Help Save the Georgia Archives
Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, issued a press release on September 13, 2012 advising that the Georgia Archives will be closed to the public effective November 1, 2012 except by appointment only. The Georgia Archives budget has come under scrutiny for the last two years by Sec. of State Kemp. Several groups worked together during the last GA Legislative Session to restore an additional day for the Archives to be open. Currently it is only open 2 days per week, the least of any state Archives in the nation. A third day was to be added effective October 1, 2012 but this is now in jeopardy.
What You Need to Know?
- September 19, 2012: Governor Nathan Deal proclaims October 2012 – Georgia Archives Month.
- September 18, 2012: Seven full-time archivists at the Georgia Archives were advised they would be laid off leaving only the Director, Assistant Director, and a facilities manager available to staff the Archives.
- All state agencies have been directed by the Governor to reduce their budgets by 3%. Secretary of State Brian Kemp opted to satisfy this directive by taking the entire amount from the Archives budget. He ordered the Archives closed to the public as of November 1.
- The Secretary of State promises an appointment system “based on the schedule of the remaining employees.” Archives supporters believe this system deprives citizens of access, as mandated in the Georgia Public Records and Open Records Act 50-18-70. This act mandates that all public records “shall be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.”
- Another Georgia law – Code Section 45-13-50 – states that “the Division of Archives and History shall make accessible to the general public for not less than the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on every Saturday, except legal holidays and such days as….. division and the records therein, such records and facilities as are ordinarily available to the public during regular office hours on weekdays.”
Dozens of Georgia associations and individuals fought during the 2012 legislative session for funding so that the Archives could be open more than two days a week. A plan to add a day now is on hold due to the Secretary’s announcement.
- The Georgia Archives houses millions of records and artifacts covering the state’s history for nearly three centuries from 1732 forward. During 2011, the Georgia Archives had just under two million research service contacts. Staffers served 62,190 individuals directly through on-site visits, mail, email, telephone and training.
What This Means to Georgians?
- Georgia will be only state in the nation to close its Archives. Citizens will have severely reduced access to the facility and its contents that they have paid for through their tax dollars.
- Georgians will no longer have ready access to the documents that help ensure governmental transparency. Public records, including legislative records, allow us to hold public officials accountable for their actions.
- Records no longer will be available to support due process of law. The Georgia Archives holdings have been used for a range of court cases including land claims, boundary disputes, utility right-of-way and claims against state agencies. Lack of access to such records likely will cost the state in the long run.
- The documents held at the Georgia Archives are important to understanding our cultural, societal, governmental, environmental and family history. The Georgia Archives has been the site of research for television and films, including the popular NBC series Who Do You Think You Are segments with Paula Deen and Spike Lee, as well as Emmy award-winner Ben Loeterman’s documentary People v. Leo Frank.
- If the Archives closes on November 1 and more employees are laid off, we will lose the collective knowledge of the current staff. The Georgia Archives already has already lost much staff knowledge of Georgia history and the Archives collection due to previous cuts. It would take enormous amounts of time for any new staffer to become familiar enough with the collection. The Archives already has lost its disaster preparedness and recovery personnel, experts who were nationally recognized.
- Many kinds of professional researchers – including historians, genealogists, teachers, television producers, playwrights, authors and lawyers – rely on the Archives resources. Closing the Archives will adversely affect these small business people, making it more costly and difficult for them to make a living. For example, the Archives houses microfilmed and original records from every county in Georgia. Without access to the Archives, researchers may be faced with traveling many miles around the state to get the information they need. In some cases, records from Georgia counties are held exclusively at the Archives.
- The closing of the Archives is sure to delay or even prevent the completion of student work from doctoral theses to high school homework assignments.
- The Georgia Archives and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regional facility were located adjacent to one another to facilitate one another.
- Georgia has never taken advantage of this – as has the state of Oklahoma – and loses out on tourist dollars to be made by promoting these facilities as a tourist destination.
- Many researchers from other states once planned their free time around lengthy visits to the two Archives facilities. With the reduction last year in the public hours of the Georgia Archives to two days a week, Georgia has been missing out on money spent on lodging, food, gasoline and other expenditures. With the Archives closed and the Civil War Sesquicentennial approaching, the state will not be able to take advantages of history tourists who will be coming to this region.
How Can You Help?
The Georgia Genealogical Society encourages its members to write letters and call Governor Deal, Lt. Gov. Cagle, Secretary of State Kemp, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens and each of your representatives at the capitol requesting that the Georgia Archives budget be restored, remain open to the public at least 5 days per week, and reverse Sec. Kemp’s decision. Each letter should be individual stating why the Archives is important to you.
Governor Nathan Deal
Address for mail: 206 Washington Street Suite 203, State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334
Email – “contact us” form
Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle
240 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334 TEL: 404-656-5030 FAX: 404-656-6739
Secretary of State Brian Kemp
214 State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334 Phone: 404-656-2881 Fax: 404-656-0513
Georgia Attorney General
Sam S. Olens (R)
40 Capitol Square, Suite 134
Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-3300 FAX: (404) 657-8733
Individual Georgia legislators: find specific legislators via Society of Georgia Archivists site: http://soga.org/involvement/legislative