I am happy to announce that my book is finally available! Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History in Vintage Postcards, was released by NewSouth Books at the end of October. Nancy DuPree, my co-author and curator of the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection, and I worked for roughly a year and a half on the book. The postcards come from the Wade Hall Postcard Collection, which includes slightly under 2,000 prints from the first half of the twentieth century.
Nancy and I first selected 900 postcards from this collection based on their significance to the social, cultural, and economic history of Alabama. We then worked with NewSouth Books to choose approximately 400 postcards that would represent the entire state. Nancy and I proceeded to research each of these postcards and wrote captions that reflect how and why Alabamians represented themselves through these locations. The postcards capture the state as it embraced tourism, industrialization, and leisure.
Although he did not live to see its publication, we honored Wade Hall by listing him as an author. Dr. Hall was a fervent supporter of Special Collections at The University of Alabama and always wanted the postcards to be published. He understood that postcards capture sites at a specific moment in time and reveal what people found important within their community.
I am proud of my work on this project and I hope that people will have a chance to check it out. If you’d like to know more, Alabama Living interviewed Nancy and I about the project here: http://alabamaliving.coop/article/new-book-chronicles-alabamas-past-through-vintage-postcards/
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of welcoming one of Dr. Hilary Green’s class into the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection. While I have worked with Dr. Green in the past for a class on African American History, this one is titled “Civil War Still Lives!: Race, Memory, and Politics of Reunion.” The course focuses on Civil War memory and specifically asks students to examine the legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction at The University of Alabama.
I was particularly excited to work with Dr. Green’s class for two reasons. The first is that the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection is rich in sources regarding the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. We have an extensive collection of regimental histories, biographies and memoirs, published speeches, and photographs from the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the turn of the twentieth century. These sources provide valuable insight into which aspects of the Civil War would be remembered and promoted and which would be silenced in the pursuit of national reunification. Given our collection’s concentration on the Civil War, I was happy to expose Dr. Green’s class to this material and explain its historical importance.
Secondly, the instruction session allowed me to implement some of the advice I had learned from attending the American Historical Association conference in January. I attended a panel where Julie Golia, the Director of Public History at the Brooklyn Historical Society, explained the project that gave rise to TeachArchives.org. The Brooklyn Historical Society received a three-year grant in 2011 that allowed them to bring in 1,110 students from Long Island University Brooklyn, New York City College of Technology, and Saint Francis College and teach them to analyze original documents. The BHS sought to improve understanding of special collections research and effectively demystify the process of conducting primary source research. TeachArchives.org is the culmination of this project and provides invaluable guidance for teaching methods and instruction.
After attending the session, I decided that I would bring some of the strategies discussed on TeachArchives.org into my own instruction and outreach. For Dr. Green’s class, I expanded my explanation of the rules and regulations of a special collections library, explained the challenges that different materials like newspapers and photographs present, and provided a thorough list of examples of what can be used within the Williams Collection and UA’s Division of Special Collections as a whole. Instead of simply lecturing, I sat with the students and let the conversation flow to questions and concerns that they had. Overall, the session was much more relaxed than in previous classes and it seemed as though the students felt more prepared for their research. In the future I’ll continue to pull from TeachArchives.org as we expand our outreach and encourage students to visit and conduct research within our collections.
I’ve been busy! Since my last update, I’ve been hard at work in the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection at The University of Alabama. Right now, I am finishing up a project involving early twentieth-century Alabama postcards. The collection looks at how Alabama presented itself in the New South and how postcards captured the social, cultural, and economic development of the era. The project will eventually be part of a book which should be released later this year. In addition, I wrote a short piece on the cartes-de-visite in the Williams Collection that will appear in Alabama Heritage magazine this summer.
In mid-March, I presented on Likenesses Within the Reach of All at the Alabama Digital Humanities Center and explained how the process came about and the tools that I used to bring it all together. A few weeks later, I headed to South Bend, Indiana to present at the American Catholic Historical Association’s Spring Meeting. My talk explored the Ursuline convent burning of 1834, which, for those of you who know me, is a topic I’ve explored quite a bit in the past. It was well received and has encouraged me to finally brush up the article version for publication.
Today and tomorrow, I’ll be giving talks at Digitorium, ADHC’s inaugural digital humanities conference. Today will be a workshop on Google Fusion Tables and OpenRefine, while tomorrow will be a more formal panel on The Battle of Atlanta project I worked on at Emory University. These talks will help get me in the groove for my final talk this month, which will be a library-wide presentation on Likenesses.