By: Elizabeth Bradt and Betty Slowe, Tuscaloosa Area Virtual Museum volunteers
If you can’t get enough of the Tuscaloosa area historic photos and documents, try visiting the Tuscaloosa Area Virtual Museum.
For example, if you are interested in the Bryce Hospital campus now that it has been purchased by the University of Alabama, you may have found the book, The Alabama State Hospitals and the Partlow State School and Hospital: A Brief History by James Sidney Tarwater (RC445.A2 T89) in Hoole under both the Rucker Agee and the Alabama collection. In the Tuscaloosa Area Virtual Library, you can find a photograph and biographical information about Tarwater.
The Tuscaloosa Area Virtual Museum (TAVM) is an online archive of historic photos and documents of Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area. The photos come from a variety of sources creating a valuable resource for history lovers and students to access for free. The Tuscaloosa News, the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society, the Heritage Commission, the city of Tuscaloosa, the Paul W. Bryant Museum, Friends of Historic Northport, Stillman College, and private collectors all contribute photos and documents to TAVM for educational purposes.
The museum is purely digital, existing only on the internet. The staff is all-volunteer; many are librarians or archivists, some are business people and collectors, but all have an interest in the history of the area and a desire to make it easily available to those who want to learn about it. The project was started with the help of Dr. Steven MacCall from The University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies. MacCall used the project in a metadata class, with students selecting and exploring the software that was ultimately used. MacCall also provided interns to help scan and catalog a large number of photos at The Tuscaloosa News.
TAVM does not retain hard copies of the photographs or documents. The originals are scanned, researched, cataloged and saved to the website. Originals go back to the owner or, if the owner does not want them, they are given to a local historical agency for preservation.
Though still in its infancy, TAVM has over 1100 photos and documents, some accompanied by audio. The staff has begun developing lesson plans for middle school students. Finding answers in TAVM to ten questions about the history of Tuscaloosa allows students to develop search strategies for online research while learning interesting facts about their hometown and seeing life as it was in the past.
If you find you are interested in the history of the area and have a few hours to work, consider donating your time and talents to the museum. Reach Jennie Claybrook at 205-348-5820 for information on how you can help.