Old Depot Museum, officially registered as the Selma/Dallas County Museum of History and Archives, is located a block down Water Avenue from the St. James Hotel on the grounds of the former confederate Foundry area. It is an interpretive museum that houses mementos of the men and women who helped make Selma the “Queen city of the Black Belt.” A tour of the Old Museum runs the gamut from the Civil War to Civil Rights. The building is a contributing property to Selma’s “Water Avenue Historic District” that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and documented in select photographs in the Historic American Buildings’ Survey. The red brick, stone trimmed building in the Romanesque Revival style was built ca. 1890. Thanks to its design, it is one of twelve railroad depots in the Southeast designated by Southern Living to be of architectural and historical importance.
In dramatic contrast to Selma’s role in the Civil War is her role in Civil Rights. Despite what many believe, the marchers were ‘safe’ in Selma and while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The confrontation, known as Bloody Sunday, actually occurred beyond Selma city limits in Dallas County, at the southern the south side of the bridge’s footing, where officials were far less sympathetic to the notion of a “peaceful” march. Selma’s Good Samaritan Hospital received fifty victims, treating them and providing safe haven. The preserved, hand-written hospital log is just one of the priceless artifacts held by Old Depot Museum.
In 1981, the articles of incorporation for the Selma/Dallas County Museum of History and Archives were filed by Don Siegelman on April 28, 1981. The Museum serves a 994 square mile region with a population of 40,008, of which 79.3% is African American. Its primary mission is to preserve artifacts from the area and provide educational opportunities for the general public and area schools. The Museum is now engaging in a major effort to expand and transform its collection and displays to present the many Bloody Sunday artifacts in its possession and to make essential structural improvement to ensure their security. These pieces include numerous photos from Bloody Sunday, possessions of Martin Luther King, and the Good Samaritan Hospital records from the event with hand written notations on the conditions and treatments of those beaten on that day. The Museum staff has been methodically working to transform the museum to a genuine tribute to the people who gathered in Selma to make a stand for voting rights. Nearly fifty-five years later, the lessons of Bloody Sunday still have deep relevance.