|BPL Archivist Jim Baggett discussing southern history with visiting students.|
Birmingham Public Library Archivist Jim Baggett has been awarded the 2013 Virginia Van Der Veer Hamilton Award by the Alabama Historical Association. The award is presented to individuals who have made contributions to Alabama history which encourage joint historical endeavors and mutual understanding among nonprofessional and professional historians.
Jim’s focus throughout his career has been on public history—where lectures, tours, exhibitions, walking tours and other forms of outreach are used to engage the public. Jim conveys the history of Alabama by presenting lectures to schools, clubs, churches, genealogical societies and civic groups; through curating exhibitions of material from the Archives collection; and through his writing.
In addition to numerous articles and book reviews for popular and academic publications, he has edited, authored or co-authored five books, has presented papers on Alabama history at more than twenty scholarly conferences and has been featured on Alabama Public Television, Alabama Public Radio, National Public Radio and C-SPAN.
Jim has been active for many years with professional associations in Alabama and nationally. He has served as president of the Society of Alabama Archivists and chair of the Jefferson County Historical Commission. He has served on the boards of trustees for the Alabama Association of Historians and the Birmingham Historical Society and currently serves on the boards of the Alabama Historical Association and the University of Alabama Library School Association.
Through his work with public school teachers Jim encourages the inclusion of primary documents and oral history in public school curriculum as a way to enrich instruction and teach students the value of preserving the raw material of our history.
Jim’s love for Alabama history infuses not only his professional pursuits, but is tangible in his personal commitment to the field. This is apparent in the long hours he spends after work researching his latest writing project, extra time spent in BPL’s archives with academic researchers and curious citizens to help them with their questions, and the care he takes to bring young archivists and historians along in the field.
As National Public Radio correspondent Michele Norris writes in her recent book The Grace of Silence, “Jim is a researcher’s dream, smart and thorough and slightly obsessed with the small details that give a story weight and drama. … He is a steady and fair steward of the city’s troubled history.”