Georgia Voices: The archives — An about-face on access to our history
by The Albany Herald
October 26, 2012 12:00 AM | 1449 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When state officials said that access to Georgia’s Archives, a treasure trove of documents important in our state’s history, would be severely limited, the response was quick and loud.

The governor and the secretary of state, who has responsibility for the documents and artifacts, announced that they had worked out an agreement by which the Archives would remain open through the remainder of the fiscal year, when the operation would be transferred to the University System of Georgia.

Deal said he is restoring $125,000 to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office for operating the State Archives through June. “Georgia’s Archives are a showcase of our state’s rich history and a source of great pride,” Deal said. “I worked quickly with my budget office and Secretary Kemp to ensure that Georgians can continue to come to Morrow to study and view the important artifacts kept there. I appreciate Secretary Kemp’s commitment to work with me to find a solution.”

Earlier this year, Deal ordered state agencies to cut their budgets by 3 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. Among the measures Kemp decided to implement in his department was to curtail access to the Archives, making them available for six days a month on an appointment basis.

That drew the ire of academic researchers, national historic groups and those who were tracing their family roots. It also called into question state leadership’s wisdom in restricting Georgians’ access to their history. The Associated Press reported that the facility contains 260 million documents, 1.5 million land grants and plats, and 100,000 photographs. Among those documents are Georgia’s State Constitution of 1798 and Georgia’s Royal Charter.

As a result of the deal, at least three of the seven employees who were to have been laid off will stay with the Archives, which will be open two days a week with no appointments required.

If the Legislature, as it likely will, signs off on the plans to transfer the Archives to the University System on July 1, we hope that those who become the custodians of these irreplaceable pieces of our state’s history will find ways to operate the facility effectively and ensure adequate staffing. These are treasures that belong to all of us, and they should be treated as such.
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