As I write this letter, we are receiving daily news reports of the horrific war in Syria and the loss of life, home, and country as millions of individuals migrate, or attempt to migrate, to safety. Against the backdrop of these human assaults there is the massive destruction of some of the world’s greatest monuments of civilization. Most recently and most specifically, the ancient Syrian city and UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra has been
pummeled by ISIS, destroying what they see as idolatrous
buildings and symbols. Archaeologists, scholars, and
other experts have called it an “irreversible loss.”
Destruction of cultural artifacts and architecture is not new and much has been lost throughout the globe over the centuries through war as well as political and religious zealotry. The question is, why does this matter? Why is it important for these objects and edifices to remain? They matter because these sites, and objects that survive, are crucial components of the cultural identity of communities. They communicate the story of a time, place, and culture in a unique and powerful way. They give tangible understanding and insight about a people, a way of life, and a worldview that cannot be otherwise obtained. When libraries with ancient texts are set on fire, statues hacked from their entrance gates, and the Buddhas of Bamiyan dynamited from their centuries-old perch, our inheritance of world knowledge is diminished. Recognizing the necessity, or at least trying to structure protection for cultural treasures in times of war, the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property was issued by the Hague in 1954 stating, in part, “damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people make its contribution to the culture of the world.”
What is especially distressing is that these acts of destruction and looting only seem to be increasing when the need for appreciating our shared cultural heritage is more important than ever. Furthering our knowledge of each other can lead to greater connections, tolerance, and perhaps peace. And then, of course, there is the beauty, wonder, and awe that so many of these places and objects inspire. Museums are important repositories for many objects that have left their places of creation. Our institution is rich in precious treasures that serve as material representations of cultural practices that have been obliterated by war, such as our collection of ceramics from Mali. Yet nothing replaces seeing these individual objects in their original context.
Continuing this line of thinking may challenge us as we face the question of what to save and what to erase in our own communities—from statues and murals to parks and buildings. We now appreciate the importance of preserving even the most vile aspects of our history as a part of our civic responsibility. Over time, we learn how to properly interpret historical events for the benefit of current and future generations, by placing them in a context where they stimulate dialogue and give us insight by understanding the past. As the Museum continues to collect objects for the preservation and appreciation of cultural heritages around the world, perhaps our approach can inform or inspire how Birminghamians memorialize important, if painful, events from our storied history. I hope you will join us this fall for exhibitions and collection-based programming designed to offer new perspectives of a shared cultural heritage that can teach us more about ourselves and each other.
The R. Hugh Daniel Director
The Birmingham Museum of Art, one of the finest regional museums in the United States, houses a diverse collection of more than 26,000 paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and decorative arts dating from ancient to modern times. The collection presents a rich panorama of cultures, featuring the Museum’s extensive holdings of Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American art. The mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art is to provide an unparalleled cultural and educational experience to a diverse community by collecting, presenting, interpreting, and preserving works of art of the highest quality.
The mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art is to provide an unparalleled cultural and educational experience to a diverse community by collecting, presenting, interpreting, and preserving works of art of the highest quality.
- Founding Date: 1951
- Location: 3.9 acres in the heart of the cultural district, 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd (formerly 8th Avenue North), Birmingham, AL 35203-2278
- Owner: City of Birmingham, Birmingham Museum of Art
- Governed: Museum Board of the City of Birmingham
- Present Building: Erected in 1959. Designed by Warren, Knight & Davis; Birmingham, AL
- Major Additions: 1965, 1967, 1974 and 1980 by Warren, Knight & Davis
- Major Renovation: Completed 1993; Designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes
- Expansion: Edward Larrabee Barnes/John M.Y. Lee & Partners; New York, New York
- Museum Facility: 180,000 gross square feet (150,000 square feet three-story structure; 30,000 square feet outdoor sculpture garden)
The Museum is grateful to the members of the community who serve on our Board of Trustees, Advisory Board, and Members Board.
Board of Trustees
James K. Outland, Museum Board Chairman, New Capital Partners
Myla E. Calhoun, Secretary, Alabama Power Company
Charles H. Simpson, Vice Chairman, Brookmont Realty Group
Joel B. Piassick, Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair, Harbert Management Corporation
Maye Head Frei, Governance Chair, Ram Tool and Supply Company
Russell Jackson Drake, Whatley Kallas, LLP
Mark L. Drew, Maynard Cooper & Gale, P.C.
George T. French, Miles College
John O. Hudson III, Alabama Power Company
William C. Hulsey, Arlington Properties, Inc.
G. Ruffner Page, Jr., McWane Inc.
Sanjay Singh, CTS
Larry D. Thornton, Thornton Enterprises
Thomas N. Carruthers, Jr., Bradley Arant
Kay Katherine Blount
William A. Bowron, Jr., Red Diamond, Inc.
Donald L. Cook
Jane Emily Crosswhite
H. Corbin Day, Jemison Investment Company
Rebekah Elgin-Council, Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Adrián Garrido, BBVA Compass Bank
T. Randolph Gray
Brian Bucher, PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
Wyatt R. Haskell, Haskell Slaughter & Young
Donald M. James, Vulcan Materials Company
Cathy Sloss Jones, Sloss Real Estate Group
Jennifer R. McCain, Maynard Cooper & Gale
Dannetta K. Thornton Owens
John W. Poynor, ENT Associates of Alabama
William Ritter, Regions Bank
James D. Sokol
Crawford Taylor, Merrill Lynch
Alan K. Zeigler, Bradley Arant Rose & White
Charles H. Simpson, Interim Chairman, Board of Trustees
William J. Cabaniss, Chair, Endowment Trust Committee
Alice Thigpen, President, Members Board
Michael Straus, President, Art Fund Inc.
Jim Sears, President, Junior Patrons Board
Alice Thigpen, President
Beth Adams, Vice President
Laura Murphey, Treasurer
Vincent Cirulli, Assistant Treasurer
Mindy Lalor, Secretary
Langston Hereford, Parliamentarian
Marianne Schoel, Stewardship Committee Chair
Jane Emily Crosswhite
Mary Margaret Hendry
Margaret G. Livingston
updated May 2016