Since 1930 historic artifacts and archival materials from the mining and petroleum industries have been collected at West Virginia University. The collecting began within the University's School of Mines, which was later named the College of Mineral and Energy Resources (COMER). In the mid-1980s a museum, known as the COMER Museum, was formally organized, and the construction of a dedicated museum space was approved in 1986. At that time, the COMER Museum established its mission of "preserving and promoting the social, cultural, and technological history of the coal, oil, and natural gas industries of the state of West Virginia through the collection, preservation, research, and exhibition of objects relevant to these industries."
In 2005 the West Virginia Coal Mining Institute endowed the COMER Museum with a substantial pledge. As part of the endowment agreement, the Institute was given the opportunity to rename the Museum. The Institute requested that the Museum be renamed The Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum in honor of "two individuals who have tirelessly supported its mission through both financial support and other resources."
Royce J. Watts, a member of the West Virginia University faculty for over fifty years, and his wife, Caroline B. Watts, are long time supporters of the Museum and the state of West Virginia's mining heritage. Over the past thirty years, Royce and Caroline Watts have made significant contributions to the Museum. They have generously donated to the Museum's endowment, gifted numerous objects to the Museum's collection, and contributed invaluable knowledge, resources, and efforts towards the growth and development of the Museum. The Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum reflects, supports, and preserves Royce and Caroline Watts' dedication to West Virginia's mining industries and their devotion to West Virginia University