Digitized Alabama House and Senate Journals Now Live on Preservica

The 1998-2018 Journals of the Alabama Senate went live in the Alabama Department of Archives and History Electronic Records Collections on September 1, 2019, joining the 1998-2018 Journals of the Alabama House of Representatives. This site provides access to born-digital records through Preservica, a cloud-based subscription service that provides access to electronic records and migrates file formats to ensure their long-term preservation.

The Journals of the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives detail the day-by-day proceedings of the state legislature. They record officer elections, committee assignments, and actions taken on legislation, as well as the governor’s annual State of the State Address. The legislative journals have been published from the establishment of the territorial legislature in 1818 to the present day.

The journals provide a critical piece of the puzzle when researching the legislative intent for bills. Researchers studying the published Acts of Alabama may determine which legislator introduced an Act as a bill and what number the bill was assigned, and then consult the House and Senate journals to research the bill. For bills and resolutions that never became Acts, researchers may consult the journals to study their journey from introduction to rejection.

For example, Governor Robert Bentley signed Act 2016-309 designating Lane Cake the official cake of Alabama. Named for its creator, Emma Rylander Lane, Lane Cake is a layered bourbon cake made with sponge cake, raisins, pecans, and flaked coconut. Senator Billy Beasley of Clayton sponsored Senate Bill 184 on April 28, 2016 “to designate the Lane Cake as the official state cake.” In the House, Representative John Knight offered an amendment to the bill, to replace “Lane” with “Elaine” (p. 1732).  On the motion of Representative Elaine Beech, Knight’s amendment was tabled with 46 “yeas” and 42 “nays” – a close call. Who said legislators didn’t have a sense of humor?

Another point of interest is the annual “Shroud Award,” a light-hearted tradition beginning in 1979. On the final day of the legislative session, this distinction goes to the representative who sponsored the “deadest piece of legislation.” In 2002, Representative Marcel Black received the award for House Joint Resolution 152, calling for a vote on the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention. The Shroud Award was announced with a poem:

       “A well-versed proposal that brought forth: 
Nutty professors with nothing else to do;
Menacing lawyers looking to sue;
Religious crusaders without a legal clue;
Think tank intellectuals not looking out for you;
Farming concerns interested in more than animals that moo;
Tax proponents and opponents both wailing boo hoo;
Newspaper editors with a single-minded view;
Those who cling to the old, and those who reach for the new;
And, assorted fruits, nuts, and berries from way out of the blue”
(p. 2740).

Find every Shroud Award as well as “dishonorable mentions” in the Journals of the Alabama House of Representatives.

Researchers may use the journals in other ways, such as to study the activities of the House or Senate in a given time period. If the journals mention a specific committee, researchers may follow up with the Committee Journal, if available, in the ADAH Research Room. Finally, the journals contain rosters of all the Senators and Representatives for each term. Genealogical researchers may use these rosters to find out about an ancestor’s participation in the House or Senate.

Ready to start researching?

This initiative was supported in part by a National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and the Office of the Governor.

Thinking Outside the Acid-Free Box on Electronic Records Day

The times might always be changing but thankfully resources exist to ensure that your agency’s records are just as accessible in the future as they are today. Thanks to a three-year grant provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) has launched a new initiative to preserve the permanent electronic records created by state agencies. With help from Preservica — a cloud-based subscription service that provides long-term access to a wide array of electronic records formats — ADAH plans to collaborate with state agency records liaisons to think outside the box as we ensure that today’s born-digital records can serve future generations of Alabamians.

In 2017, ADAH used Preservica to make publicly available over 3,500 born-digital files created by the Office of the Governor. Not only does Preservica provide access to the electronic files that originated from Governor Bob Riley’s administration, but the tool migrates the various electronic records formats to new formats that ensure their long-term preservation. The records are accessible to researchers through the Archives website. Check the website often as we add new files to our growing electronic records collections, including our most recent addition of House Journals from 1998 to 2017.

The NHPRC grant also provided funds to assist state agency records liaisons in the development and implementation of electronic records management best practices. ADAH has created new guidelines for handling incoming electronic storage media and is crafting procedures for managing e-mail.

With the NHPRC’s help, ADAH is better prepared to advise state agencies on electronic records management policies and to provide a long-term tool for preserving and accessing permanent digital records. If your agency is interested in learning more about ADAH’s electronic records management program, please contact Rebecca Hebert, State and Local Records Coordinator, at becky.hebert@archives.alabama.gov.