Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced in October that the state will restore funding to keep the Georgia State Archives open until the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30, 2013. Public pressure put on the governor by archivists, historians and other stakeholders clearly motivated Deal’s commitment to keep the Archives open.
This agreement also allows the archives to retain its current hours of operation, which had been slated to be severely curtailed. Under the plan, the University System of Georgia will assume control of the Georgia Archives on July 1, 2013, pending approval of the state’s General Assembly. Existing archival staff will be supplemented by staff from the University System. The Secretary of State eliminated seven of the 10 positions at the State Archives on November 1.
The crisis was precipitated in September when Secretary of State Kemp announced he was closing the State Archives to the public on November 1 due to across-the-board budget cuts mandated by Governor Deal to close budget shortfalls.
On September 21, the National Coalition for History (NCH), the American Historical Association, and other constituent groups sent letters to the Governor opposing the budget cuts and denial of access to the Archives. It also generated tremendous media attention, including articles in the New York Times and Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The situation in Georgia should be a cautionary tale for all historians. As we’ve seen at the federal level, historical, archival, educational and preservation programs have increasingly been seen as easy targets by budget cutters because they are perceived as not having a broad constituency. Our community must remain vigilant and proactive in making the case that historical and archival programs are a public necessity, not a luxury.