Update on the Georgia Archives

More to be done

An online newspaper article practically caused The Legal Genealogist to fall off her chair yesterday: it may be — just possibly — that a politician is keeping his word. At least mostly.

The article, which appears in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reports that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has included $4.3 million in his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal to fund the Georgia Archives. That’s enough to maintain the two-day-a-week schedule the Archives now offers, and to fund the payroll for 10 staff members.1

It’s actually $3.85 million for the Archives and its five current employees; the rest is for the Georgia Records Center and its five current employees.2

Let’s recap what’s happened with the Georgia Archives:

     •  Even before 2011, the Archives’ hours had been slashed to three days a week and, in June of 2011, the hours were cut to two days a week — Fridays and Saturdays.3

     •  In September of last year, the Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, announced that he didn’t have the money to keep the Georgia Archives open. And, he said, “effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public.”4

     •  A public outcry over the closing plan, led by the Friends of Georgia Archives & History (FOGAH) and the Society of Georgia Archivists, resulted in public demonstrations of support for the Archives and demands that the Archives remain open.5

     •  Because of the public outcry, Secretary of State Kemp said instead of completely closing the Archives, it would change to an appointment-only system: researchers would be able to make appointments to access the Archives only during the first two weeks of each month and only for a maximum of two and a half hours.6

     •  Finally, a deal was announced by Governor Deal to provide enough money to keep the Archives open on its two-day-a-week schedule. That — and an ultimate transition of the Archives from the Secretary of State’s control to the control of the University System — was the Good News. But there was Bad News in the deal: of the seven archivists who had pink slips, only two had their jobs saved in the deal. Five still were lost — a crippling blow.7

     •  In early January, the University System took the first steps towards planning for the transition of the Archives to its control, naming a nine-member advisory panel chaired by Dr. Tim Hynes, president of Clayton State University. Librarians, historians, the head of Clayton State’s archival studies program and even the President of the Friends of Georgia Archives & History were named as members.8

So what does Governor Deal’s budget plan mean? It means we — all of us in the genealogical community — have more work to do.

Because, despite the Governor’s last name, this isn’t a done deal.

It requires action by the Legislature to approve the budget. And the Friends of Georgia Archives & History and others are pushing hard for an additional $1.3 million to reopen the Archives five days a week instead of two and, perhaps, to restore some of the staff positions that have been lost.

It requires action by the Legislature to authorize the transfer of the Archives to the University System, where it will be safer (not entirely safe, but safer) from the vagaries of politics in its funding.

So each and every one of us who cares about records access — especially but not just those of us with Georgia ancestors — needs to stay on top of this fight. Join the Friends of Georgia Archives & History. Read about developments on its website, at GeorgiaArchivesMatters, and on the website of the Society of Georgia Archivists.

As noted by Friends of Georgia Archives & History, “It is critical that at least one person, preferably one of their constituents, contact every senator and representative in the state to encourage them to support the Governor’s recommendation that the Archives move from the Secretary of State to the University System of Georgia and to support an increase in the Archives budget. The ideal budget increase is $1.15 million.” Contact information and talking points can be found at the FOGAH website. If you’re a Georgia resident, write to your own representatives. If you’re not, but you have Georgia ancestors, write to the representatives for the areas where your ancestors lived — where you might also visit on a trip to the Archives.

It’s up to us. Let’s work together on behalf of the Georgia Archives.


 
SOURCES

  1. Kristina Torres, “Deal sets aside $4.3 million for Georgia Archives,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, online, posted 22 Jan 2013 (http://www.ajc.com/ : accessed 23 Jan 2013).
  2. Vivian Price Saffold, “Governor’s Recommendation Indicates Small Cut,” GeorgiaArchivesMatters, posted 23 Jan 2013 (http://georgiaarchivesmatters.org/ : accessed 23 Jan 2013).
  3. Secretary of State Kemp Announces Reduced Public Hours at Georgia Archives,” press release, 10 June 2011, Secretary of State News (http://www.sos.ga.gov : accessed 14 Sep 2012).
  4. Georgia Closes State Archives,” WSAV-TV (http://www2.wsav.com/news : accessed 14 Sep 2012).
  5. Judy G. Russell, “One hour for the Georgia Archives,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 2 Oct 2012 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 23 Jan 2013).
  6. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp Releases Plan on Archives Access,” Secretary of State News (http://www.sos.ga.gov/pressrel : accessed 15 Oct 2012).
  7. Judy G. Russell, “Georgia Archives: win some, lose some,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 20 Oct 2012 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 23 Jan 2013).
  8. Planning begins on transfer of state archives to University System,” University System of Georgia Newsroom, posted 2 Jan 2013 (http://www.usg.edu/news/ : accessed 23 Jan 2013).
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2 Responses to Update on the Georgia Archives

  1. Thank you for this rallying cry and for this information. Not knowing how the members of the Georgia Legislature line up politically, it’s hard to make any predictions of whether so-called “austerity” panic will influence them. But I do know that legislatures are perilous places. You are certainly right, I believe, that the problem has not been solved yet and that it’s up to the people to keep up the “public outcry.” Sometimes being a responsible citizen seems like a full-time job!

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