Lunch at the Library: Michael Sims

Published 6:24 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

A research project turned into a bigger deal than author Michael Sims thought.

The Selma native has spent the last decade helping to restore an historic Dallas County church and became engrossed in its deceased parishioners.

That effort culminated in a book, “Pleasant Hill, Alabama: During the Antebellum Years 1813-1865.” Sims will talk about the book during the final installment of the Lunch at the Library series on Thursday beginning at 12 p.m.

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“For about 10 years I’ve been working with the South Dallas Historic Preservation Association in their project to restore the Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church,” Sims said. “While I was working on that, I received information from a lot of different people on the families in Pleasant Hill. As part of my research into the church, I was trying to identify the members.”

The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sims had collected so much material it reached “critical mass,” he said. He then decided to put it into manuscript form. The SDHPA decided to publish the information in a hardbound book.

It took Sims seven years to complete the research, and he put the book together in nine months.

His sources include between 30-50 people, about 50 books and 30 periodicals, census records, 20 volumes of church minutes, 25 unpublished manuscripts and five diaries.

He looked for information in places that included the Alabama Department of Archives and History, New York Public Library, Staten Island Historical Association and University of Ohio library.

“The focus of my talk at the library is to tell those gathered how my involvement with Pleasant Hill came about, how I came to this topic of research; also, to talk a little bit about the restoration of the Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church,” Sims said.

His artwork is also on display on the Selma-Dallas County Public Library, and the Selma Art Guild held a reception for him as a featured artist in September.

Sims is a set and costume designer for Princeton University and has worked with Julliard, Syracuse University, the Old Globe in San Diego, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and several others.

He has produced his own artwork since he was 10 years old.

“I’ve recently gotten a little more serious about it, devoting more time to it,” Sims said. “What I like to do right now is just focus on the environment around me here in central Alabama.”