Arbiter of Tradition and Change: The Atlanta Historical Society's Role in an Urban Landscape
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Traditional writings about historical organizations often treat their operations as independent of the community in which they are located. However, a study of the Atlanta Historical Society (AHS) reveals that, in fact, cultural institutions—museums, archives, and libraries—respond to the community in which they are located, and present an historical narrative that is often promoted by the government at several levels, but particularly at the local level. After the Civil Rights Movement, and the AHS’s participation in white flight, the society reinforced its role as an important archival facility that it had established shortly after its founding in 1926. However, trends in social and public history enabled the AHS to change its focus from the archival collections to the development of a museum. Using professional trends that promoted diversity and serving the community, the AHS museum promoted the city-wide emphasis on urban renewal and tourism. The changes in the museum allowed the archives to maintain its traditional role, thus creating an institution that could claim to serve all.