Museum Monday: The Closure of the Georgia State Archives

Georgia State Archives. Photo: Against the Grain.

When I saw the news article about the closure to the public of the Georgia State Archives, I had to read it a couple of times. Surely, I had missed something. Isn’t public access to the documents of their history something protected by law?

The elimination of public access to the Georgia State Archives is scheduled for November 1, 2012. It is likely the full-time staff that served the public will be greatly reduced as well.

There are a number of groups organizing to support the re-funding of the Georgia State Archives. There are multiple resources at the Society for American Archivists website. The National Coalition for History provides Georgia politician contact information and speaking points. The closure of the archives would not only affect records access – the Archives is also the center for a regional heritage emergency response team. From Heritage Preservation (visit their website here):

The Georgia Archives is instrumental in the state’s emergency preparedness and response efforts. The Georgia Archives’ disaster preparedness achievements have included:
·         Drawing up a statewide Contract for Document Recovery Services in 2011, available to all state entities, and even private non- profits can qualify
·         Training hundreds of Georgia local government employees on emergency preparedness through the Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records (IPER) project 
·         Establishing the Heritage Emergency Response Alliance (HERA), Atlanta’s emergency response network, which coalesced following the 2007 Atlanta Alliance for Response Forum

Times are tight. Any historian or genealogist, no matter how rabid (I love to combine the adjective “rabid” with a lust for research – tell me with a straight face you haven’t found yourself foaming at the mouth at the archives) would be hard pressed to look certain social services programs in the eye and access to records is more important. Certainly, that comparison is apples to oranges. But an archives without researchers is not an archives. Behind collection care philosophy is the mantra “preservation and access.” If you do not preserve collections, there is no access. If you don’t provide access, then why are you making efforts in preservation?

Records storage. Photo: Flickr/dolescum.

In the end, the citizens of Georgia lose. Not only are they cut of from the records of themselves. In the end, limiting the access to records will result in less research about Georgia. When historians can’t document data from Georgia via primary source documents, they will not be able to write about the state. Elimination of access to Georgia’s public records will effectively cause Georgia to absent themselves from history.


About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.