State Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, announced last month his intentions to file a bill during the upcoming special session that would reroute $5 million away from the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
If it were to pass, the reduction in funding would represent a 34.4 percent reduction in the state’s funding from the amount it approved for the department just last month.
The department has big plans for the appropriations though none of the funding has been committed yet.
“The ADAH has launched a major capital project to expand and enhance the Museum of Alabama, the state history museum located at the ADAH in Montgomery,” the department describes in a promotional flier. “Planning for this new phase of work began in 2022, and installation is scheduled to begin in mid-2025. New exhibits will open in early 2026, when the agency will mark its 125th anniversary of service to the state and the 250th anniversary of the founding of the nation. Funding for the project is provided by a 2023 supplemental appropriation by the Legislature, to be matched with support from the Alabama Archives and History Foundation.”
The improvements include an all-new children’s gallery for children ages 2 through 10 to engage with history through play, new exhibits featuring Alabama military stories and stories of Alabama’s first peoples (Native Americans), and updates to the museum’s 10-year-old centerpiece exhibit Alabama Voices.
A portion of the money is also planned to purchase a site for future construction to expand the department for the first time since 2005.
“As collections and services of the ADAH continue to grow, the current building’s capacity is rapidly nearing its limit,” the department said. “Periodic expansion of the agency’s facilities has been necessary throughout our history, with building projects being completed in 1907, 1940, 1974, and 2005. We are again at the point of requiring additional, environmentally sound storage capacity as well as new space for 21st-century functions such as digitization and the management of electronic records.”
The department relies almost entirely on state funding to carry out its mission — the budget includes up to $100,000 for a federal grant, which Murray said the department did not win this year, and is also estimated to generate about $700,000 through the Archies Services Fund.
Elliott’s bill is a response to the department hosting a lecture that highlighted the relative lack of historical documentation of the gay rights movement in the state.
“I know a number of legislators, including myself, asked the director to cancel that program and to not move forward with it, and they have doubled down on their position and went ahead with the program despite numerous concerns,” Elliott told 1819 News. “And that’s fine, but the legislature also has the ability to manage appropriations, and I think that there’s an appetite to do that here soon.”
Elliott is filing the bill despite being aware that the program was not funded by the state, as shown in an exchange of text messages between Elliott and ADAH director Steve Murray, obtained by AL.com‘s Kyle Whitmire.