Monthly Archives: October 2012

We Cannot Be Complacent

Now that we’ve all settled down a bit from the euphoria of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Oct. 18 announcement, it’s time to get back to work on making sure the Archives is as secure as we can make it.

Yes, the governor saved the day, but there is still plenty of work to be done to bring the Archives back to the world-class status it enjoyed just a few years ago.

While keeping the Archives open until June 30 and restoring two employees was welcome news, it is not enough. A staff of 10 was insufficient to do the work of the Archives. The staff now has been cut in half, but the same amount of work remains.

Of course, restoring the Archives to 2008 – the last time it was open five days a week and was adequately staffed – would be ideal. The budget then was $5.4 million. That’s $600,000 more than last year’s budget, an increase of 11 percent.

As readers know, Gov. Deal ordered every state department to come up with an additional three percent budget cut for the coming fiscal year.

Of course, it always a good strategy to ask for more than you need, even though you know you won’t get that much. We will leave it to the reader to decide if an 11 percent increase seems reasonable or realistic.

Let’s look at some budget issues that just make sense.

Two employees who are scheduled to be terminated on Oct. 31 are directly connected to grants. Without these employees, these grants will be lost. Failing to keep employees who handle grants is like not contributing to your 401k when your employer offers to match the contributions.

The current salary and benefits of these two employees amounts to $140,000. The R. J. Taylor, Jr.  Foundation, a major supporter of the Virtual Vault, recently approved a grant for more than $56,000. The majority of that grant was withdrawn due to lack of staff. The most recent National Endowment for the Humanities grant was for more than $120,000.

We need to keep the Archives at the forefront of the minds of the Governor and legislators. They need to know that we are just as passionate today as we were on Oct. 17.

Here is the Governor’s information:

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
Office of the Governor
203 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334

You can find the name and contact information for your legislators here:

If we want results, we simply cannot be complacent. Public outcry saved the day before Oct. 18, and it can have the same effect going forward.

Vivian Price Saffold

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Thanks… A Deep Breath… On To The Next Step

Thanks to the hard work and support of Georgians and people literally around the world — including Gov. Nathan Deal — the Georgia Archives will stay open.

The schedule will remain as is — two days a week, no appointment necessary — until the end of the current budget year, June 31.

However, the Archives will have to do the same amount of work with five fewer employees. Only two of the seven terminated by Secretary of State Brian Kemp will remain.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday the restoration of $125,000 of the $730,000 taken away by Secretary Kemp and the move of the Archives from the Secretary of State’s office to the University System of Georgia. The move to USG must be approved by the state legislature.

It remains to be seen if the Archives will fare better under USG. Hopefully, this great institution will gain some stability — as much as possible in these tough economic times. At least it should be farther removed from the political games under the Gold Dome.

The fight now moves to the legislature. Archives supporters need to contact their representatives and senators. Let them know that the Georgia Archives deserves funding. The legislative session opens Jan. 14.

Perhaps we can convince the legislature to appropriate enough funds to open the Archives an extra day… or three. Perhaps the five employees can be re-hired.

After we’ve savored this most excellent moment, we press on. January is just around the corner.

Vivian Price Saffold


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Employees Still in Jeopardy

Secretary of State Brian Kemp took $730,000 out of the Archives budget. Gov. Nathan Deal restored $125,000.


Gov. Deal deserves a big “thank you.”


Anyone with basic math skills can see that some of the employees are still in jeopardy.


Vivian Price Saffold

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Archives To Stay Open, Move To University System

Gov. Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced today that the state will restore $125,000 to Kemp’s budget to keep the Georgia State Archives open to Georgians for the remainder of the budget year.
“Georgia’s Archives are a showcase of our state’s rich history and a source of
great pride,” said Deal. “I worked quickly with my budget office and Secretary
Kemp to ensure that Georgians can continue to come to Morrow to study and
view the important artifacts kept there. I appreciate Secretary Kemp’s
commitment to work with me to find a solution.”
The extra funding provides for Georgia State Archives to be open to the public
through June 30 of next year.

On July 1, the Georgia Archives will be
transferred to University System of Georgia, pending approval of the move by
the General Assembly.

This transfer will include appropriations required for
operation and assets of the Georgia Archives. Additional staff will be provided
by USG at that time.

Deal and Kemp intend to find efficiencies by consolidating the Archives under the University System of Georgia, just as the state has sought to do with the library system.
“From the beginning of this budget process, I have stated that it was my hope
that current access to the Archives could be maintained,” Kemp said. “I greatly
appreciate Governor Deal’s leadership and recognize the difficult decisions that had to be made in order to identify this funding. He has proposed a plan that supports Archives not just this year, but for years to come.”
Deal’s budgetary commitment allows Georgia State Archives to maintain its
current access hours.

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Archives Decisions Hurt Georgia’s Small Business People

I wrote a book once. About the history of a Georgia county. It took me almost five years to research and write.

Much of that research time was spent at the Georgia Archives. I’d be waiting when they unlocked the door in the morning. They had to shoo me out at the end of the day. I even told the archivist that I would be fine if they would lock me in overnight. And I meant it.

I figure I spent about 2,000 hours over the course of two-plus years conducting research at the Georgia Archives.

Using the system of appointments set up by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.  my research would take me 83.3 years to complete.

I didn’t go to the Georgia Archives every day, but when I did, I stayed from open to close. It never even occurred to me to go for two hours a day.  If the appointment system had been in place back then, I would not have attempted a book.

Like every other small business person who uses the Archives, I pay taxes on the income I earn.

The appointment system inhibits the ability of hard-working Georgians to earn a living.

Small business people who use the Archives are scrambling to figure out if they can honor contracts and how they will stay afloat. The Secretary Kemp, Gov. Nathan Deal and state legislators need to know that this is not acceptable.

Vivian Price Saffold


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What Gov. Deal and Daniel Appling Could Have in Common

The Friends of the Georgia Archives and History presented the Appling Sword to Gov. Nathan Deal yesterday. The sword had been missing from Georgia since 1909.

After it was discovered recently in a private collection, FOGAH raised $100,000 to buy it back for Georgia. For that effort FOGAH is to be commended.

The sword was commissioned in 1816 to honor Lt. Col. Daniel Appling of Columbia County. Appling and his men defeated the British at Big Sandy Creek in upstate New York in May of 1814. The sword was made for a real Georgia hero.

It was a tragedy that Appling died before the sword could be presented to him. Today’s tragedy is that the Georgia Archives is still virtually off-limits to the citizens of Georgia.

Does Georgia have a modern-day hero who will return the Archives to the people of Georgia, the people to whom it belongs? Gov. Deal?

Vivian Price Saffold

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Veterans and Archives, My Letter to Governor Deal

The following letter is reprinted with permission from Kim “Skip” Murray. Ms. Murray’s eloquence  tells of yet another important use for records in the Georgia Archives.

10 October 2012

Governor Nathan Deal
Suite 203, State Capitol
206 Washington Street
Atlanta GA 30334

Dear  Governor Deal,

I have the deepest respect for anyone who puts on a uniform and is prepared to defend the rights and freedoms of the citizens of this great nation of ours. Your Georgian roots run deep, and you have a long history of service to your state and your country, via the military, the judicial system, and your long political career. You’ve been one of the lucky ones to live the American dream. An education, a beautiful family, and a fulfilling career have all found their way on to the timeline of your life.

Unfortunately, many of the men and women who place an American uniform on their backs do not end up living the American dream, their lives turn into the American nightmare. Veterans make up 11% of the adult population in our country and 25% of the homeless population. Many homeless veterans die alone and forgotten, and don’t receive the honor and military burial that they deserve. All too often their families never know what happened to them.

Across America the forgotten cremated remains of our veterans are sitting on the storage shelves of funeral homes. Some of them have been there for decades. Veterans organizations such as the Missing In America Project are researching the unclaimed cremains of funeral homes, identifying which ones are veterans and arranging military burials for them. Forensic genealogists at organizations such as Families For Forgotten Heroes go to work and identify the living next of kin of these veterans to notify them of the death and burial of their hero. The story of a veteran’s life is not complete until they have received their military burial and their families have been found.

Deceased homeless veterans also end up in the morgues of Coroners and Medical Examiners. The issue of the unclaimed dead (civilian and veteran) is experiencing increasing numbers. This has caused a huge burden on tax payer dollars, as counties must take over the responsibility of the expense of burial when families can’t be found. A group of volunteer forensic genealogists at Unclaimed Persons assist coroners and medical examiners with finding the next of kin of unclaimed deceased people, so that families can be notified and make arrangements for the burial of their loved one.

Forensic Genealogists also assist JPAC – Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, with their mission of accounting for Americans lost during past U.S. conflicts. When the remains of our missing American heroes are found, the remains are sent to the JPAC lab in Hawaii. Forensic Genealogists assist JPAC by identifying living next of kin of these heroes, so that DNA samples may be taken to match families with the remains. It’s a very emotional experience, to see a widow or a child of our military from past conflicts finally receive the closure they have longed for!

Forensic Genealogists can not do the work they do without access to records and documents. I have been following the story of the closing of the Georgia State Archives with great interest. The closing of those archives will inhibit the ability to find the families of the above mentioned veterans, when they or their families have ties to Georgia.

On behalf of those veterans, I implore you to find the means to keep the Georgia State Archives open to the public for the rest of this year, and in January work with the leaders of your state to find additional funding to return the archives to being open at least 5 days per week.

Look into the eyes of yourself, the soldier from a few years ago. One nasty twist of fate, could have turned your life from the American Dream to the American Nightmare. You could have ended up as one of those unclaimed, unhonored, forgotten heroes. PLEASE help us keep access to the treasures in your state archives, so that forensic genealogists can continue their work to return each and every soldier of our country to their families!

Sincerely Yours,

Kim “Skip” Murray
Genealogy Team Leader (Retired), Research Volunteer – Families For Forgotten Heroes
Co-Director (Retired), Research Volunteer – Unclaimed Persons
8807 Gwynn Lane
Brainerd, MN 56401

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It’s All Online, Right?

In this age of digital imaging and online access, many researchers – especially novices – naively believe that everything you need to know about Georgia history and genealogy is on the Internet.

Concerning the looming closure of the Georgia Archives, one researcher recently said, “I hope they have everything scanned and online before they close.”

Right. That certainly would solve the problem. Researchers could access documents from the comfort of their home or office computers or even mobile devices. The struggle over public access to the Archives would be moot.

More than not likely. Downright impossible.

The Georgia Archives has been scanning and placing online documents for several years. The Virtual Vault has been hugely successful. Much of the funding has come from private sources, including the R.J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation, the Alfred Holt Colquitt Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Georgia Genealogical Society.

However, what is online – in the Virtual Vault and every other Internet source – is a miniscule portion of the data that exists. The Archives contains millions of historical state and local records dating back more than 275 years. Millions. More arrive continuously, as governments decommission older documents.

Many of the older documents have been folded and stored for so long that special, time-consuming techniques must be employed simply to get them ready for scanning. Otherwise, just the process of unfolding could be catastrophic.

Even with unlimited staff and equipment, getting “everything” online will take many years. How many? Let’s just say that it will not happen during the lifetime of anyone reading this blog.

In one of many ironic, short-sighted aspects of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s proposal, the supervisor of the scanning project and the person who uploads data to the Internet are among those Archives employees whose termination has been announced.

Although organizations may continue to fund the talented interns who do a good bit of the work, the entire future of the online project is in jeopardy. The two remaining archivists will try to take up the slack, but just how much reasonably can be expected from these overworked souls?

If you did not have anything else to worry about, consider this: what happens if the state cuts funding required to keep the Virtual Vault up and running?

What we thought was the future of research could be a thing of the past.

Vivian Price Saffold

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“Thank You” Doesn’t Begin To Be Sufficient

Weekends in autumn usually find people attending football games or fall festivals.

If you are a researcher in Georgia, the four Fridays and Saturdays in October are especially precious. They are the last chance for patrons to just walk in the door at the Georgia Archives.

In case you hadn’t heard, the Georgia Secretary of State plans to close the Archives to the public on November 1 (except by appointment). He also has announced the termination of seven of the remaining 10 employees.

This past Saturday the Archives was scheduled to be closed, as it has been on every Saturday immediately preceding a Monday holiday since public access was cut to two days a week.

But, the staff of the Georgia Archives, knowing how little time may be left, volunteered to keep the research room open.

They didn’t have to do that. They could have been spending time with their families or doing those traditional fall things. They could have been sending out resumes.

But, these are no ordinary employees. They are dedicated professionals. They believe in the importance of their work. They understand how important the Archives is to Georgians.

They take pride – and rightfully so – in the job that they do. During the last few lean budget years, they have seen their colleagues cut, and they have filled in the gaps.

If the state of Georgia allows the closing of the Archives and lawmakers allocate enough money for the facility to reopen after the coming legislative session, the state will lose these knowledgeable, experienced and obviously generous employees.

Such a move is short-sighted at best. Rebuilding the institution that was once one of the best in the nation will take years and cost more than if it had been allowed to remain open.

Closing and reopening simply is not good enough.

The staff and the citizens of Georgia deserve better. Georgia needs the Archives, and it needs these dedicated public servants.

Vivian Price Saffold

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It’s Not Over: The Future of Our History Is At Stake

The last two weeks have been filled with emotional conversation about the Georgia Archives.

After Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s announcement that he would close the Archives to the public and terminate seven of the agency’s 10 employees, supporters around the state rallied, aided by media coverage and facilitated by the speed of social media and email.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s ironically-timed ceremony at which he proclaimed October as Archives Month gave him an opportune platform from which to announce that he would find funding to keep the Archives open. Supporters, predictably, were ecstatic.

There were no details, and since the proclamation, the governor has remained silent. The Secretary of State stands by his decision to close the Archives and terminate the employees. As a constitutional officer, Kemp has complete control over his department’s personnel.

Word quickly spread, and advocates breathed a sigh of relief: the governor stepped in and “saved the Archives.” The protest was successful, the crisis averted. Time to move on.

After the initial euphoria, however, thoughtful supporters have begun to realize that the announcement might not have been the news they had been hoping for.

Will the Governor use emergency funds to maintain Archives service at the current level – with 10 employees? Will the Archives remain open, but with only three employees? Will the Governor exempt the Archives from cuts in the coming year’s budget or reduce the amount of cuts? Depending on the answers, the Archives could close as planned on Nov. 1 and to re-open after the legislative session, possibly with three staffers or inexperienced new-hires.

The Archives currently is open only two days a week. Users could face even more inconvenient – potentially impossible – access to records, if staff is cut or the Archives closed. Secretary Kemp apparently believes that a system of appointments satisfies the state Open Meetings law, which mandates “reasonable” access. That is a matter for debate and perhaps for the courts.

The state-of-the-art facility in Morrow was designed for only one purpose: the careful preservation of millions documents and artifacts. Its staff has been trained to carry out that mission, as well as to assist the public.

The Georgia Archives is not just a resource for hobby genealogists and history buffs or the repository for evidence of our cultural history. Professionals from lawyers to watchdogs to authors to government officials rely on the records, often to aid Georgia citizens.

Access to records held at the Archives is vital to transparent government. Not having “reasonable” access to these records will prevent citizens from learning about what decisions were made, when and why.

All Georgia departments have been ordered by the Governor to cut another three percent from their budgets for the coming year. Of course, after several years of cuts, there are no easy choices. Secretary Kemp chose to take all $730,000 from the Archives, leaving other divisions untouched. This small amount is all that stands between closure and maintaining the current level of service.

If the Archives closes, Georgia will rank 50th among states in terms of access to the records that belong to its citizens. It will be the only Archives in the nation without public hours – a shameful statistic.

The governor, the secretary and the state legislature need to hear from Georgia citizens that this is not acceptable.

The struggle to keep the Archives open and the staff in place is not over.

Note: This article ran in the DeKalb Champion/Free Press newspaper on Friday, Oct. 5, as well as in other newspapers around the state.

Vivian Price Saffold

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