Thursday, March 3, 2011
The Birmingham Public Library houses some unique archives, including a set of museum archives from the BMA. This week I was sent to the archives to examine what they had, and see how their finding aid was set up. The archives are located in the basement of the original structure of the Birmingham Public Library. The library itself is fascinating, and the map/reading room features a very unique mural painted along the entire upper walls. It might be interesting to explore the history of this building, and the meaning behind the the murals at a more appropriate time. This visit however was focused on the archives.
After checking in with the archives staff, and signing a form promising not to damage or remove items form the archive I was shown the finding aid, and provided a form to request specific folders. The archive of the BMA included a variety of documents, correspondence, and information. Their materials extended from the 1950's through the 1980's and had many items not present in the archive I have been working on. For example; I examined a handbook from the 1950's for air raid safety that specifically addressed what to do in a nuclear attack. This handbook was distributed to all Jefferson County municipal buildings and was likely present in the museum when it was first opened to the public.
After explaining that I am a library science student interested in archives, I inquired as to the possibility of a brief tour of the facility. The staff were extremely excited and were more than willing. I saw the rows of electric movable shelves ( which were explained as being far longer than most movable shelving units), and was shown the area where records were processed and preserved. Among the many items in their archive were the blueprints and plans for almost every structure in the city of Birmingham. The collection of archives at the Birmingham Public Library were impressive.
In addition to the archives visit, I attended a meeting with Ms. Preston about upcoming improvements being implemented for the museum Web Site. New improvements discussed included adding additional content like podcasts, and links to videos from lectures and educational programs. A more user-friendly interface that includes a "bread crumb" trail as the user navigates the site is also planned. The improved version of the Web Site offered many possibilities.