Silencing the Slave Past: Sanborn Fire Maps, 1884-1899
Sanborn Fire Maps are interesting primary sources for understanding communities and their development over time. For the University of Alabama, these maps shed light onto how its slave past was remembered and forgotten after its wartime destruction and the creation of the modern collegiate campus. The absence of some buildings (Maxwell Hall, Gorgas House, the President’s Mansion and former slave outbuildings) and the addition of new buildings reveals Marita Sturken’s concept of remembering of this past is a form of forgetting and how this purposeful silencing of the past is an essential part of memory formation of the University of Alabama’s slave past. In contrast to the Sanborn maps, the 1887 perspective map uncovers parts of campus landscape missing from the fire insurance maps.