Georgia State Archives closed to the public

In a move that will devastate genealogists, the Georgia State Archives is now officially closed to the public. The following statement was released today by the Georgia Secretary of State:

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% ($732,626). As it has been for the past two years, these cuts do not eliminate excess in the agency, but require the agency to further reduce services to the citizens of Georgia. As an agency that returns over three times what is appropriated back to the general fund, budget cuts present very challenging decisions. We have tried to protect the services that the agency provides in support of putting people to work, starting small businesses, and providing public safety.

To meet the required cuts, it is with great remorse that I have to announce, effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public. The decision to reduce public access to the historical records of this state was not arrived at without great consternation. To my knowledge, Georgia will be the only state in the country that will not have a central location in which the public can visit to research and review the historical records of their government and state. The staff that currently works to catalog, restore, and provide reference to the state of Georgia’s permanent historical records will be reduced. The employees that will be let go through this process are assets to the state of Georgia and will be missed. After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment; however, the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees.

Since FY08, the Office of the Secretary of State has been required to absorb many budget reductions, often above the minimum, while being responsible for more work. I believe that transparency and open access to records are necessary for the public to educate themselves on the issues of our government. I 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.

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29 responses to this post.

  1. Michael, we saw the precursor to this in Canada. It is truly a sad day for historians, genealogists and archivists alike. As a researcher, I’m frustrated that more access is being reduced; as an Archivist I’m frustrated more of my peers are losing their jobs and that my job becomes even more tenuous. My greater fear is that this opens the doors to other States to make the same move.

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  2. Posted by Judy S on September 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Laura, well said. Seems to me that state archives belong to the people of the state and we should assist the states in finding other ways to meet budget shortages. i have an extensive collection of genealogy material and if this trend continues, I will be forced to change my will and leave it to a local organization rather than a state archive.

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  3. Posted by Marie Arter on September 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Shame !!!

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  4. Posted by Christa Bouchie on September 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I hope it comes back soon. I have ancestors from Georgia as well as other regions and not having access online to my families records from so far away is devistating and makes it so difficult to get documentation needed for records.

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  5. Posted by Diana on September 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    This is horrible and of course the only way it should be allowed to happen is if the state lets teams of responsible, trained, genealogist volunteers to access records for digitization.

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  6. Posted by L. H. "Larry" Head, Jr. on September 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve had to reconsider my first impression(s), that this is a disgrace, a reproach to the people of Georgia. I say so b/c any perceived adverse impact is more than offset by the jobs this will “create”; b/c to laid off police, firefighters, and teachers, we can now add archivists, technicians, and clerks; and take that much more money out of circulation. And to that may be added the money which would have otherwise been spent by academics, students, and tourists.

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  7. Not good at all. Especially since I’ve discovered some ancestors moved to Georgia from South Carolina and died there.

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  8. I would have to agree with all of the above statements. It is a sad day for all who have any research necessities within the state of Georgia, but it is my hope that the remainder of the records become completely digitized and available to ALL people, not just those within the state of Georgia.

    As for funding cuts, I would hope they left choices to the public on how best to choose these cuts; were the budget cuts voted on by everyone or was this simply a majority vote of Politicians, who are generally so far out of touch with the general public that they do not understand the ramifications of their actions?

    I sincerely hope there is a general vote to lower the pay of all politicians in the state of Georgia rather than make cutbacks to the general knowledge base of the people.

    That is a choice I am sure most people would easily make!

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  9. Several problems with this decision. Denying citizens access to historical records of state government (or state agencies the information they need to function effectively) does not create an informed group of citizens for a democracy that can work well. Denying access to the historical record of a state may not promote the values that we as a country want to pass down to our children. I suspect the economic benefit from genealogist, researches, historians, etc who visit the archives and stay overnight in local hotels, eat in restaurants, and put dollars in a local economy has been overlooked also. Somehow during the Depression the WPA managed to create many historical records that I find very valuable today. Today we don’t seem to be creating those type of products, but are shutting doors instead. What will the citizenry of the future thing of the short term decisions that remove information from the people? This may be the beginning a of “dark age.”

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  10. Georgian librarians Elizabeth Dill and Buffy Gunter Hamilton have started a Change.org petition to ask the Governor of Georgia to keep the state archives open to the public if you want to sign: Petitioning The Governor of GA: Leave our state archives open to the public.

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    • Posted by L. H. "Larry" Head, Jr. on September 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      I’d be delighted to sign pending some assurance that my signature would be meaningful. In the context of patronage, or potential patronage, no question; but aren’t most politicians focused on registered voters? In this case that would seem to be legal residents of Georgia. In Texas, I know the first task of petitioners is to verify residence; and that the process is repeated by elected officials once a petition has been received.

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      • This is not an electoral petition so residency is not a factor. The Change.org petitions are produced, with the comments, for presentation to the recipient. This petition has included people from all over the world, including some from as far from Serbia who have traveled to Georgia to use the state archives.

      • Posted by L. H. "Larry" Head, Jr. on September 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

        Thanks for the info. I’ll be VERY happy to sign.

  11. Posted by Seth Gardner on September 13, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    This is very sad and exactly what I feared. In a rush to “cut spending”, people don’t realize the effect it has.

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  12. Posted by Teresa on September 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    reprehensible ! Reduce a politician’s salary and re-open the archives !

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  13. Of course if they are going to put it all online then I say GO FOR IT–but Georgia is behind most other states in that department so not likely. This should be considered as a removal of YOUR RIGHTS!! Those are our history and our records and we have a right to access them!! Cuttting days/hours is one thing, but closing it altogether seems more like a bash on public access to records/history–is someone trying to HIDE SOMETHING?! Furthermore, what state doesn’t stop to think about the LOST TOURIST DOLLARS that researchers bring in?!? ..everyone knows genealogists plan their vacations around research trips–imagine the lost hotel $$, food $$, and just $$ spent by folks who will know go to VA or SC or some other state….taking their $$ with them–say ‘bye, bye to the buckaroos Georgia!”

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    • I would have to disagree with your assessment that Georgia is “behind most other states” in their online offerings. They have a sizable amount of records online.

      On the other hand–and more importantly–the fact is that online records will never begin to scratch the surface of the original records in their possession. Researchers who need access to these records cannot simply go to some other state. If the subject of their research is in Georgia, then they need open access to the repository holding historical Georgia records.

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  14. I don’t have any ancestors in Georgia, but it is a very frightening precedent. I truly hope other states don’t follow suit.

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  15. These kinds of problems continue to crop up across all states. We have a wonderful library in New Orleans that is in desperate need of repair. Do government regulations prevent citizens from funding projects important to them? Now that we have crowdsourcing, is this not an option to help save the things we treasure? I bet the Georgia Archive could rather quickly croudsource funds to at least keep it open on a part time bases, just like I have no doubt our library could fully fund a renovation in a matter of weeks…

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  16. [...] post that tipped me off to the closure came from Michael Hait, a professional genealogist working out of the Maryland-Delaware [...]

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  17. [...] Source Citation Posts – Other Blogs « Georgia State Archives closed to the public [...]

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  18. […] few short months ago, the Georgia Archives was in deep trouble. Through the efforts of archivists, librarians, historians, genealogists, and others across the […]

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