“It’s Never Too Late”, Alabama Archives and History Dept. Issues ‘Statement of Recommitment’
“It’s never too late to try and rescue and preserve historical materials” said Steve Murray, director of Alabama’s Department of Archives and History. His comments come one day after releasing a “Statement of Recommitment”, promising to turn a new leaf in the way the organization is preserving and telling African-American history.
In the statement, Murray explained that the Alabama’s Department of Archives and History was founded in 1901, with preserving government records and confederate history in mind. Romanticizing the “Old South” and the Confederate war effort Murray said, while failing to preserve materials documenting the lives and contributions of African Americans in Alabama.
There’s now a need and push to try and fill in those gaps. “We know we lost out on an opportunity when that decision was being made in the early 1900’s” Murray said, “the good news is that it did not remain a permanent motive of our agency and over time our collecting work expanded dramatically”.
Murray said there have been continuous efforts to update the museum especially in the 1980’s, but acknowledges there’s still much more to be done in order to paint a more inclusive and accurate picture of Alabama’s history.
The statement also mentions the push for diversity within the mostly white department of archives staff and leadership. “We’re going to be working with high school and college students to help make them aware of the career opportunities that exist at museums and archives and how they can think about this as a place that they may want to work one day or a place like this one.” Murray explained.
In looking to the past, he says, local historians are also documenting the now. “A year from now, I hope you’ll be able to come in and see some of those materials that we’ve been acquiring and have some of those conversations about what this moment in Alabama” Murray said, referring to recent protests and demonstrations concerning police brutality, racism and confederate monuments and memorials in Alabama since Memorial Day.
The department remains closed to the public until further notice, due to the pandemic. You can read its full statement here