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Work progressing on Archives

By Justin Reedy

Nearly a year after breaking ground, the construction project for the national archives facility in Morrow is making steady progress.

After long negotiations with Georgia Power over the relocation of power lines running through the site, the National Archives and Records Administration took possession of the property last month, according to Jim McSweeney, regional administrator for NARA's Southeast Region. The project was also delayed somewhat because of excessive rainfall during winter and spring earlier this year.

Much of the site preparation for the facility, which will be located in the Gateway Village area of Lake City and Morrow, has been completed, McSweeney said. The laying of the foundation for the building is expected to begin later this month or next month, with other construction following closely behind. The NARA facility, which will officially be known as the Southeast Regional Archives, should be finished by the end of 2004 or the beginning of 2005, McSweeney said. The new 115,000-square foot federal archives building will replace the existing World War II-era building in East Point, which NARA has occupied for more than three decades.

At the current facility, there's only room for 80,000 cubic feet of archival, or historically significant, records. Because of that space limitation, the East Point building has been full for a while, and can't accept large amounts of archival records. But the new building will hold 230,000 cubic feet of space, which will be sufficient for decades, McSweeney said.

"This building was built in the 1940s as a military supply depot, and the National Archives and Records Administration moved in here in the 1960s," McSweeney said of the existing facility. "Suffice it to say we've outgrown this suit of clothes 15 to 20 years ago."

The facility will house many interesting archival records, including Babe Ruth's World War I draft card, paperwork from the Manhattan Project, NASA records from the space race of the 1960s and 70s, and British Admiralty Court documents from piracy cases that took place nearly three centuries ago.

The facility will be part of Gateway Village, a master-planned, multi-use development at the intersection of Clayton State Boulevard and Ga. Highway 54 near the entrance to Clayton College & State University. The development is projected to include office and retail space, as well as a hotel and conference center.

The federal archives will also be co-located with the new Georgia Archives facility, which opened earlier this year, and will feature a walkway between the two buildings and a common welcome center. That will make Gateway Village the site of the only adjoining state and federal archives in the country.

"To say the least, this project is a long time coming," said John Carlin, the archivist of the United States. "I've been (with NARA) for eight years, and this was started before I was here. It has taken a while, but it has been worth the effort."

With both archives facilities so close to CCSU, the impact to the college will be enormous. Not only will the facility be able to hire college students as interns and researchers, but the National Archives and Records Administration plans on partnering with the college's computer science school to work on electronic record keeping programs, McSweeney said previously.

In addition, NARA will work with Clayton State to develop an undergraduate study program for students interested in becoming archivists. Because of all that, CCSU President Thomas Harden is glad to see the archives moving in nearby.

"Clayton College and State University is proud to have NARA as its newest neighbor," Harden said.