Governor Bob Riley’s Digital Photographs Now Live on Preservica

Digital photographs from Governor Bob Riley’s administration went live in the Alabama Department of Archives and History Electronic Records Collections on November 22, 2019, joining Governor Riley’s electronic office files. This site provides access to born-digital records through Preservica, a cloud-based subscription service that stores and migrates electronic file formats to ensure their long-term preservation.

Robert Renfroe “Bob” Riley was born in Talladega, Alabama in 1944. He grew up in the small town of Ashland, Alabama, where his family had worked on ranches and farms for six generations. In 1962, he graduated from Clay County High School and went on to pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Alabama. He married his high school sweetheart, Patsy Adams, whose father owned a drugstore down the street from the Riley’s family store in Ashland. Upon his graduation in 1965, Riley returned to his hometown to sell eggs door-to-door and ultimately grow several small businesses, including a car dealership, a trucking company, a real estate company, a grocery store, and a small pharmacy. In his first political stint, he served on the Ashland City Council from 1972 until 1976.

In 1996, after a long break from politics, Riley began his first of three terms as a Republican in the United States House of Representatives. In Alabama’s 2002 primary for governor, he defeated Tim James, the son of former governor Fob James. In the general election, he narrowly defeated the democratic incumbent, Don Siegelman, to become the 52nd governor of Alabama.

In his first term, Riley focused on tax reform. His Amendment One tax package would have provided income tax breaks for lower tax brackets and increased taxes for higher brackets. Amendment One passed in the legislature but was rejected by voters. Riley persisted, working with the legislature to raise the income level at which individuals had to begin paying state income tax.

Education was another high priority of Riley’s administration. By executive order, he established the Governor’s Education Spending Commission to make recommendations for improvements in education. Although the legislature did not act on most of the commission’s recommendations, Riley did obtain increased funding for reading initiatives and distance learning programs.

In his second term, Riley endeavored to end conflicts of interest in the Alabama State Board of Education’s supervision of the community college system. He enacted a policy in 2008 to prohibit state community college employees from legislative service.

To improve economic conditions, he established the Black Belt Action Committee and worked to attract new business to the state, such as Hyundai in Montgomery and ThyssenKrupp in Mobile. He opposed gambling and used raids and legal action to shut down state-regulated electronic-bingo casinos.

In 2011, shortly after Governor Riley left office, his administration transferred paper and electronic records, including over 1.58 terabytes of digital photographs and videos. Because of the Office of the Governor’s historical significance, each administration’s permanent records are transferred to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) at the end of the gubernatorial term.

Processing Governor Riley’s photographs required extensive “weeding.” Have you ever used “burst mode” with a phone camera to take several photos within a single second? Or have you taken twenty nearly identical pictures to get the perfect photo for Instagram? You wouldn’t want to keep every single one of these highly similar photos. Likewise, many of Riley’s photos were duplicates or alternate shots of the same person at the same event. The ADAH removed photographs that were blurry or duplicates so that researchers using Preservica will have to sort through less bulk.

Riley made hundreds of public appearances during his tenure. He publicly signed bills, presented proclamations, and made speeches like the annual State of the State Address. He spoke at a variety of venues, from schools, to businesses, to local rotary clubs. He participated in annual events like the Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning and the Christmas Tree Lighting. He also responded to crises in the state. Photographs of these events and others document not only Governor Riley, but the history of Alabama.

Ready to start researching?

  • Access Governor Riley’s Chief of Staff, Policy Office, and Press Office files with the ADAH Electronic Records Collections.
  • Access Governor Riley’s digital photographs in the ADAH Electronic Records Collections.
  • Access Governor Riley’s paper records in the ADAH Research Room. Paper records include clipping files, scheduling files, administrative files, correspondence files, project files, legal subject files, execution files, and more.


Alabama Governors: A Political History of the State. 2nd edition. Edited by Samuel L. Webb and Margaret E. Armbrester. University of Alabama Press, 2014.

“Bob Riley.” Alabama Governors. Alabama Department of Archives and History.

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.

State Agency Publications Now Live on Preservica

State agency publications premiered in the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s Electronic Records Collections on October 1, 2019. This site provides access to born-digital records through Preservica, a cloud-based service that ensures the long-term preservation of electronic file formats. The new collections include full-text publications produced electronically by Alabama state agencies. These collections are expected to grow as the Alabama Department of Archives and History continues to receive state publications.

The new collections, organized by state agency, include annual reports, newsletters, and bulletins. Annual reports may be informational, promotional, and/or statistical in nature. Many agencies issue reports on an annual or periodic basis to provide important information to the public or to their key audience. Some agencies are required by law to submit written reports to the governor each calendar or fiscal year. Annual reports typically describe the agency’s yearly activities, ongoing programs, accomplishments, announcements, challenges, and priorities. They may provide statistics, a valuable resource for future researchers. The annual reports of agencies which engage in licensing activities may contain rosters of licensed facilities or individuals. Newsletters and bulletins, on the other hand, contain news about the agency or industry and are regularly sent to subscribers. All of these state publications document critical activities, updates, industry developments, and interaction with the public. They provide a “snapshot in time” of agencies and therefore form a unique historical resource.

Some state publications document how agencies responded to key events in the state. Following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Alabama Department of Public Health’s (ADPH) October 2010 newsletter described how the ADPH responded to the crisis. In the first few weeks, ADPH staff worked in Mobile to collect health data and speak with the public and journalists about the health effects of the oil spill. They worked with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) to collect data and test samples, and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a survey of physical and mental health among residents in coastal areas. To study the potential long-term effects of the spill and help Alabama recover from the disaster, the ADPH joined two major efforts: (1) they launched a five-year study of fish and seafood products alongside the ADCNR in order to promote the consumption of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, and (2) they made a plan with ADEM and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine when swimming advisories could be lifted by sampling water and sand. These efforts were chronicled in ensuing ADPH newsletters.

The collections include state publications on a wide variety of topics, including the following:


State agencies such as the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) help to promote quality medical services for Alabama citizens. Other agencies, such as the Alabama Board of Nursing (ABN) and Alabama State Board of Chiropractic Examiners (ASBCE), regulate healthcare practitioners.

Professional licensing

Many agencies maintain licensing authority over professionals in their respective disciplines. Examples include the Home Builders Licensure Board, the Alabama State Board of Public Accountancy, and the Alabama Real Estate Appraisers Board.

Law enforcement and public safety

State agencies such as the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) help to ensure public safety in the state by educating citizens, enforcing laws, investigating crimes, and incarcerating criminals.

Social issues

Some state agencies advocate for specific groups of people living in Alabama. The Alabama Indian Affairs Commission (AIAC) and the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA), for example, provide meaningful programs and assistance to Native Americans and veterans, respectively, and promote their rights in the state.

Economics and community

State agencies such as the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and the Alabama Department of Revenue (ADOR) promote economic development and oversee financial assets in the state.


The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) is one of several state agencies that coordinate and/or oversee the state’s educational institutions and student population.


State agencies such as the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) maintain routes of travel and provide safe transportation systems in the state.

Ready to start researching? Access these electronic state publications and more in the ADAH Electronic Collections.

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.

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.

Preserving Alabama’s Musical Heritage: The Alabama State Council on the Arts Processing Project

In early June 2019, ADAH Appraisal and Collections staff teamed up to process records from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The records came from the office of Folklife Specialist Steve Grauberger, who served on the Council from 1998 until his retirement in 2017. As part of the Council’s mission to promote arts activities in Alabama, Mr. Grauberger recorded musical performances at churches, rehearsals, conventions, and other cultural events. His most significant contributions are hundreds of hours of field recordings of gospel and other folk music.

Alabama is to gospel what Mississippi is to the blues. No other state has such a rich, active, and well-documented tradition of gospel music. Perhaps the most significant part of this collection is its field recordings from the Sand Mountain and Wiregrass regions of Alabama, two hotbeds of gospel singing. One can hear diverse musical styles in these regions, from bluegrass, to gospel, to blues, to shape-note music.

Shape-Note Music from Wiregrass and Sand Mountain

There are two shape-note systems of singing: four-shape or “Fa-So-La,” and seven-shape or “Do-Re-Mi.” Sacred Harp uses the four-shape system and is performed a capella (voice only, without instruments). Unlike standard musical notation, Sacred Harp music uses printed shapes – ovals, diamonds, squares, and triangles – to help untrained singers read the music. Sacred Harp singers sit in a square with bass, alto, tenor, and soprano parts facing each other on each side. The National Sacred Harp Singing Convention is held in Alabama every June and draws singers from all over the United States.

Sacred Harp flourishes in both the Wiregrass and Sand Mountain regions of Alabama. Named for its tall native grass, the Wiregrass region in southeast Alabama – particularly the cities of Troy and Ozark – is the epicenter of African-American gospel.  Mr. Grauberger recorded extensively in this region.

Seven-shape note music is lesser known than Sacred Harp, yet extremely influential. Sand Mountain, a region spanning from northeast Alabama to southwestern Georgia, is a hub for both Sacred Harp and seven-shape note congregational hymn singing. Many popular hymns derive from this tradition, including “I’ll Fly Away,” “Victory in Jesus,” and “Standing on the Promises.” The collection features ample seven-shape field recordings and songbooks.

Gospel, Bluegrass, Blues, and Other Folk Music

Other highlights of the collection include the following field recordings:

  • Jubilee singers in the Jefferson County Quartet tradition, including but not limited to the Ensley Jubilee Singers, the Delta Aires Quartet, and the Shelby County Big Four.
  • The Sullivan Family Band: Margie and Enoch Sullivan and their family of St. Stephens, Alabama performed bluegrass gospel for over fifty years.
  • Blues guitarist J.W. Warren; blues harmonica player David Johnson, and blues one-man band Sonny Boy King.
  • Fiddler Noah Lacy of Jackson County, Alabama.
  • The Baldwin County Polka Band.
  • Mariachi Garibaldi of Montgomery, Alabama. (Fun Fact: Mariachi Garibaldi performed at the grand opening of the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s “Alabama Voices” exhibition in February of 2014.)

Processing the Collection

Folklife field recordings from the Alabama State Council on the Arts contain a variety of formats, from digital audio tapes (DAT), to cassettes, to compact discs (CDs), with performance recordings from as early as 1927 to as recent as 2015. Most of the recordings are audio recordings, but some consist of photographs and videos. After conducting an initial survey of the records, ADAH staff divided the field recordings by physical format and arranged them chronologically. We separated publicity records, including radio shows and other productions produced by the Council.

Explore Alabama Folklife

Researchers interested in Alabama folk culture and music can explore the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s Archive of Alabama Folk Culture (AAFC). The AAFC features fieldwork gathered by the Alabama Folklife Association, a partner program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture, a division of the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Researchers can access the most recent materials from the Alabama State Council on the Arts by visiting the Research Room at ADAH. While Reference staff are unable to provide access to some format types (DAT and reel-to-reel recordings, for example), they can provide access to the bulk of the collection. We recommend contacting Reference staff ahead of your visit to ensure that proper equipment is on hand.


Brennan, Grey. Henagar: The Sound of (Sacred Harp) music. Sweet Home Alabama. Retrieved from

Mahala Church, Mobile, Alabama (2009, August 24). National Sacred Harp Singing Convention, Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved from

Olliff, Martin T. (2018, November 29). Wiregrass region. Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved from

Reyes, Luisa Kay (2019, March 5). Southern shapes. Alabama Bicentennial. Retrieved from

Willett, Henry (1995, April). Voices raised, singing praise: Two centuries of sacred sounds in Alabama. Alabama State Council on the Arts. Retrieved from