Friday, February 25, 2011
The first phase of updating and expanding the institutional archive is almost complete! All but two boxes have been emptied, their contents sorted, identified and briefly described. Above, is one such emptied box.The next phase will consist of creating more accurate descriptions of the objects, and placing them in secure archival standard storage. The descriptions will help expand and develop a new finding aid which will represent a more complete picture of the Birmingham Museum of Art Archive, and provide users with more complete information.
As I examined the box that contained correspondence between museum officials, I found a letter from 1980 written by the first vice chairman of the museum board. In this letter, he outlined the origins of the Birmingham Museum of Art, and explained that there had been several myths on these origins that had been published in local newspapers and museum documents. He added that he found it amazing that the official history could be so quickly forgotten, considering that the museum was initially opened in 1951 ( written in 1980, this was less than 30 years after the founding of the museum). He went on to elaborate on how the Birmingham Museum of Art emerged from the Birmingham Art Club, founded in 1908, and formed with the goal of creating an art museum in Birmingham. The former vice chairman added that when he approached one of the authors of the erroneous history and explained what was stated incorrectly, that author shrugged it off and said it didn't really matter. He concluded by quoting Napoleon in stating that history should not be "a fable agreed upon," and submitted this letter in the hopes of establishing a more accurate account of the past. The images below show the fist and last pages of this letter.
This letter serves as an illustration of the importance of libraries and archives. Without the proper preservation of recorded historical events and people, a full understanding of the present cannot be reached. When the Birmingham Museum of Art Archive has been fully updated, these records will be more freely accessible, and a more successful future could be built on what was previously accomplished.