Last week, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced he was closing the State Archives to the public on November 1 due to across-the-board budget cuts mandated by Governor Nathan Deal. On September 21, the National Coalition for History (NCH) sent a letter to the Governor opposing the budget cuts, denial of public access to the Archives, and the laying off seven of the Archives’ ten employees.
NCH also urged the Governor to provide sufficient funding to keep the archives open to the public 5 days per-week and to rehire the employees that were terminated. The organizations who endorsed the letter, in addition to NCH, are listed at the end of this story.
On Wednesday, at a ceremony signing a proclamation ironically declaring October “Archives Month” in Georgia, Governor Deal shocked everyone in attendance by announcing he was going to keep the State Archives “open.”
However, advocates in Georgia remain very concerned that despite the Governor’s commitment to keep the Archives “open,” his definition of what “open” means and where the funding is coming from remains nebulous. NCH’s letter reflected these concerns and urged the Governor to clarify his plans to keep the Archives open and to follow through on his public statement.
Public pressure put on the Governor by archivists, historians and other stakeholders clearly motivated Deal’s commitment to keep the Archive’s open. It also generated tremendous media attention including a front page article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Nearly 15,000 people have signed an on-line petition opposing the closure of the Archives. We urge you to add your name to the petition by clicking here!
Despite the Governor’s statement, the job is far from finished. We urge everyone to continue to contact Georgia’s elected officials until this situation is rectified and the funding to save the Archives is in place. The story posted by NCH last week provides all of the information needed to contact the Governor, Secretary of State and State Legislature. To access that story, click here.
Secretary of State Kemp claimed he was not informed of the Governor’s public statement in advance and unless additional funding was provided, he was still bound to carry out the layoffs and closure of the Archives on November 1. At this point there remains a great deal of uncertainty because of these conflicting statements from the Governor and Secretary of State.
Under the plan announced by Kemp last week, after November 1 the public could only gain access to the Archives by making an appointment in advance. Kemp said he was taking this action reluctantly but he had no choice given the Governors mandated 3 percent across-the-board cut for state agencies. Public access would essentially be eliminated since the reduced staff wouldn’t be able to handle the number of requests for appointments and still run the archives. As noted above, Kemp exacerbated the situation by announcing the layoff off seven of the Archives’ ten employees.
American Association for State and Local History
American Historical Association
American Political Science Association
American Society for Legal History
Association for Documentary Editing
Association of Centers for the Study of Congress
Civil War Trust
Council of State Archivists
Four Freedoms Park Conservancy
History Associates, Inc.
Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference
National Council on Public History
Organization of American Historians
Society for History in the Federal Government
Society for Military History
Society of American Archivists
Society of American Historians
Southern Historical Association