Constructing and Deconstructing Archival Memory in Birmingham, Alabama: The Role of Local Collecting Institutions in Facilitating Social Justice

Jeffery Hirschy


In 1992, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute opened to the public after several years of argument, construction, and development. Why had the Institute been created? Was it to remember the heroic events of the Civil Right’s Movement, to gain tourist dollars, to correct the historical record, or a combination of these ideas? Whatever the reason, the Birmingham Civil Right’s Institute, and other museums and collecting institutions in the area, play an important and needed role in the story of Birmingham.

What is that role? Through education and research, collecting institutions like the Birmingham Civil Right’s Institute shine a light on important, but dark chapters, of Birmingham’s, the United States’, and the world’s history so that people cam remember, discover, and learn from those events. Whatever their size or affiliation, collecting institutions play a needed role in the search for social justice and transitional justice. Thinking about this, what roles have, and could, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Birmingham Public Library play in the search for social justice in Birmingham, Alabama?



I was born in Decatur, Indiana in the United States in 1987, graduated from Huntington University and a BA in History in History in 2010, a MA in History in 2013, and a MLIS in 2016. I am in my second semester of a PhD in Communication and Information Science at the University of Alabama. I have strong interests in Third World History, archives, social justice, transitional justice, truth and reconciliation commissions, and imperialism.