- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Media Group on Wednesday announced it is donating its massive archive of photographic images- a collection that spans nearly 80 years of Alabama history- to the state.

Photographers with The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and the Press-Register of Mobile took the images over decades of news coverage, documenting both mundane and momentous events in the state. The historic collection includes more than three million images that capture the Civil Rights movement and other poignant events.

“The Alabama Media Group Collection, as it will be known, will be one of our great treasures here at the Archives,” Archives Director Steve Murray said Wednesday.

The donation is the largest single content donation to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Murray said.

The images include everything from a 1958 photo of the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth posting bail after sitting in the white section of a segregated city bus to photographs of devastation from hurricanes that slammed into the Gulf coast. The earliest image was taken in 1927. Murray said the collection is astonishing historical record for the state.

Murray said the state archives will begin the work of scanning the images and placing them online. Murray said they will become an unparalleled resource for scholars, researchers, journalists and students.

Alabama Media Group President Tom Bates said the donation will ensure that the collection will be preserved and enjoyed by all Alabamians.

“Having worked in recent years to digitize and publish these images in small batches on AL.com, we came to realize that a treasure of this magnitude deserves proper preservation and broad distribution. After touring and visiting with the staff of the State Archives, we concluded this is the right place,” Bates said in a statement.

The Alabama Media Group includes the newspapers in Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, as well as The Mississippi Press.

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