2013 Annual Meeting
September 18-21, 2013
Turning Points: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Change
Birmingham is a city which has reoriented its history, inspiring international human rights movements. It is the perfect place to think & talk about how stories of ordinary people and extraordinary change inspire and inform us, our publics, and our programs and outreach.
Focusing on the famous names of history neglects the unnamed people who insisted on their rights, worked together, and who were anything but ordinary in their courage and resolve. Founded in 1871 as a transportation and industrial center of the New South, Birmingham was nicknamed the “Magic City” for its fast growth. And it was the center of a movement that caught the attention of the world and led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Birmingham Pledge to eliminate prejudice. The 1963 Birmingham Summer transformed the city and changed the United States.
Fifty years after hundreds of young people stood solid for freedom. Fifty years after King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” articulated principles of nonviolence. Fifty years later we ask: If history is the example, the provocateur, and the context—how do we best use it today? How do you incorporate stories of ordinary people’s extraordinary lives in your institution? How can we build programs that deal directly with issues, making history interesting, relevant, useful, and human? What interesting and unusual techniques do you use to fulfill your organization’s mission? What kinds of program ideas are you trying out that are a little different than what you’ve always done? How do you encourage active involvement from your public? What have you tried that hasn’t been as successful as you want? How do you take the history your organization uses and connect it to people’s lives? How is change reflected in your institution’s programs? What ideas and examples are there in local history that can inspire us?
Birmingham is now a regionally diversified business, medical, and banking center. Its extraordinary people are reflected in its many historic sites. With classic southern charm and hospitality, this vibrant, beautiful city is nestled in the rolling foothills of the Appalachians. Birmingham’s central location makes everything from antebellum architecture to Native American mounds accessible through a short drive. The city’s downtown civil rights district is anchored by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Sixteenth Street Baptist, and Kelly Ingram Park, site of the 1963 demonstrations. From there, it’s an easy walk to the historic African American business district and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. The Birmingham Museum of Art, McWane Science Center, and Railroad Park are also in the central city. Vulcan Park and Museum and Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark interpret the city’s industrial history. Birmingham Public Library’s Linn-Henley Research Library, home to the impressive Ezra Winter murals and Alabama’s first municipal archives, is in walking distance of the conference hotel.
Like Birmingham, history organizations are changing the way they do things, taking issues and turning them into solutions, using ordinary people to tell extraordinary stories. For 2013, in the middle of the Civil War 150 commemoration, in the Magic City, join your colleagues for a lively joint meeting with AASLH and the International Coalition ofSites of Conscienceusing Birmingham’s example to challenge ourselves.