Thursday, December 21, 2006

Archives Will Digitize Birmingham's Founding Documents with New Overhead Scanner

Birmingham Public Library
Press Release
December 19, 2006

Celebrating 30 years of service to the Birmingham community, the Birmingham Public Library’s Archives will embark on an ambitious project to make its extensive collection more accessible to teachers, students, researchers, and the general public. With a state-of-the-art overhead scanner—purchased with grants from the community—the Archives will scan Birmingham’s founding documents including the original survey for the city. The 133-year-old volume contains the original maps and field notes of the survey team that laid out Birmingham's streets in 1872. The Archives will also now be able to digitize atlases such as the Beers and Ellis Atlas of Birmingham—a rare 1887 atlas containing full color maps of downtown Birmingham; Baist's Property Atlas of Birmingham—a rare 1902 atlas of full-color maps of downtown Birmingham; and other historic maps and illustrations of early Birmingham.

“With this type of overhead scanner, the Archives can safely scan materials that are too fragile or too cumbersome for a standard scanner,” said Head Archivist Jim Baggett. He anticipates that a high-quality scanner will allow the Archives to digitize many one of a kind historic documents and make them available on the Internet.

The Archives will share the scanner with Oak Hill Cemetery, which holds an estimated 10,000 burials and associated interment records from the city’s founding to the present. The Cemetery, which is the burial place for many of the city’s founding families, will use the scanner to digitize interment records, providing the public with important information about Birmingham’s founders.

According to Library Director Barbara Sirmans, “this equipment will enable the Library to push forward with several of our key goals. It will provide adequate and appropriate technology for users to access the information they need. It will also greatly accelerate our effort to offer outstanding online content drawn from the Library’s own special collections.” Using current technology for the benefit of patrons is crucial to the Archives. The number of files Archives staff retrieve for researchers has gone up more than 60 percent in the last six years, and placing fragile items online is imperative for original documents to remain in-tact for generations to come.

The Birmingham Public Library Archives holds over 30,000,000 documents and over 400,000 photographs on subjects ranging from local to international significance. Subject areas of particular strength include local government, urban and economic development, industry and the labor movement, women's history, religious history, art, music, literature, sports, and the largest collection in existence relating to the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham.

The collection is open to the public and draws researchers from the U.S. and around the world. In 2005 the Archives served nearly 2,000 local, national, and international researchers with a record 95,000 files. In 2004, the work of one researcher won an Academy Award, adding to works researched in the Archives that have earned an Emmy, a Peabody, and three Pulitzer Prizes.

The scanner purchase was made possible with very generous support from the Birmingham Public Library Foundation, Vulcan Materials Company, Glenn Ireland, William Ireland, Energen, David Herring and the Oak Hill Memorial Association, the Birmingham Historical Society and the Friends of the Birmingham Public Library.

Friday, December 15, 2006

History of Parker High School

Industrial High School
The full text of Arthur Harold Parker's autobiography A Dream That Came True is available online. Parker, who was principal of Industrial High School (later renamed Parker High School), details the history of African American education in Birmingham, Alabama from 1888 through 1920.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce publication (May 1925)

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce May 1925
The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce's Birmingham publication for May 1925 is now available. Contents include:
  • A story of the Wofford Oil Company
  • Industrial Birmingham, survey and outlook
  • Junior Chamber of Commerce activities
  • Birmingham's Safety Council functions
  • Early history of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

20 photographs of businesses, schools and theaters online

Avenue B CafeThe Jefferson County (AL) Board of Equalization was responsible for photographing all structures within Jefferson County for the purpose of taxation. BPL's Archives Department is responsible for preserving 1500 boxes of the Board's files (including photographs) covering the years 1938-1977. Twenty of these photographs were recently added to our BPL Digital Collections database. Images include businesses, churches, and schools in Birmingham and Homewood.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Birmingham’s Victorian Bicycle Craze

Bicycle Ad

Bicycles, known colloquially in the nineteenth century as “wheels,” offered a new kind of mobility that many women embraced. While some worried that having women riding about on bicycles would lead to moral decay, bicycle manufactures catered to the new clientele and Victorian era women found freedom on their bikes....(read more)

Newspaper Articles, Photograph and Postcard

(Part of Birmingham Magazine's monthly feature on Birmingham history highlighting items from the Archives’ collections)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Structures in Jefferson County (AL)

Center Point SchoolThe Jefferson County (AL) Board of Equalization was responsible for photographing all structures within Jefferson County for the purpose of taxation. BPL's Archives Department is responsible for preserving 1500 boxes of the Board's files (including photographs) covering the years 1938-1977. Forty-nine of these photographs were recently added to our BPL Digital Collections database. Images include businesses, churches, and schools in downtown Birmingham, Center Point, and Ensley.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Birmingham's Vintage Service Stations

Farriss-Armstrong Service StationBirmingham's Vintage Service Stations
It seems unlikely that today’s American roadside architecture will ever inspire a sense of nostalgia. Big box discount stores and fast food restaurants are interchangeable from one location to the next. Gas stations, or to be precise, convenience stores, are distinguishable only by the color of the trim on the square, flat buildings. But the builders of gas stations, or to be precise, service stations, once used popular architectural styles and whimsy to catch the eye of passing motorists. More...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

More Photographs by Charles Preston

Bellhops at the Tutwiler Hotel
36 images photographed by Charles Preston are now available for viewing. Some of the subjects depicted are from the 1940s and 50s and include: bellhops, Barons, businesses, Bob Hope, Booker T. Washington Insurance Co., Bingle, Betbeze, Burns, and beans.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Charles Preston's Photographs

Riding a horse at the Alabama Theatre
24 images photographed by Charles Preston are now available for viewing. Some of the subjects depicted are from the 1950s and include: Dale's Cellar, Bankhead Hotel, Loveman's, Alabama Theatre, Jim Burke Buick, Krystal Hamburgers, Duke Rumore and WSGN.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Birmingham's Tourist Courts

Rose Hill Tourist Camp As automobiles became affordable and reliable in the early 20th century, many Americans ventured out on long vacation trips into areas of the country not served by rail. Finding few places to stay, early auto travelers often slept in their cars or camped in tents. Enterprising residents along highways rented camp spaces in their yards or rooms in their homes. Towns and cities opened green spaces for camping, and some provided amenities like toilets, showers, drinking water and fire wood. By the 1930s, tourist courts lined American highways. Offering the comfort and privacy of small one-room cabins, tourist courts were a significant step up from sleeping on the ground or in the back seat. More...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing

newspaper photo
33 additional newspaper articles about the bombing, investigations, and trial of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing are available.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing Investigation

Newspaper articles about the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing investigation and trials are now available for viewing. To see all the photographs and newspaper articles about the bombing and the investigation click here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Wild West comes to Birmingham

Founded during America’s westward migration, early Birmingham shared numerous traits with towns from the notorious Wild West. A nineteenth-century boomtown populated by many young, unattached men, Birmingham was once a place of dirt streets, wooden sidewalks, saloons and occasional gun fights. Read contemporary news stories here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Birmingham's Turn-of-the-Century Lake Resorts

Birmingham Trolley AdvertisementThe streetcar brought tremendous changes to the everyday lives of Americans. Beginning in the late 1800s, the streetcar encouraged the growth of suburbs by allowing people to live miles from their work. The streetcar also opened new avenues for amusement that led to the development of Birmingham’s turn-of-the-century lake resorts. More...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Five Points West

Thirty-two newspaper articles about the Five Points West neighborhood have been added to the database.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing

On September 15, 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and killed four little girls. These powerful images, newspaper clippings, and documents show the immediate and widespread destruction of the tragedy and heartbreak that inspired a movement.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Birmingham's Semi-Centennial

Newspaper articles and photographs depicting the 50th anniversary of Birmingham's founding are now available for viewing

Friday, February 03, 2006

Birmingham’s Ill-Fated Mardi Gras
Around 1900 Birmingham celebrated Mardi Gras with kings, queens, parades and balls. See contemporary accounts, photographs, and invitations to a short-lived part of Birmingham's history here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Friday, January 06, 2006

News release and flyer

Birmingham Public Library Launches New Digital Collections

Starting in January 2006 the Birmingham Public Library’s Digital Collections
will be available over the Internet 24/7 without charge and will feature some of the great treasures of the library’s special collections and archives. Many of these collections offer rare or unique glimpses into the history of Birmingham. “By digitizing some of the library’s newspaper clippings, photographs, and other materials, we are able to offer these special resources to people all over the world. We also expect these digital documents and images to motivate people from Birmingham and beyond to come into the library to see more of the library’s historic collection,” said Library Director Barbara Sirmans. She added, “This project would not have been possible without the generosity of the Birmingham News and the Birmingham Post Herald that allowed us to reproduce many of the articles from their papers.”

The digital collections encompass a variety of topics from the familiar to the unusual and currently feature newspaper articles, photographs, local history, and full-text pamphlets. The digital resources will continue to grow as the library adds more materials from its special collections. The library is also using this project as a catalyst to ask the public for historical photographs, scrapbooks, high-school yearbooks, and other materials from private collections that document the city’s past, particularly from the 1930s forward.

Collections already online include a souvenir booklet on the tornado of 1901, memorabilia on the Alabama Theatre, and photos depicting the aftermath of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. The digital collections are on the library’s Web site at