The following is a letter sent by AHA Executive Director James Grossman to the Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, in response to the recent announcement that the state plans to close the Georgia Archives to the public.
Dear Governor Deal:
I write on behalf of the American Historical Association—the leading organization of historians in the United States—to express our grave concern about plans to effectively close the Georgia Archives.
An early and active proponent of state archives laws in the United States, the AHA remains committed to the preservation of our heritage, and to its accessibility. We understand that a shortage of financial resources has forced the state to make some difficult financial choices, and that in such situations, everyone claims that their particular activity is sacrosanct. The Georgia Archives, however, tells the story of all Georgians. Genealogists, students, historians, journalists: all require access to these vital records to participate in the preservation of the state’s heritage and the practical use of its past.
Beyond the interests of historical researchers stand a wide variety of civic-minded Georgians who depend on open access to archives. Teachers, lawyers, real estate developers, leaders of neighborhood associations–all rely not only on the vital records housed in the Georgia Archives, but on the expert advice of its archivists.
The records of any government represent the heritage of its people, and can serve that role only when its citizens have access to consult those records. Closing the doors to the Archives would represent a devastating blow not only to historians, genealogists, and others with an interest in the past, but also the state’s policymakers and leaders who need a solid understanding of the past to help shape Georgia’s future.
I urge you to reconsider this decision, and to work with the Secretary of State to allocate resources that will enable this vital service to remain open and accessible to all.
James R. Grossman
The issue began on September 13, when Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that “effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public.” Kemp also declared his intention to “fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so that the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia.”
The National Coalition for History (NCH) has provided detailed suggestions for action at http://historycoalition.org/2012/09/17/action-alert-help-save-the-georgia-state-archives/ . Readers interested in voicing their opinion about this closing and its consequences are encouraged to review the NCH’s talking points and direct their letters, e-mails, and phone calls to Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. As noted by the NCH, signing an online petition like the one at https://www.change.org/petitions/the-governor-of-ga-leave-our-state-archives-open-to-the-public is helpful, but direct contact (particularly by members who are voters in the state) is always much more effective.