The State Archives are losing five staff members starting Thursday because of budget cuts from the Secretary of State. But Governor Deal was able to find money to keep the Archives from closing completely. It will be open two days a week. And the plan is to transfer it to the University System of Georgia. The controversy has galvanized public support .
The State Archives is a vast four story vault, each floor of which is like a bowling alley full of records.
Glenda Anderson, a retired archivist from the City of Savannah, says two of the state Archives staff being let go are instrumental in preserving records during emergencies.
“Their expertise is needed when courthouses and city halls records are inundated with water, or damaged by fire. Or for museums, when they need to evacuate their most critical works.”she says.
Ken Thomas, co-chair of the Coalition to Save the Georgia Archives, says Secretary of State Brian Kemp is treating the Archives like a stepchild of state government.
He says “You know he’s had trouble with the funding. It's unfortunate, but you don’t slow down and close the State Archives just because you can’t figure out your budget.”
Kemp says he has made the Archives a priority, but the Governor asked him to cut 732 thousand dollars from his budget. He says he spent two and a half years working to educate the General Assembly and the Governor about the situation of the Archives. Kemp says he will continue to fight for resources, but those resources haven't come through.
“I didn’t want to close the Archives, but it was the least impactful thing I could do to all Georgians to meet our budget reductions.” he says.
Dr. Todd Groce, President of the Georgia Historical Society, says it’s important to allow the public access.
“This is not just about people doing historical research. The State Archives exist to allow the citizens to be able to have access to the information as to what is going on within their government.” he says.
Supporters of the Archives are optimistic that transferring the administration to the University System of Georgia will benefit the facility. But they say there are still a lot of unanswered questions, including where the State Archives will be located.
Friends of Georgia Archives and History and the Coalition to Save the Archives will lobby the General Assembly, hoping to get 5.4 million dollars to fully fund the Archives.
Ken Thomas says they are optimistic, because Governor Deal and the First Lady support the State Archives. He says in a fight like this, it's who you know.