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
The Georgia Genealogical Society will sponsor a rally in support of the Georgia Archives on Monday, Jan. 14, the opening day of the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
The rally will be held at the Washington Street entrance to the state capitol from 1-3 p.m. Only hand-held signs are allowed. Please come out and support your Georgia Archives.
If you cannot attend — and even if you can — please be sure to keep in touch with your state representative throughout the session.
Public pressure made the different last fall when the Archives was in danger of closing to the public. Because of all the phone calls, messages and petitions, Gov. Nathan Deal restored money to keep the Archives open — but only until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2012.
Public pressure is vital to ensure the enough money is restored to the budget to keep the Archives open.
If you have questions about the rally or about talking to your legislators, please contact Vivian at email@example.com or Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your support.
Vivian Price Saffold
Money is tight. That’s no secret.
On January 14 — opening day of the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly — lawmakers will begin debating, among other things, the amended budget for Fiscal Year 2013 and the complete budget for Fiscal Year 2014.
With a limited amount of funds to work with, the legislators will have to make tough decisions about how the money should be allocated.
If supporters of the Georgia Archives want to see the budget increased, they must convince lawmakers that the agency is more deserving of funding than some other government function.
In my talks with Georgia legislators, I find that many know little about the Archives. One actually asked if the Archives was in Macon! If you have been talking to your legislators — which I sincerely hope you have — you probably have had the same experience.
The state government uses taxpayer money to fund a lot of things — important things like education and not-so-important things like… I’ll let you add your own ideas here.
It’s your money. You should have a say in how it is spent.
Start right here and let your thoughts be known on why the Georgia Archives is important to you as a Georgia citizen and taxpayer. Georgia lawmakers only are interested in comments from constituents, so please indicate the city in which you live.
I will get the ball rolling. The Georgia Archives is important because…
The information in the Georgia Archives is the permanent record of the state. The records in the Georgia Archives belong to the people of Georgia. State law requires that records be retained, preserved and made available to the public.
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