THREE ETHNOGRAPHIC EXHIBITS
The materials were simple. The visuals: driven by family artifacts and photographs. The text: by archival sources, oral histories, and some pretty heavy-duty peer reviewed studies. Communities came together to donate documents, photos, family heirlooms, and their stories. They formed workgroups, wrote grants, and offered guidance the entire way, from development to installation. We were responsive to our collaborators while keeping the project moving forward, and because of that, we told authentic stories – their stories – on time and on budget.
A Place of Our Own:
The Fourth Avenue District and the Rise of Birmingham’s Black Middle Class
Utter the phrase "Birmingham civil rights movement" and we’re immediately taken back to the direct action campaigns of the 1960s. But the seeds of the movement led by Dr. King and Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth were sown decades earlier, in the building of churches and schools, the development of a distinctive black economy, and the forming of a cohesive community that would one day overcome. It is an oft-overlooked story we were honored to help bring to the public’s attention.
See a short documentary about A Place of Our Own here.
Read about A Place of Our Own in the press here.
La Storia: Birmingham's Italian Community
Their ancestors were mostly Sicilians who landed in the United States, either at Ellis Island or New Orleans. They eventually came to Birmingham to seek employment in coal mines and steel mills. To document this story, the Italian American Heritage Society of Birmingham assembled hundreds of artifacts, letters, and photographs. With some assistance from honors students at UAB, we ran oral history and artifact collection days, wrote exhibit text, and helped the Italian American Heritage Society develop what will eventually become a cost-effective permanent exhibit in their own museum.
Beyond Barbecue and Baklava: Greek Immigration
It started off as an exhibit inspired by the foodways of Birmingham’s Greek community. But representatives from the Greek community wanted to expand the scope, to explore economic, religious, and social history. We incorporated their vision into ours. After its Linn-Henley Gallery run, Beyond Barbecue and Baklava is now installed at the city’s Greek Orthodox Church. Trusting us to tell their story then mounting the exhibit in the center of Birmingham’s Greek community, we feel, speaks volumes.
See a short documentary about Beyond Barbecue and Baklava here.
Read about Beyond Barbecue and Baklava in the press here.
"Backstory was enormously helpful to us during the bicentennial commemoration, including conceptualizing and creating Alabama Justice: The Cases and Faces that Changed a Nation, one of the bicentennial signature exhibits. Phil and his staff bring knowledge, brains, and creativity to all they do and are true colleagues."
- Jay Lamar, Executive Director
Alabama Bicentennial Commission