Photo of the Alabama Department of Archives and History Alabama Voices exhibit // contributed by the Alabama Department of Archives and History
It’s not often a state archive can predict an exciting year ahead. But it’s not often that a state archive becomes a political target.
And so the Alabama Department of Archives and History is inviting anyone with concerns about their institution to speak with them.
“It’s going to probably be a really interesting regular legislative session that starts February of next year,” said Frank Brown, the department’s government relations coordinator, at a meeting of the Board of Trustees.
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The talk led to criticism from conservative media outlets and some Republican lawmakers. Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, filed a bill that would have removed $5 million from the Education Trust Fund supplemental budget allocated to the Archives for construction and programming.
The bill never moved, but Elliott said that he was working on legislation to file next session. Elliott told the Reflector last month that the bill could impact the department’s budget or and could change the board from self-perpetuating to appointed.
Brown said that Steve Murray, the director of the department worked “tirelessly” and “everything turned out good” when recalling the special session.
“Across the street, the majority knows what this agency stands for,” Brown said.
Delores Boyd, the chair of the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s Board of Trustees, said after the meeting that the Archives’ job is to represent all members of the state of Alabama.
“We are the museum for the state of Alabama,” she said. “That means we represent all Alabamians. We don’t have any choice in that matter, and I’m glad. I wouldn’t be affiliated with it if we were a museum only for a certain segment of the state, whether defined by race, gender or geographic location.”
Boyd declined to comment directly on Elliott’s bill, saying that she has not yet seen the legislation. She said the trustees come from all over the state.
We are the museum for the state of Alabama. That means we represent all Alabamians. We don't have any choice in that matter, and I'm glad. I wouldn't be affiliated with it if we were a museum only for a certain segment of the state, whether defined by race, gender or geographic location.
– Delores Boyd, chair, Alabama Department of Archives and History Board of Trustees
“So, I’m happy to look at what he’s proposing but even more importantly, happy to meet him,” she said. “I don’t really know him. I have not met him. Be happy to sit down with him along with our executive director and try to get an understanding on why he believes there’s a need for a change in our composition.”
She said that she’s hopeful that they can sit down soon and that their lines of communication are open.
“I affirm our continuing transparency, our continuing desire to sit with any and all legislators,” she said. “I attended, for example, the lecture that he found objectionable. I would have loved to have seen him and others here, but they weren’t. But that’s neither here nor there.”
Elliott, in a phone conversation Wednesday with the Reflector, that he has spoken with Murray throughout this process, and he has spoken with at least one board member throughout the process who has concerns about the direction of the Archives. He declined to provide the board member’s name.
“I can go talk to individual board members,” he said.” My number is published, my email address is published, I have an office in Montgomery and two in my district. If they want to reach out, they could have and should have but I’ve talked to the executive director about this a lot, as have other members.”
He said that the plan is still to move to an appointed board. He said there will likely be some geographical component.
Brown completed his report to the trustees on the legislative session to the Board with the report of one high-profile bill passed during the session.
“We have a new state cookie,” he said.
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