The Consortium sites include properties that are large and small, urban and rural, religious and secular with various governance structures. Recognizing this wide range of challenges, the Consortium strives to build their capacity for sustainability regardless of their current stage of development. Priorities for programs and services developed in response to needs as defined by the sites through a series of needs assessments, surveys, meetings and discussion. With that input, the Consortium’s work focuses on five strategic areas.
- Increased Visibility (Local, regional and national) – The Consortium’s public relations strategy included media coverage, regional promotional events as well as an online presence that includes a website, social media and e-newsletter. Its distinctive logo appears in print and digital brochures as well as banners and rack cards displayed at each site.
- Professional development – Site representatives are committed volunteers from diverse career fields and have benefited from training led by skilled professionals in the fields of preservation, organizational development, fundraising, grant writing, information technology, archival best practices, tourism and interpretation.
- Documentation – The Consortium’s ongoing documentation efforts focus on two areas: collection and digitization of documents and collection of oral histories. Each site retains ownership of original materials, receives hard copies and has digital access to all documents. These collections will be made accessible to the public through a digital archives.
- Access to Resources – With new connections to funding agencies, Consortium sites have received local and federal grants, including more than $6.3 million in civil rights grants from the National Park Service from 2018 – 2020. A funder supported mini-grant program that provided competitive awards to individual sites.
- Education and Outreach: Consortium site representatives identified engaging a generation as a critical need. To address this need, the Consortium develops initiatives focused on youth development, curriculum resources, and teacher training. The Consortium works with the sites to build their capacity to benefit from growing interest in civil rights tourism.
Click on the Program Titles below to view details.
WORLD MONUMENTS FUND ANNOUNCEMENT EVENTS:
In October 2017, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced that the Alabama African American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium (AAACRHSC) was selected for the 2018 WMF Watch at the annual gala in New York City. In early 2018, AAACRHSC hosted a state and local media event to announce the WMF Watch designation as well as a series of WMF Watch announcement events in Selma, Montgomery and Selma featuring U.S. Representative Terri Sewell.
The Consortium email newsletter is sent out to more than 1,000 subscribers. It features updates from the sites, announcements of upcoming events, and information about funding and professional development opportunities.
In 2019, the Consortium produced a comprehensive brochure with its newly designed logo. The 24-page booklet is a fold-out directory that features photos and information about each site . Individual rack cards for each site were also printed and distributed to use for tourism and awareness campaigns . The sites located in Selma and the Black Belt printed an additional brochure for their region . Information from the brochure was replicated for each of the twenty sites on individual pop-up banners that were distributed for display at their historic location. The Consortium maintains one large banner stand that features all 20 sites.
To view the online version of the brochure booklet, visit https://spark.adobe.com/page/7iBs4K2edYuEe/
When the Consortium became an independent organization, it also created a distinct online presence that includes a website (www.aaacrhsc.org) and social media profiles on these platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram . In 2020, the Consortium conducted an online needs assessment to help each site identify its website and social media needs
Site representatives are committed volunteers from diverse career fields and have benefited from training led by skilled professionals in the fields of preservation, organizational development, fundraising, grant writing, information technology, archival best practices, tourism and interpretation.
Annual fall convenings focus on projects and skills identified as part of the surveys and needs assessment. Site representatives provide updates, ask questions and share information. This informal networking has proven to be one of the Consortium’s greatest strengths. Agendas have included the Website launch, training on National Park Service grants, documentation and archival storage, organizational development and fundraising, and creative placemaking.
JUNE 2018 TRAINING RETREAT I: BUILDING FOR SUSTAINABILITY
This retreat introduced the Consortium participants to local, state and national resources for historic preservation. Presenters included representatives from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Partners for Sacred Places, Alabama Historical Commission, Alabama Department of Tourism, Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation, Birmingham Office of Community Development, Montgomery Office of City Planning, West Alabama (Black Belt) Economic Development, and Selma Office of Economic Development
JUNE 2019 TRAINING RETREAT II: TOURISM AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION
Presentations and discussion on current trends in civil rights tourism and site interpretation included the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Alabama Department of Tourism, Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, Selma Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham Visitors and Convention Bureau, and interpretation consultants. Tuskegee University hosted a hands-on preservation workshop with sessions led by faculty and students from its School of Architecture Historic Preservation Program.
2019 ASSOCIATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUMS CONFERENCE
Site representatives who met specific attendance criteria were eligible to attend the Association of African American Museums Conference in Jackson, Mississippi, with support from the Office of Strategic Partnerships of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Participants attended conference sessions, completed pre- and post-surveys, and provided written and oral reports to their Consortium colleagues.
COLLECTION AND PRESERVATION OF RECORDS: The Consortium’s ongoing documentation efforts focus on two areas: collection and digitization of paper records and collection of oral histories that will eventually be housed in the AAACRHSC digital archives. Each site retains ownership of original materials and receives hard copies and digital access to all documents. Sites received an honorarium for their assistance with the oral history and HABS photography projects.
VOICES OF ALABAMA: ORAL HISTORY PROJECT 2018-19
In partnership with World Monuments Fund, AAACRHSC coordinated oral history interviews with representatives from Consortium sites. Alabama Public Television videotaped the interviews from
September through December 2018. The World Monuments Fund edited the interviews to create the webspace with the interviews and related historical resources. The online Voices of Alabama webspace was launched at an event at the New York Times Center in New York on October 1, 2019. Visit: https://voicesofalabama.org
HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY PHOTOGRAPHY
National Park Service photographer Jarob Ortiz’s first large format digital assignment was to shoot architectural photographs of the Consortium historic buildings for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). These photos and background information are available to researchers and the public electronically via the HABS website housed at the Library of Congress. NPS also used these materials to create the Alabama African American Civil Rights Sites Story Map.
CONNECTIONS TO FUNDERS
Fundraising professionals as well as current and potential funders have participated in Consortium retreats and workshops including the Educational Foundation of America, J.M. Kaplan Fund, National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Fund for Sacred Places, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Black Belt Community Foundation, and Community Foundation of Central Alabama, and the Alabama Historical Commission. Consortium sites have received local and federal grants, including $6.3 million in civil rights grants from the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grants program between 2018 and 2020.
J.M. KAPLAN MINIGRANTS
With support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, AAACRHSC has administered two rounds of mini-grants (up to $5,000) for Consortium sites. In 2019, eleven sites received funds for capacity building projects including historic site repair/restoration/design, financial management; website and public Relations; and visitor experience. In 2020, eleven sites received funds to develop or improve their websites and social media presence.
TOURISM: The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in cultural heritage tourism in general and civil rights tourism specifically. Prior to the Pandemic, Alabama experienced an unprecedented growth in the number of visitors to the state. In addition to hosting tours by funders, AAACRHSC collaborated with the Alabama Civil Rights Tourism Association to promote civil rights tourism at international and national conferences. Tourism consultant Dr. Bouyer conducted a Tourism Readiness Assessments that included site visits, an assessment report and follow-up phone calls to help site representatives identify priorities and next steps. AAACRHSC is committed to working with sites and tour operators to create a cohesive, accurate and effective approach to historic interpretation to enhance the visitor experience. The Consortium focuses on equitable tourism to assure that the places and communities that created the history benefit from this visitation.
EDUCATION: The Consortium Legacy Youth Leadership is a major initiative to engage high school students. Supported by a two-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), the Consortium Legacy Youth Leadership program will expand BCRI’s successful Legacy Youth Leadership Program with a focus on Consortium sites in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham. Delayed because of Covid-19, the project launched with a series of virtual workshops in February 2021.
Although the Coronavirus Pandemic presented challenges, it also provided the opportunity for innovation. While major in-person events and workshops planned for March, April and June 2020 were postponed, new approaches and initiatives emerged. Zoom meetings became an essential tool to maintain connection and communication with the sites. All workshop sessions were recorded and made available to all Consortium sites.
- April 14 – Site check-in and updates about the impact of the pandemic, community outreach efforts and implementation of the strategic plan. (Kaplan Fund supported community outreach efforts by providing gloves that were distributed to the sites.)
- April 28 – Updates about Consortium promotion efforts, drop box resources and social media, software for tourism (booking and virtual tours), Alabama Humanities Foundation Covid-19 grants, and planning for individual site calls to follow-up on tourism assessments visits with Dr. Martha Bouyer.
- May 6 – Social media workshop with Athena Richardson.
- May 18 – Introduced Website Needs Assessment to be conducted by Kiah Graham, Sirius Web Solutions.
- Updates on organizational development and transition from Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, tourism readiness calls and ongoing documentation project. Discussed virtual workshops instead of June training retreat and September convening.
- August 18 – Announced and reviewed application form for Technology Support Mini-Grants. Presentation from Timelooper informing the sites about free virtual tour development offered by the company in 2020 in response to Covid.
- October 1 – Fall 2020 Virtual Workshop I: Consortium Updates and presentation by National Park Service Grant African American Civil Rights Grants program officer Demetra Rhone.
- November 5 – Fall 2020 Virtual Workshop II: Non-profit Management and State Funders Panel
- Presenters were David Miller, Proskauer Law Firm; Graydon Rust, Alabama Humanities Foundation; Hannah Garmon, Alabama Historical Commission; Clare Watson, Central Alabama Community Foundation; Nicole Standridge, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham; and Christopher Spencer, Black Belt Community Foundation.
- December 3 – Fall 2020 Virtual Workshop III: Tourism: 2020-2021 and Virtual Tours
- Presenters were Sheryl Ellis, Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau; Sheryl Smedley, Selma Chamber of Commerce; Lydia Chatmon, Selma Tourism Roundtable; Dawn Hathcock, Montgomery Chamber of Commerce/Visit Montgomery; A.C. Reeves, Tour Selma; Michelle Browder, I Am More Than Tours; Martha Bouyer, Out of the Box Consultants; and Theodore Debro, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.