New in the ADAH Collections: Alabama Department of Commerce

In August 2018, Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) Records Management and Collections staff worked together to process and permanently transfer several boxes of records from the Alabama Department of Commerce to the ADAH archival holdings.

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama digitized from Commerce’s transmittal. Pictured center is the Regions Center (originally named the “First National-Southern Natural Building” in 1972). The Regions Center is the current home of the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Birmingham region’s economic development organization and a member of the Export Alabama Alliance.

The Department of Commerce has a long history dating back to 1968, a period of economic decline for Alabama’s economy. Governor Albert P. Brewer created the Alabama Program Development Office to recruit new industry to the state. In 1969, this agency merged with the State Planning and Industrial Board, which had existed since 1935, to become the Alabama Development Office (ADO). The State Planning and Industrial Development Board split from ADO in 1979 and reformed as the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). In 2012, Alabama Act 2012-167 changed ADO’s name to the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Today, the Alabama Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) promotes economic development of Alabama’s business and industrial resources by:

  • Advocating for minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned, and rural small businesses in Alabama
  • Recruiting new businesses and foreign direct investment (FDI) to the state
  • Promoting the state’s exports and helping Alabama businesses establish international trade relationships
  • Maintaining partnerships with economic development coalitions in Europe and Asia

While working with Commerce staff on a revision to their Records Disposition Authority (RDA) approved by the State Records Commission in October 2018, ADAH staff collaborated with Commerce to clean up records stored in the agency’s basement. They determined which records had met their minimum required retention per the RDA and could therefore be destroyed and which records were permanent and could be transferred to the Archives.

Commerce transferred records identified as permanent or potentially permanent to the Archives on a temporary basis for further processing. These records included publications and publicity files such as newsletters, annual reports, press releases, posters, and prints; trade mission files, including itineraries, reports, and mission booklets describing the efforts of small businesses to form trade partnerships abroad; economic development files documenting the establishment of industries in the state, such as the Mercedes Benz manufacturing plant in Tuscaloosa County; and various administrative files, including one box of photographs and slides.

Color print entitled “Minerals Map of Alabama” (Map 193) is the base map modified in 1973 by Oscar E. Gilbert from the Geological Survey of Alabama. Text written by Everett Smith, 1983.

At the end of the processing project, ADAH staff formally transmitted sixteen boxes of records and artifacts.

Researchers interested in the Department of Commerce’s archival collections can access these materials by visiting the ADAH Research Room.

Introducing the FY 2019 Annual Report of the ADAH Records Management Section

The Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) Records Management Section recently completed its first published Annual Report of activities. The Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report gives readers a look into Archival Appraisal/Records Management work and provides key updates from October 2018 to September 2019.

The 19-page report includes highlights from the State and Local Government Records Commission meetings, permanent records transmittal, and records management activities for state and local governments.

State agencies transferred 527 cubic feet of permanent records in FY2019 to the ADAH. Some examples of those transmittals include 18 cubic feet of audio recordings, video, and images of field records from the State Council on the Arts; 7 cubic feet of negatives and photographs from Governor Fob James’ administration, and Department of Mental Health patient admission records from Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa dating from 1861 to 1952.

Each year, Records Management Section staff assist agencies by providing free, on-site records-management training. For FY 2019, staff conducted 76 total outreach sessions with 548 attendees and answered 1,386 total inquiries from state and local governments.

Destroying eligible obsolete temporary records is an important component of records management, so that limited resources can be focused on historic permanent and active records. As such, staff reviewed destruction notices covering over 27,000 cubic feet of local government records, while state agencies reported over 28,000 cubic feet of obsolete records destruction for FY 2019.

The report also spotlights the Alabama State Electronic Records Project (ASERP), which concluded in December 2019, and our ongoing work on the long-term preservation of born-digital records, including making several collections available online including Governor Bob Riley Office Files; Governor Bob Riley Photographs; House and Senate Journals; and state agency publications such as annual reports and newsletters.

Records Management Section staff work with state and local agencies to organize, manage, and preserve their records for long-term access. This work is vital to the preservation of government records for the benefit of current and future generations of Alabamians. If you have any questions or are interested in training, please reach out to the Records Management staff.