Thursday, February 25, 2010

Let's go to the archives

What can Alabama’s local libraries, museums and other collectors of archives and history do with $50,000? The answer came during a meeting this morning at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

At a meeting of the Alabama Historical Records Advisory Board in Montgomery, board members discovered how grant recipients from around the state used small amounts of money to spruce up or develop better methods of storing and preserving historical data. (Full disclosure: I sit on the advisory board as a representative of the Alabama Press Association.) The $50,000 was spread among 22 local governments, museums and libraries in Alabama.

The money is a pass-through from a federal grant program aimed at preserving historical documents.

Tom Mullins and Teresa Kiser, both of the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County, reported on how $1,960 helped the library digitize more than 1,200 photo prints known as the Banks Collection. It’s named after ex-Anniston Mayor E.D. Banks, who served from 1946 until 1950. During his term, hizzoner hired a city photographer to record life in Anniston. The images can be seen here or in the Life section of Sunday’s Star.

Mullins and Kiser praised the Star’s Sunday Life feature that prints an image from the collection and asks readers to ID it. Kiser said every photo published has yielded at least one person who can identify some or all of the people pictured.

Also on hand, was Terri Daulton, city clerk of Heflin, who reported on how a $2,000 grant helped the city better catalog and store archives that had been locked away in a shed.

I have to mention my hometown of Aliceville. City government there used $1,000 to better organize its records while the Aliceville Museum dedicated to its World War II POW camp spent $1,509 to better arrange its documents and artifacts.

What can $50K do to preserve history. Quite a lot.