Historians and Archivists Mobilizing to Preserve Full Access to Georgia State Archives

Last week, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that he had received instructions from the governor’s office to reduce his department’s budget, declaring in a statement:

To meet the required cuts, it is with great remorse that I have to announce, effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia 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. … 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.

Kemp announced 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.” Historian James C. Cobb has written a provocative piece on this issue, which has resulted in an ongoing discussion at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.

The National Coalition for History (NCH) has posted Kemp’s announcement on its website and has provided detailed suggestions for action. 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 posted now on change.org is helpful, but direct contact is always much more effective.

Nearly every state in the union is facing budget shortfalls, and all are looking for places to trim expenses. We can be sure that a significant protest to Georgia’s proposed cuts will also catch the attention of decision makers in other states. If a public outcry helps stop the closure of the archives in Georgia, other states will be far less likely to attempt similar actions.

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