If you are interested in reading the bill that transfers the Georgia Archives to the University System of Georgia, you can find it here:
“The rest, as they say, is history.”
We hear this statement regularly in every facet of life.
It is a popular phrase, designed to reduce, for the sake of brevity, the relatively recent past to seven words. The inference is that the story is too recent to bear reciting. Since it happened relatively recently, we, in our infinite humanity, figure we will remember without effort.
But, the recent past quickly becomes the distant past. Years flash by, and memories fade. Stories handed down through generations, like the old telephone game, are misremembered resulting in tangled distortions.
If such anomalies can occur in family histories over, say, three or four generations, just think what could happen if we had only oral history to rely on for the history of the state of Georgia.
Tuesday, Feb. 12 will mark 280 years since Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe escorted 114 men, women and children to Yamacraw Bluff, about 20 miles from the mouth of the Savannah River. The contingent had been at sea for more than two months. They had stopped in Charleston while Oglethorpe and soldiers found a place for them to settle in what would become the 13th colony.
What happened to those 114 souls? What hardships did they endure? What kind of government, industries and social structure did they develop?
The questions about Georgia’s rich history literally are endless.
Who was Button Gwinnett? What role did Georgia play in the American Revolution? What was the Yazoo Land Fraud? The convict lease system? What happened to the women who worked in the Roswell Mill?
How did Leo Frank die? What did the governor’s mansion look like in 1932? What did the legislature do in 1955? For what is Alonzo Herndon famous? What crops did your great grandpa grow on his farm in Early County?
How in the world did Georgia get 159 counties?
Of course, you could check any of several online sources, but the information generally is relatively superficial and the source documentation often non-existent. If you wanted to know the whole story, the real story, to see the actual documents, you’d go to the Georgia Archives.
Funding for the Archives has been dwindling for several years. If we don’t take the time to care today, how will future generations learn about what happened in the past?
So the next time you hear the phrase, “and the rest is history,” remember the Georgia Archives. The Archives exists for “the rest,” to be the collective memory of the state of Georgia and its people.
Take time to wish the State of Georgia a Happy Birthday and to tell your state legislature how important the Archives is to you and your fellow Georgians.
Vivian Price Saffold
On the surface, the governor’s budget recommendation for the Archives does not look that bad.
Of course, any cut is too much, given the amount of cuts the Archives already has endured.
Maybe, however, it really is that bad.
Last fall, Secretary of State Brian Kemp recommended a $730,000 cut and termination of seven of ten Archives employees. Gov. Nathan Deal later restored $125,000 to allow the Archives to stay open two days a week and two employees to be retained through the end of the fiscal year. The fiscal year ends on June 30.
Thus, the Archives will continue into the new fiscal year with a $605,000 cut. Since that cut already is in place, the figure was not included in the report issued by the Office of Planning and Budget last week.
On top of that, the governor is recommending an additional $70,000 cut for Fiscal Year 2014.
The University System of Georgia has yet to recommend to the legislature a Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the Archives. In addition, the USG may be able to provide essential services to the Archives that would loosen the Archives budget.
Regardless of what decisions come from the University System, it is more important than ever that every Archives supporter contacts his/her state legislator.
Vivian Price Saffold
University System of Georgia officials presented recommendations for the Georgia Archives’ at the legislative budget hearing yesterday at the state capitol.
Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Assistant Chancellor for Fiscal Affairs John Brown presented the governor’s recommendation for $3,851,428 for Fiscal Year 2014.
Gov. Nathan Deal recommended a total of $4,384,099 for both the Archives and the Georgia Records Center.
Georgia Archives director Chris Davidson said he expected Gov. Deal to recommend a budget decrease, an opinion supported by the Governor’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Budget Report published by Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. However, the recommended decrease falls far short of the $730,000 recommended last fall by Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
The report on the Archives – found under the Board of Regents rather than the Secretary of State – also states:
“The purpose of this appropriation is to maintain the state’s archives; document and interpret the history of the Georgia State Capitol building; and assist State Agencies with adequately documenting their activities, administering their records management programs, scheduling their records, and transferring their non-current records to the State Records Center.”
The location of the report and the statement of purpose appear to confirm that the Archives, along with the state Records Center, will move to the University System of Georgia which is administered by the Board of Regents.
The report also cites the following recommended change: “Transfer the Archives and Records program and 10 positions from the Secretary of State.” The Georgia Archives and the Records Center each currently has five employees.
Although the transfer must be approved by the state legislature, Chancellor Huckaby already has named members of a transition team. The committee’s first meeting was held on Jan. 9.
As of that date, transfer legislation had not been written. Whether the legislation simply will authorize the transfer or will contain details of the move was not known at press time. Legislation transferring the state’s libraries to the USG in 2010 contained no details.
Vivian Price Saffold
Just when you thought things were settling down at the Georgia Archives – albeit with inadequate staff and insufficient public hours – another blow comes to light.
The contracts of two additional people – both of whom are important to the safety of the Archives collection – have been cancelled.
The long-time janitorial staffer is gone, replaced by one part-time cleaning person. This person is expected to care for a 172,000-square-foot building.
Anyone who researches using old original documents knows how devastating insect damage can be. A quick periodic spray of insecticide is not adequate or appropriate in a building that houses invaluable documents. Integrated Pest Management is a systematic approach targeted at specific paper-eating pests, rather than broadcasted sprays, which also can be detrimental.
With the steady decrease in staff over the last months, remaining employees have begun to see an increase in damaging insects. The pests apparently are entering the building with collections that belong to tenants. The pests are doubly hard to control because the collections rotate in and out of the building.
Pest prevention has been the combined responsibility of Archives preservationists, janitorial staff and a contract pest control service. Preservationists were laid off by the Secretary of State, and now the full-time janitorial person who was knowledgeable about procedures also is gone. Staffers are concerned that the state may discontinue the contract for pest-control services.
Without the preservation staff and the full-time janitor, efforts at pest control are spotty and not necessarily up to accepted standards for proper document preservation. For example, until recently, trash was emptied daily and eating outside the break room was forbidden.
An additional blow came recently when the contract for the security officer was cancelled.
Archives researchers are accustomed to security procedures that date back many years. Only notepads, laptops and pencils are allowed in the research room. Other belongings, such as folders, handbags, computer cases and backpacks, must be stored in lockers.
Staffers in the research room kept a close eye on activities, and a security guard stationed at the research room door inspected notepads when researchers leave. Researchers generally are an honest lot, but valuable documents – and even pages torn from books – have been known to disappear.
Now there are fewer employees to watch the research room, and the facilities manager sits at the security station just outside the door. Researchers at the Archives recently reported that no one checked items as they left. Accustomed to the drill, several researchers offered their materials to the facilities manager, but were told a check was no longer necessary.
Without enough research room staff to keep an eye on things and no one checking exiting notepads, it would be all too easy to secret out a 200-year-old original deed and just as easy for that deed to end up on E-Bay.
Georgia law (45-13-41) charges the state with the following responsibilities:
“Ensure the retention and preservation of the records of any state or local agency with historical and research value by providing for the application of modern and efficient methods to the creation, utilization, maintenance, retention, preservation, and disposal of records.”
Every citizen of Georgia should be concerned about these new threats to the state’s historic records.
Vivian Price Saffold
After two months of angst over the announced closing of the Georgia Archives and the termination of seven of the 10 Archives employees, Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the addition of $125,000 to the Archives budget.
The funds allow the Archives to remain open two days a week until the end of the state fiscal year, June 31. The move also saves the jobs of two of the seven employees. One staffer works in the reference room, the other is a veteran employee with extensive knowledge of the collection and the workings of the Archives.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s plan to require appointments, which any researcher knows was virtually useless, will not be implemented.
In addition, Gov. Deal announced that the Archives would shift from the Secretary of State’s purview to the State Board of Regents, pending approval of the Georgia legislature. It is too early to tell exactly what such a move would mean to the Archives.
So, as of late October, the Archives will remain open two days a week for the next seven months. The staff will be doing the same work, but with half the staff.
I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to describe how awful this entire situation has been; a few that come to mind are crisis, devastation, laughingstock, shameful and disaster. Add yours; we could probably come up with hundreds if we brainstormed.
I won’t go into all the reasons why the Archives is important. You can read them elsewhere in this newsletter, on our blog, on our Web site, in newspaper articles, on the Friends of the Georgia Archives Web site and numerous other places. What I want to emphasize here is that we must fight for the Archives, then fight some more, and never give up.
Even with the governor’s decision to keep the Archives open, much remains to be done. The Georgia legislature will be back in session in January, and we must convince the lawmakers to not only appropriate enough money to keep it open to the public two days a week as it is currently, but appropriate enough money to open it five days a week with adequate staff.
What should you do? Write letters – to the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, appropriations committee members, your senators and representatives – anyone in state government who has influence or a vote. Start immediately. Call their staff, visit their offices, participate in rallies and other events sponsored by GGS, FOGAH and other entities. Then do it all over again. The excuse, “I’ve written a letter” isn’t good enough. We don’t want this issue to become “old news.” It must remain in the public eye, and we must continuously (but politely) hammer away at the decision makers in our state government. Persistence on our part is paramount.
Don’t ask for too little; ask for what is needed. Ask for the Archives to be open five days a week; ask for full staffing so the work that needs to be done can be accomplished.
Regular updates can be found on this blog, as well as the Georgia Genealogical Society Web site.
REMEMBER, NEVER GIVE UP! The Georgia Archives houses OUR records, and we must have adequate access to what is ours.
Linda S. Hughes
President, Georgia Genealogical Society
September and October 2012 will “live in infamy” among Georgia genealogists, historians, archivists and researchers. Five weeks of worry, anger and frustration. Five weeks of bad press for Georgia around the nation and the world. Five weeks of hard work on the part of Archives advocates.
The work apparently paid off, although supporters did not get all they hoped for. Gov. Nathan Deal has given the Archives $125,000 to keep the agency open until June 31, the end of the state fiscal year. Two of the seven employees terminated by Secretary of State Brian Kemp have been reinstated. The governor wants the Archives moved out of the Secretary of State’s office to the state Board of Regents, which controls the University System of Georgia, pending approval of the Georgia legislature.
Only time will tell whether this is a positive move for the Archives.
The Board of Regents supervises Georgia’s colleges and universities, including Clayton State University, located adjacent to the Archives, as well as the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Also under the supervision of the board are the Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES), which offers “borderless” library services; the GALILEO virtual library; and Georgia Libraries for Accessible Statewide Services (GLASS). GLASS provides materials to Georgia’s blind and physically handicapped. The agency has its offices in the Georgia Archives building.
The last two months have been an emotional rollercoaster for Archives supporters and employees.
In September Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that he was taking the entire three percent cut required of his agency from the Archives. He closed the Archives to the public, except by appointment, and terminated seven of the remaining 10 employees.
Gov. Deal then promised he would find the funds necessary to “keep the Archives open.” Jubilation. A few days later he backtracked. Disappointment.
Public outcry resulted in petitions, letters and phone calls demanding that the Archives remain open and the seven employees be retained.
Almost 100 people attended the governor’s signing of a proclamation declaring October Archives Month in Georgia. Even more showed up for a rally at the state capitol, with picketers outside marching, carrying signs and shouting their wishes.
Rally speakers given loud ovations and cheers included former Congressman Bob Barr; University of Georgia professor Jim Cobb; Emma Davis-Hamilton, representing the Metro Atlanta Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and the Georgia Genealogical Society; along with state Sen. Gail Davenport, state Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-Talbot County); state Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Clayton County) and Morrow Mayor J. B. Burke.
Thankfully, the governor acted before the Secretary of State’s appointment system could be tested. Researchers would have been restricted to two hours per month.
Many Georgia citizens across the state have worked tirelessly to keep the Archives open and the employees in place. Many continue to work.
The focus now moves to the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly, which will convene on Monday, Jan. 14. The final day will be sometime in late March. Lawmakers control just how much money the Archives will have to work with during the coming budget cycle.
The fight for the Georgia Archives is not over. Please keep writing and calling your state government officials, especially your own representatives and senators.
You can find the name and contact information for you local legislator here:
While some die-hards have been working the legislature since the deep budget cuts began, the Secretary of State’s radical actions came as a surprise to most. Once he announced the closing, however, Georgians rose up and bombarded the governor and secretary of state with letters, phone calls, emails and messages through social media. The uprising had much to do with governor’s actions.
The Secretary of State accomplished one positive thing. He got people fired up. Focused, determined, vocal people get attention and get action. Archives supporters are due a little celebration and a bit of cautious optimism. However, the battle is not over. We need to keep the spotlight on the Archives.
And, if we want to be effective advocates from here on out, we must never again become complacent.
Vivian Price Saffold