Archives and History expanding to reach new generations

Alabama Living Magazine

By Carrie Banks

The award-winning Alabama Voices exhibit will be enhanced with new audiovisual equipment, lighting, and scenic elements, along with interactive stations and digital labels to accommodate the evolving learning styles of visitors in the digital age. Photos courtesy Department of Archives and History

Alabama has a vibrant, multilayered history, and the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) has been the caretaker of our individual and collective stories since its inception in 1901 as the first state-funded historical and archival agency in the country.

As the ADAH approaches its 125th anniversary, it is expanding and enhancing several of its popular Museum of Alabama exhibits to help celebrate this milestone in 2026.

ADAH Director Steve Murray says the projects will help the museum speak to new generations. “These upcoming improvements will build on the foundation we began more than a decade ago that expanded our K-12 services and our capacity to serve the public in the digital sphere,” he says. “They will be a significant springboard to enhanced engagement with audiences and an ongoing demonstration of the relevance of our history.”

Alabama Voices expands

Since 2014, the ADAH’s centerpiece exhibition, Alabama Voices, has told the story of Alabama from 1700 to the current day to thousands of schoolchildren, Alabamians, and visitors from around the globe. To enhance this award-winning exhibit for a new generation, outdated audiovisual equipment, lighting, and scenic elements will be replaced and additional interactive stations as well as digital labels will be installed to accommodate the evolving learning styles of visitors in the digital age.

New Children’s Gallery

For many years, one of the most popular areas of the ADAH has been Grandma’s Attic, an interactive play space where children can talk in a telephone booth, try on vintage clothes, type on a typewriter, cook over a stove, or attend or teach school. Over the next two years, Grandma’s Attic will become a new, reimagined Children’s Gallery intentionally designed for the youngest visitors, ages 2 to 10.

More than 19,000 schoolchildren in grades K-12 visited the Archives in 2023.

The new Children’s Gallery will feature flexible learning stations that include the most popular activities from Grandma’s Attic as well as age-appropriate Alabama history topics. Because of its focus on engaging history and civics concepts through play, this new gallery will also function as a learning lab that equips families and educators with ideas, methods, and content to share as their young students continue to learn while having fun. 

Redesigned gallery will explore The First Peoples of Alabama 

In 2011, The First Alabamians gallery opened and was immediately popular for school field trips and the public. However, because many of the artifacts displayed were taken from Native American burial sites during the early 20th century, the ADAH closed The First Alabamians in 2022 out of respect for its tribal partners. The ADAH is now actively working with tribal representatives and scholars to envision a new presentation of the complex, multi-layered story of our state’s first peoples through interactive programs, artifacts, reproductions, and graphics not based on funerary items.

Permanent gallery shares military stories

Guided by an advisory group of veterans, active-duty service members and scholars, a new gallery will share the experiences of Alabamians in military service and explore the effects of service on lives and communities during times of war and peace. This new interpretation will be designed to honor military history and expand the visitor’s understanding of the courage and cost that comes with answering the call of duty.  

A new permanent gallery will share the experiences of Alabamians in military service.

Our stories live here 

The ADAH is dedicated to collecting and preserving the state’s historical materials to share thoughtful versions of Alabama’s stories so visitors will understand that Alabama’s history is for everyone. In addition to preserving history and developing educational programming, the ADAH operates a dynamic and recently redesigned website ( that serves as a resource for local governments, libraries, educators, and the public.

Announcements for upcoming public programs and new exhibitions are regularly added to the site’s homepage, where visitors will also find a link to the online museum store featuring Alabama books, artists, and handmade products. The site also features access to the ADAH’s extensive digital collections (photos, maps, films, manuscripts), electronic records collections, and multiple databases. Additional resources are available to in-person visitors. 

“We are ever mindful that the work performed at the ADAH today rests on the foundations laid by our founders and the frameworks built by succeeding generations of committed board members and staff,” Murray says. “We are merely the current generation of stewards with the awesome responsibility of caring for the public’s resources on their behalf.”

The Department of Archives and History is located across from the State Capitol in downtown Montgomery.

Located across the street from Alabama’s State Capitol in downtown Montgomery, the ADAH, including the Museum of Alabama, is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with guided tours available for groups of 15 or more. The Archives Research Room is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission and cost for group tours are always free.

ADAH by the numbers in fiscal year 2023: 

  • Total archival holdings: 72,403 cubic feet
  • Total museum artifact collection:  More than 400,000 objects
  • Museum visitors in FY23: 30,191
  • K-12 visitors: 19,209
  • 99% of teachers surveyed rated their Museum of Alabama field trip experience as “excellent”
  • 915,612 digitized items are available at
  • 47 public programs were presented in FY23, totaling 51.5 hours and are available on YouTube


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