Records By Appointment Only
Cutbacks mean visits to Ga. Archives will have to be scheduled ahead of time
Due to budget cutbacks, beginning Nov. 1 access to the Georgia Archives in Morrow will be open to the public by appointment only.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp shared in a press release, “The decision to reduce public access to the historical records of this state was not arrived at without great consternation.”
According to the Coalition to Preserve the Georgia Archives (CPGA), the proposed cut in public access hours will make “Georgia Archives the only state archives without public access hours.”
CPGA Co-chair Kaye Minchew said that it was “mindboggling” to think of the archives being closed. She shared that staff were told that the archives would retain three employees: the director, a facilities person, and an archivist.
“They are all terrific but I don’t know how one person can do reference,” she said. “It seems extremely unacceptable and unworkable.”
Chris Davidson, Director of the Georgia Archives, said that he’s not exactly sure how the appointments will be set up and handled if Kemp’s decision goes into effect Nov. 1.
“It will be based on the schedules of the three remaining staff,” he said. “We haven’t finalized that yet.”
The Georgia Open Records Act provides for public records to be “open to inspection by the general public” and “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.”
The late Carroll Hart of Madison served as director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History from 1964 to 1982. Her portrait hangs in the vestibule of the state building in Morrow along with all of the other archivists.
Minchew said that if the archives close it will be a tragedy for all those who helped make the archives what it is today.
“For Carroll especially,” she said. “She did so many great things there.”
Hart’s nephew, Howard Brandon, shared that during her tenure as state archivist his aunt established an educational initiative known as the Georgia Archives Institute.
“People from all over the world would study the most modern techniques,” he said. “At the time, it was the best known archives in the world.”
Hart’s niece, Carroll Simpson of Madison, added that Hart began the Vanishing Georgia program, which preserved and copied community photographs from around the state.
Simpson said that she’s against the state archives closing and that her aunt would not have approved either.
“Her whole life was archives,” she said. “She encouraged people to remember the past and honor their ancestors. She’d be very upset.”
Simpson pointed out that other states may follow suit and close their archives to the public as well.
“She lived and breathed archives,” she said. “It would be like a slap in the face.”
Brandon said that his aunt was the first archivist in the original Archive building at the intersection of I-20 and 75/85 in Atlanta.
He shared that the late Secretary of State of Georgia, Benjamin W. Fortson, Jr., considered that building to be his proudest accomplishment.
Brandon said that he understands that we are in the midst of a difficult economy but regrets how that will impact the archives.
“I may be partial,” he said. “Then again, I’m interested in history. Madison is steeped in history. It would be horrible if they were to close the archives in Madison as well.”
Brandon said that the state archives are a huge resource for those doing research.
“A lot of areas, their archives are not accessible or not there,” he said, adding that in some places people may not have access at a local level. “For them to shutter their doors is unfortunate.”
Brandon added that researchers visiting the Morgan County Archives have a lot to be thankful for.
“Madison is blessed because of Mr. Williams,” he said. “He established the archives and contributed his time for 20 odd years.”
Marshall Woody Williams of Madison said that the archives in Morrow have only been open two days a week for a while.
“Like everybody else, they’re cutting it out,” he said.
Williams started the Morgan County Archives in 1986 and retired in 2006 to care for his ailing wife. His daughter-in-law, Linda Williams, runs it now.
They help genealogists research their family histories, lawyers research property boundaries, and family members research marriages and gravesites.
“For Morgan County we have a goodly bit of the old records – marriages and court records,” he said, adding that they have more 19th Century records than contemporary ones.
The Morgan County Archives are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in the Old Jail. It will remain open to the public.
Speaking about the Georgia Archives he said, “It’s just kind of a sad situation there. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Brandon agreed that the outcome is uncertain.
“Are you kidding me?” he said. “It’s a little frightening.”
There is hope that the archives will remain open: Minchew said that she was present during last Wednesday’s Archives Month proclamation month and that Governor Nathan Deal said that he was there to make sure the archives stayed open.
Are the Ga. Archives history?
From the Georgia Archives’ website:
Effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public. 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. When available, additional details will be posted on this website.
According to the Coalition to Preserve the Georgia Archives, this will make Georgia the only state in the U.S. whose archives don’t have public hours.
The Archives are located at 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, GA 30260. Call 678-364-3700 or visit www.GeorgiaArchives.org for more information. The hours until Nov. 1 are Friday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
morgan county archives
While there’s debate about the future of the Georgia Archives, Morgan County’s Archives are going to forge ahead unscathed.
The county archives are open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The archives are housed in the Old Jail, located next to the Morgan County Courthouse in Madison.
Printed in the September 27, 2012 edition