Questions and Answers with Mary Haynes Furman '18

Your home: Montgomery 

Your hometown: Mandeville, Louisiana 

Tell us about your family: I am the oldest of eight children. Both of my parents were raised in Tennessee before meeting at The University of Alabama. I was born in New Orleans, and after a few years in Tennessee we moved back to Mandeville where I was raised. 

What is your profession? I currently work at the Alabama Department of Archives and History as the department’s first digital history curator. In this newly created role, I work to expand the reach of the department’s exhibits by creating digital, web-based stories about Alabama history. As the digital-specific curator at the ADAH, my work brings a new era to the department’s traditional, in-person-only exhibits and offers them to a wider audience for the first time. I also function as a member of the Exhibits, Publications and Programs team. 

What made you choose this profession? During my first year at the state archives, I worked as a communications assistant, where I had a hand in anything public-facing for the department. I helped with preparations for the ADAH’s bicentennial exhibit, “We the People: Alabama’s Defining Documents.” This initial exposure to exhibit work had me hooked, and I knew I wanted to do more. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Archives closed temporarily, and we pivoted to providing more robust digital offerings as many institutions and businesses did. I became much more involved in expanding our digital content and discovered a love for graphic design. When the opportunity arose to combine my interest in exhibits with a growing passion for digital historical content as the digital history curator, I couldn’t wait to take on the challenge. 

How did Montevallo affect your career path? Without Montevallo, I never would have considered history as a career option. My first semester, I took University Archivist Carey Heatherly’s “Digging Up Treasures” archives course as an honors elective. Though I’ve always enjoyed visiting museums, it had never occurred to me to explore the huge job market behind them. Learning about archives through his course was my first exposure to the professional work which lies behind the preservation and presentation of the past. 

Tell us about your educational foundation. Montevallo’s top-notch history program provided me with an excellent base for my future work. The instruction from professors like Dr. Ruth Truss and Dr. Clark Hultquist taught me the basis of all historical research and writing, both of which have been essential to my current job. My internship and student work in the Anne Crawford Milner Archives under the tutelage of University Archivist Carey Heatherly also provided me with an invaluable base knowledge of historical preservation and archival work. 

How did you know you belonged at Montevallo? When I was doing my college search I was determined to go to a school far, far away from my small suburban hometown — much farther than the five-hour drive to Montevallo. But when dropping off one of my younger sisters for a summer soccer camp, my mother convinced me to schedule a tour of the campus. Walking up and down academic row sparked a feeling of belonging I hadn’t experienced at any of the other colleges I’d visited. I couldn’t get the feeling out of my head, and at the end of my application process, I knew Montevallo was the school for me. 

Talk about the ways in which you helped to study and preserve UM’s history during your time as a student. Like many who attend Montevallo, College Night was one of the biggest draws to the school. When I took a digital course offered by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC), fellow student Savannah Willard and I knew we wanted to learn more deeply about and showcase the history of our school’s unique and beloved tradition. Together we delved into the collection of College Night production books held by the Anne Crawford Milner Archives, using them to trace a timeline of significant events within Montevallo’s history. We also digitized over 20 of the books, making them publicly available for the first time. The project can still be viewed at slob.coplacdigital.org/montevallo. 

After this project, I found myself continuing to think about the early records of the school and the unique story Montevallo tells as a symbol of progressivism in Alabama. It was unique being a public industrial school unassociated with a church at its founding, and continuing to be a symbol of progressivism as it became the first public women’s college in the state. I found this thread of a story fascinating, and for my senior thesis I investigated the social factors, people and policies which enabled the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute to become Alabama College in 1923.  

What is your secret for success? There is no “secret” to success, whether in the professional world or in your personal life. Success — measured on our own individual terms — comes from showing up authentically, from defining and prioritizing our values and from being honest, hopeful and curious about “what’s next?”  

What is the best advice you have received? “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” — Anonymous. This quote is a reminder to view mistakes and “bad” decisions as learning experiences, and from them I’ll be better able to make choices in the future. 

What is your favorite Montevallo memory? Montevallo gave me so many good memories, but I think one of my favorites was running home on Bid Day to Alpha Delta Pi. The girls who became my sisters created so many great moments during my time at UM, and the day I sprinted from Palmer’s steps started them all.  

What makes alumni of UM unique? The closeness fostered on campus at Montevallo is one of the most unique and special parts of the UM experience — the same closeness extends into the alumni network. 

What are your hobbies? I enjoy lots of crafts — crocheting, cross-stitching, drawing. I also play Dungeons and Dragons with my coworkers and friends.