Municipal Archives FAQ's
Q: What type of records are at the Archives?
The Archives contains all of the extant public records of the City of Mobile, dating from the city's creation as an American municipality by the Mississippi Territory in 1814. The original records of Mobile's colonial history (1702-1813) are housed principally in Paris, London, Madrid and Seville. A variety of record types are preserved for research, such as resolutions, licenses, tax lists, minutes, etc., as well as maps, charts and extensive correspondence from various departments.
Q: Does the City of Mobile have birth or death certificates?
No, these records are at the following: Mobile County Health Department 251 North Bayou Street Mobile AL 36652 251-690-8150 www.mobilecountyhealth.org
Q: Does the City of Mobile have marriage licenses?
No, these records are at the following: Probate Court of Mobile County Record Department P.O. Box 7 Mobile AL 36601 251-574-8490 or 251-574-8492 www.mobile-county.net/probate
Q: What is the Records Center and where is it located?
The Records Center is a division of the Archives, housing the city's most recent non-current records. Here the records are temporarily stored upon reception from city agencies and offices. After the records are accessioned, they are arranged, inventoried by computer and made available for research until the records retention schedules become applicable. When time expires, said records are either destroyed (according to state law) or transferred to the Archives for permanent retention.
Q: What is the Archives?The Mobile Municipal Archives is a separate department of the city, administratively located under the City Clerk's Office (cf City Ordinance 02-036, adopted 1984; Code of Alabama, Title 37; Code of Mobile, 1955). It houses the official non-current records of the City Of Mobile, from 1814 to the present day, and makes them accessible to city officials as well as to the general public.
Q: Once records are released by a department and accessioned by the Archives, can they be reclaimed by the department depositing them?Once records are accessioned by the Archives, they are inventoried and indexed on the computer. They cannot then be removed by the granting agency. Records may be used at the Archives, of course, and copies can be made free of charge. In addition, records can be subpoenaed by the courts at any time.
Q: What services does the Archives staff provide local officials?Archives staff researches holding for requested information, locates documents, make and sends copies to department heads free of charge. Archives also provided Perma-Pak archival boxes to all departments and advises agency heads on their records problems, Archives staff is available for consultation to all department heads or records representatives, as time permits.
Q: How many records are in the Archives?Currently the Archives and Records Center houses over seven thousand cubic feet of records, or approximately seventeen million individual items.
Q: When was the Archives created?The Archives was established in September 1983 as a special project of the City of Mobile. In May 1984, City Ordinance 02-036 created a separate department of the city to be known as "the Mobile Municipal Archives and Records Service".
Q: What is the importance of Mobile's Archives and who are the prime users?The Mobile Municipal Archives contains one of the most valuable repositories of municipal records in the nation. Since Mobile is the oldest American city West of the Appalachians, and since the records are remarkably complete, the documents are nationally significant. The Archives is used primarily by city officials and by various groups in the general public, such as historians, archaeologist, genealogists, students, political candidates, writer, sociologist, realtors and lawyers. The archives has been used thus far by researchers from 29 states, 167 cities and six foreign countries. All records except those restricted by law are open to the public and to city officials. All that is required to use the records is to register at the Archives office.
Q: Does the Archives have a CAR (computer-assisted retrieval )program?The Archives implemented its CAR Computer-assisted retrieval) program in the spring of 1987, in order to help combat the mounting number of records flowing from 68 city departments and to satisfy the increasing demands made by city officials and the general public. Since the Archives began its computer program, its efficiency in managing the city's records program has improved dramatically. As a result, the Archives now conducts a modern records management program, utilizing it own customized programs as well as the latest CAR systems such as Wordstar 2000 and Mosaic Twin.
Q: Are any records restricted?
Certain records (such as police and personnel) subject to privacy statutes are restricted by state and federal law, but most are available for research. All records are used under the supervision of staff.
Q: What kind of finding aids are available?A guide to the Mobile Municipal Archives (Mobile, 1986) 96pp., serves as the chief general finding aid. In addition, the entire Archives has been inventoried. There are also various calendars, particularly for the earliest records (1814-1911), and numerous other specialized indexes on computer.
Q: What records are on microfilm?Nearly 1,000,000 records have been microfilmed, including most of the older records, 1814-1911. In addition all of the city's tax records, 1829-1954, have been filmed. In general, the records microfilmed are those which as old and/or especially delicate, those which are in a cumbersome format, and those which are heavily used. Originals of these microfilms are stored in a west Mobile bank.
Q: What records are disposed of?Records are disposed of according to procedure set forth by state law. The Archives, in general, follows the state retention schedules, but keeps some records longer when it appears those records have historical or research value. Records are usually destroyed only after 2-20 years in the Records Center of the Archives, and only after consent of city department heads, the Archivist and the State Local Government Records Commission.
Q: What is the procedure for sending records to the Archives?Any department head or representative wishing to store non-current records at the Archives should contact the Archivist or Assistant Archivist to set a date to transfer the records. Archives will send the necessary number of Perma-Pak boxes to the requesting agency. After boxing records from their filing cabinets, departments should then deliver boxes to the Archives. Both the Archivist and department heads must sign the acession form transferring records. Archives then inventories the records and sends the department heads a copy. In the event departments need copies of these records in the future, Archives will locate them and provide copies free of charge.
Q: Why are there gaps in the Archives records?Since 1814, fire, flood, theft and neglect have taken their toll on the city's records. Since the Archives was founded in 1983, however great care has been taken to prevent these "four horsemen" from renewing their attack. Microfilm duplicates have been made of nearly a million records from the 19th century and stringent policies have been set up to prevent future losses.
Q: What about the records of city officials who leave office?The records of all city officials are subject to state law (Act 87-658 (1987), which defines public records as "any written, typed or printed books, papers, letters, documents and maps made or received in pursuance of law by public officers in the transaction of public business." Any public official leaving office should carefully separate his purely personal records from his public records and forward the latter to the Archives. Illegal destruction or theft of public records by any city employee, official or citizen is a crime punishable by fine and imprisonment.
Q: What is the procedure for disposal of public records?First, the Records Manager prepares a disposal list, showing all records eligible for destruction by the state law (cf. State Retention Schedule). Next, department heads are asked to study the items listed and to pull any from those lists they fell might be useful to their departments in the future historical value. Finally, the corrected list is submitted to the State Local Government Records Commission in Montgomery. Once approved by said commission, the records are then destroyed.
Q: Who operates the Archives?The current staff is:
Edward Harkins, Archivist
Zennia Calhoun, Assistant Archvist
Pamela Major, Contact
Rosella Coker, Contact
Jane Pate, Contact
Q: What are the hours and how do you reach the Archives?The Archives is open Monday thru Friday, 8:00am - 5:00 pm. Telephone: (251) 208-7740. The Archives building is located in downtown Mobile near the Civic Center and the Chamber of Commerce.
Q: Where is the Mobile Municipal Archives located?457 Church Street, the corner of Church Street and Lawrence, one block south of Barton Academy.
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