Construction of national archives on track

By Billy Corriher

Construction of the national archives facility, part of the huge Gateway Village development in Morrow, is progressing steadily and should be completed in about a year.

The new 115,000-square foot building will replace the National Archives and Records Administration's current facility in East Point.

The Southeast Regional Archives will house government records and historical documents from around the Southeast. Most patrons currently use the NARA facility for researching their family histories.

The NARA's current facility is "woefully inadequate" for its patrons, said NARA Regional Administrator Jim McSweeney. The facility does not have the appropriate temperature controls needed to preserve some of the archives' historical documents and does not have conference rooms or enough room for those doing research.

The new facility will have a genealogical research room that can accommodate 65 people, and will provide three conference rooms for hosting national and international conferences.

"We really outgrew the current facility ten or 15 years ago," McSweeney said.

With the new expanded facility, conveniently located beside Clayton College and State University, the NARA also hopes to attract more patrons for academic research, McSweeney said.

The archives will include World War I draft cards, court records and documents from the Civil Rights movement.

The expanded federal archives will be located beside the new Georgia State Archives building, making Gateway Village the only site in the country with adjoining state and federal archives.

Georgia State Archives Director David Carmichael said, that having the federal and state records together will make it more convenient for researchers.

"Our patrons may have a lot of ancestors in Georgia," he said. "And if they want to expand their search out of state, they can just walk across the street."

Carmichael said the old state archives facility was also too small and inaccessible for its patrons.

Macon resident Gene Carlisle drove to the new state archives in Morrow to do research on Doc Holiday.

"(The new facility) is much better than the old one," he said, adding that the new facility's greater space and accessibility makes it much easier to do research.

Carlisle said that whenever the federal archives open in a year, it will be even more convenient for conducting his research.

The state archives had seen a 55 percent increase in visitors its first month of opening, and now sees about 12 percent more than at the old facility, said Pamela Coleman, public program coordinator.

McSweeney is also predicting an increase in visitors once the new federal facility opens, and the facility is expected to provide a boost to the local economy by bringing more out-of-state visitors to Clayton County.

The archives plan to host national and international conventions together at a planned Convention Center that is also part of the Gateway Village project.

Gerald Garr, city manager of Lake City, said his municipality is eager for the federal facility to open, because Gateway Village will benefit Morrow and Lake City.

"When those projects are completed, it'll certainly boost our revenue," he said.

As of now, only dirt and gravel fill the lot where the NARA building will be erected. Work on the federal archives' foundation and piping has begun.

McSweeney said the new federal archives should be completed near the end of November in 2005 and should be open to the public in December or January 2006. McSweeney predicts it will take four to six months to fully move the 125,000 cubic feet of records that will be stored in the new facility.