Move to Close the Georgia State Archives Met with Disbelief, Anger
Secretary of State Brian Kemp plans to close the archives in Morrow to reduce his budget by 3 percent.
By now, the outrage has reached a boiling point, with protests, petitions and Facebook groups appearing because of the recent announcement that the Georgia State Archives will close on October 31. The 171,000-square-foot facility in Morrow--dedicated in 2005--will be open only by appointment, said Jared Thomas, press secretary for Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
"Thousands of Georgians use these sources for work on family history, genealogy and many other subjects," said Athens author Al Hester, a retired journalism professor. "This is the final blow, when a public agency completely shuts its doors to satisfiy a perverted concept of serving the public by not serving taxpayers at all."
The move is designed to save the department $732,626, said Thomas.
According to a press release from Kemp's office, "the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget has instructed the Office of the Secretary of State to further reduce its budget for AFY13 and FY14 by 3%. These cuts do not eliminate excess in the agency, but require the agency to further reduce services to the citizens of Georgia."
The past few years, the archives' hours of operation have been shrinking, from every week day and Saturday to three days a week. Last year, the facility was open only Friday and Saturday. Now, all hours of operation are gone, and with them, most of the archivists who have cared and catalogued the collection for years.
Remember the Vanishing Georgia project from the 1970s? It yielded more than 18,000 photos of the life, culture and history of the state. Some photos were included in a handsome book, entitled Vanishing Georgia. The project, which involved a mobile photographic lab driving around the state, was undertaken by the staff of the Georgia State Archives. The digital images are now stored at the University of Georgia.
Some people have wondered about moving the State Archives to the new Richard B. Russell Building and Special Collections Libraries at UGA. The problem with that arrangement is that the new UGA building was constructed to last for the next 40 years. Bringing the archives to Athens would consume all the space set aside for anticipated future needs.
Kemp says he "will fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia."
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition supporting keeping the Archives open and accessible. Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina all keep their archives open more days than Georgia, which will be the only state in the country with closed archives.
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