Alabama Department of Archives and History Self-Guided Tour

We are glad you decided to visit the Alabama Department of Archives and History. This guide is intended to help you and your students prepare for your visit. The information below will give you an introduction to the department with links to further information or images of artifacts or galleries you will see on your tour.

Lawn and Exterior of the Building
Your tour can start outside. The Alabama Department of Archives and History, founded in 1901, is the oldest state-funded archival agency in the United States. The Archives building was built during the New Deal by the W.P.A. and was dedicated in 1940. Before the new building was constructed, the archives and museum were in the capitol building. A new west wing was added to the Archives in 2005. We hope to open a new history museum in the west wing in 2009. As you walk up the steps from Washington Avenue you might tell your students that thousands of volumes of old Alabama newspapers are stored underneath the steps and terraces.

The lawn of the Archives building contains many native Alabama plants and several official emblems of Alabama. Can your students identify and find the Alabama state tree, the Southern Longleaf Pine; the official Alabama wildflower, the Oak-leaf Hydrangea; and the official state flower, the Camellia? Your class may want to plan to picnic on the lawn.

Bronze map of Alabama
In front of the building near the sidewalk on Washington Avenue is a very large bronze map of Alabama, decorated with images which tell the story of the state. Here you can find everything from the Boll Weevil monument in Enterprise to rockets in Huntsville and a Mobile Mardi Gras mask. Stop by and “walk across Alabama.” Help your students locate the image for your county or area and see how many others they can identify. Click here for a guide to the bronze map.

1st Floor
1st Floor Lobby - Once you enter the Archives building stop at the lobby desk to sign in and register your tour group. Then step back and admire the beauty of the building. The walls are covered with beautiful white Alabama marble. The floors are made of harder Tennessee marble. Look up at the gold leaf on the ceiling.

Statuary Hall - At the back of the 1st floor lobby at the Adams Avenue entrance you are in statuary hall. When the Archives building was built in the late 1930s it was designated as the World War Memorial to honor the soldiers who served in WWI. (Remind your students that the U.S. had not yet entered World War II when the building was dedicated in 1940.) The designation as the World War Memorial appears above the Adams Avenue entrance to the Archives. The largest statue in statuary hall is called "The Hiker." It depicts a soldier from the Spanish-American War. There are other bronze busts of famous 19th Century Alabamians in Statuary Hall. Here you can find busts of William C. Oates, Braxton Bragg Comer, George Washington Carver, Robert Bullard, Booker T. Washington, Richmond Pearson Hobson, Joseph Wheeler and William Crawford Gorgas.

The research room, auditoriums, and a gift shop are also located on the first floor. The Archives has records created by Alabama government officials, including records of all governors starting with William Wyatt Bibb in 1819; private records such as diaries and letters created by Alabamians; and other historic materials such as photographs, maps, newspapers, and books. Many people come to the Archives to trace their family history through census records and vital records like birth, death, and marriage records. The gift shop sells Alabama history-related souvenirs and books, largely targeted at elementary aged children. The Ocllo Malone Lobby in the west wing has an interesting mural which depicts aspects of Alabama painted by David Braly and two large bronze doors created by artist Nathan Glick, which illustrate events in early Alabama history.

Click here for an African American Research Guide.

Second Floor
Most of the museum exhibits are located on the second floor of the Archives building. The second floor columns and walls are made of Alabama marble, like on the first floor. You can see the capitol building from the second floor lobby windows. Portraits of famous people in Alabama history are on the walls on the second and third floors. On the second floor you can find portraits of Rosa Parks, Andrew Jackson, John Pelham, and Sequoyah. The second floor also has several galleries and/or exhibits, each with its own theme:

Selma to Montgomery March Photograph Exhibit - A large photograph exhibit is in the middle of the second floor lobby. These photographs were taken by Spider Martin, a well-known Alabama photographer, during the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. The photos depict civil rights leaders such as Martin and Coretta Scott King, as well everyday people who participated in the walk from Selma to Montgomery and in the large rally in front of the capitol at the end of the march. Students can view the photos and look out the windows toward the capitol to imagine the scene in 1965. Please note that photography is not permitted at this exhibit.

Stilled Voices, Forgotten Ways Gallery and Indian Removal Exhibit -- Turn right as you enter the second floor from the stairs to visit the Stilled Voices Forgotten Ways exhibit. This gallery tells the story of Alabama Indians from the earliest Paleo-Indians to removal during the Trail of Tears. The gallery includes numerous projectile points, decorative pottery and effigies, and trade goods. Highlights of the exhibits include the tooth of a mammoth, a larger-than-life portrait of Creek Chief William McIntosh, hand-drawn maps of Ft. Mims and Horseshoe Bend, and ear bobs and garters worn by Seminole leader Osceola, who was born in Alabama.

Alabama’s Own Military Gallery and Tattered Banners Gallery - Across the hall from the Indian Gallery is a gallery devoted to Alabamians at War, from the earliest Alabama militia units to soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Highlights of the gallery include a cannon from Ft. Toulouse, excellent displays of Civil War uniforms, guns, and swords; and materials from World War I and World War II . Students especially enjoy the display of typical items from a Civil War soldier’s knapsack.

Across the hall from the military gallery and beside the Indian Gallery is the small Tattered Banners gallery devoted to the preservation and conservation of the department’s Civil War flag collection. Flags of the Claiborne Guards, 22nd Alabama Infantry, 13th Alabama Infantry, and 18th Alabama Infantry regiments are displayed here, along with information about how museums preserve flags and other artifacts.

Alabama Sampler Gallery - At the other end of the hallway is a large gallery which displays a sample of other artifacts in the museum collections from the 19th and 20th centuries. Here you can find exhibits of clothing, jewelry, quilts, household goods, toys, firefighting equipment, and 19th century medical equipment. Highlights of this gallery include the State Bible, the State Quilt - the Pine Burr Quilt , a slave collar, an amputation kit used during the Civil War by Dr. Hugh Caffey, the statue of Minerva from the Eufaula Female Academy, materials relating to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Hank Williams’ guitar and clothes.

Hands-On Gallery
The Hands-on Gallery is in the middle of the hallway. This room is filled with hand-on history activities, from dress-up in Grandma’s Attic to Discovery Boxes to explore various aspects of life in earlier times. Special exhibits are also found in this room, such as winners of the 2008 Mark Your Place in History Bookmark Contest.

Due to space and time restrictions, please limit students' visit to the Hands-on Gallery to 10 minutes in groups of 30 or less.

3rd Floor
Exhibits on the 3rd floor are limited to paintings and sculpture. On the third floor you can find portraits of George Washington Carver, William Crawford Gorgas, and former first lady Lori Siegelman. Here you can also see marble sculpture by Giuseppe Moretti , the designer of Birmingham’s Vulcan statue, and a marble plaque dedicated to Julia Tutwiler.

Return to ADAH Homepage

Updated: October 28, 2008
Alabama Department of Archives & History
624 Washington Avenue
Montgomery, Alabama 36130-0100
Phone: (334) 242-4435
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