Archives Update: Bigger Budget, Exciting Changes Ahead

Big changes are on their way to the Georgia Archives, thanks to the budget approved by the 2013-2014 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
House Bill 744 – the budget for Fiscal Year 2015 – includes an increase for the Archives of $476,041. Some $460,000 of that will allow the Archives to open to the public an additional day and to hire five full-time employees and three part-timers, according to Archives Director Christopher Davidson.
In addition, amendments to the Fiscal Year 2014 budget have allowed the Archives to get a head start on providing more services.
Following is a look at some of the improvements to expect.

• Long distance reference (e-mail and postal mail) – a service that was discontinued due to budget cuts – will be resumed “to some extent.” Staff will answer “reasonable requests.”

• A “real education program” will be developed, with a full-time education coordinator. Educational opportunities will be provided at the Archives, as well as in schools around the state.

• The Archives will be able to take in and process more records, including electronic records, and staff will be able to better advise agencies on how to manage electronic records. The Archives currently is accepting applications for an electronic records manager.

• The portion of the document-scanning project not funded by the R. J. Taylor, Jr. Foundation (a sister organization to the Georgia Genealogical Society) that has languished in the recent past will pick up steam, providing more material for researchers in the Virtual Vault. For-pay services, such as providing scans and other format copies of materials, as resources become available.

Of course, it will take time to get staff hired and programs in place. However, some improvements already have been completed or are underway.

• The University System of Georgia information technology staff has improved the Archives Website, and the Archives now has a Facebook page. A Twitter account also is being considered.

• The USG now is responsible for maintenance and improvements to the building and grounds. Additional funding from a National Endowment for the Humanities grant has paid for updating lighting, the improvement that will be the most noticeable to the public. The change will save costs on operation and purchasing light bulbs. Lighting improvements have been completed in the Original Document Reading Area and are underway in the reading room. Improved lighting and climate control measures for the downstairs classrooms also are on the drawing board.

• Landscaping around the building has been improved, and the sprinkler system has been repaired.

Davidson cautioned that the Archives budget probably will not continue to increase at the pace set by the 2013-2014 legislative session, but that the agency’s budget should be stable in the coming years. Overall, he said he is “happy” about the Archives’ financial situation and “excited” about prospects for the future.
So many people are responsible for the dramatic turn-around – from Gov. Nathan Deal, Rep. Terry England, Sen. Jack Hill, USG Chancellor Henry Huckaby and the Board of Regents to Director Davidson, the Archives staff and the many supporters of the Archives. They deserve congratulations and thanks.
The last few years have proved that much can be accomplished when determined people act. Archives advocates now can breathe easier, but can never fail to be vigilant. The most supportive action now is to use the facility that almost was lost.

Vivian Price Saffold

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