on theme of research materials. Both the series and the sub-series are arranged in order of relative prominence within the collection. The structure is as follows:

  • Research Files (1735-2017)
    • Bridges (1735-2016)
    • Waterways (1804-2015)
    • Industrial structures (1807-2017)
    • Engineers, the history of engineering, and general historical topics (1770, 1805-2010)
    • Historic buildings (1810-2002)
    • Building materials (1829-2002)
  • Kemp’s Library (1855-2015)
  • Kemp’s Professional Writings (1804-2015)
  • Kemp’s Other Professional Activities (1849, 1909, 1952-2018)
  • Oversize Materials (undated)
  • Oral History (2017-2018)
  • Addendum of 2019: Records of Trips, Engineering Papers, Edinburgh Fellowship, Suspension Bridge Papers, Miscellaneous (1848-2021)
  • Addendum of 2021/04/05 (1768-2014)
  • Addendum of 2020: Engineering drawings, maps, other miscellaneous (1909-2003)

There are three addendum series (Series 7-9) listed by the year of the addendum. Addendum 2019 and 2021 materials are mainly processed and described at the box level. Addendum 2021 also contains one acrylic display framed print and an oversized folder with drawings. Addendum 2020 materials has mainly been processed and described at the file level and contains one panoramic photograph.

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL:

Separated Materials

Packet of "Early 20th Century Commercial Wood Engravings" booklets ("The S. George Company/The Gramlee Collection/The Permutation Press," "The Stock/Product Block," "The Monogram Block," "The Barrel Label Block," "The Stock Block," and "The Company Block," all copyright 1982 by the Permutation Press) were separated to the Rare Book Room to join related materials on wood engravings.

1 reel of duplicate microfilm of A&M 3007, Little Kanawha River Records, moved to duplicate A&M microfilm.

1 reel of microfilm of the Elizabeth Gazette newspaper, Mar 13 1867 - Jan 11 1869, moved to duplicate newspaper microfilm.

Processing Information

Materials arrived sorted into boxes, generally based on the individual project for which Kemp used the items. A project can be defined as an endeavor that Kemp took on for a concentrated period of time centered on one structure, geographic location, or theme. Examples include the restoration of a historic site or set of historic sites that share a common purpose, documentation of a historic site or set of historic sites that share a common purpose, a publication, a conference, or a grant application. Some boxes appeared to be a mix of materials from various projects and subjects. Such boxes were categorized by the most prominent project or subject within the box or were determined “Miscellaneous.”

Some boxes were organized around a common topic rather than a project, especially if Kemp returned to a particular topic throughout his career (an example is research on concrete, a body of scholarship that Kemp drew on for a variety of projects).

At arrival, only some boxes had materials arranged into folders. Where arrangement within a box was obvious (such as materials segregated into manila folders), original arrangement was retained. Otherwise, items were sorted within boxes by format, or, when possible, by sub-topic.

Boxes were clumped together by individual project or topic. The series were created to reflect general categories of purposes for which Kemp used the materials. However, the series “Oversize Material” was not separated based on Kemp’s purpose for using the materials; it was created to house all the items from other series that arrived folded inside boxes and do not fit in their original boxes when unfolded.

Because Kemp used so many of the materials in the collection for research, the series “Research Files” was broken down into sub-series by type of project. Boxes were occasionally combined when space allowed and when the materials originated from the same project. Boxes were also occasionally combined when items inside each box did not originate from just one project or just one type of project.

Additionally, Kemp separately donated books from his personal library, which he used throughout his career.

All born-digital materials housed on floppy disks, compact discs, or USB drives were uploaded to repository servers.

Any box and folder citations created before July 2019 may rely upon Kemp’s original arrangement and may no longer be accurate. For assistance locating material using an older citation, please ask a staff member of the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

Emory L. Kemp Papers regarding Industrial History
Alanna Natanson
July 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US