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Most Wanted: Pictures of average share croppers, everyday Georgia life

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

He's looking for pictures of the quiet moments, the mundane moments, the ones that don't seem like history. David Carmichael, director of the Georgia Archives in Morrow, said he's looking for the sort of history that's too-often overlooked.

"A lot of history is written from a sort of top-down perspective," he said. "We preserve the history of the governor, but the average share cropper, we don't capture that kind of life automatically. But a picture of that share cropper tells the story of Georgia in a way that official records could never tell it."

A new program, launched by the Archive and the Secretary of State's Office, seeks to preserve those photos in a streamlined, online program called "Virtual Georgia." Through the online program, people with pictures relating to the state can nominate those photos for inclusion in the archive's collection. Virtual Georgia was started in the end of October, and will run through the beginning of March.

The program is based on a previous photo-archival project, Vanishing Georgia, which ran from 1975 to 1986. Georgia Archivists, using grant money, traveled around the state looking at old photographs and copying those suited for the exhibit.

More than 18,000 photos were collected, Carmichael said, and those photos -- now available through the archive's web site -- showed Georgia history in a new, and fascination way.

"It just shows everyday stuff," he said, "a girl sitting on Santa's lap at Macy's ... When you take a picture of the corner stone laying of the state capital, that's a once-in-a-life-time event, but when you document Christmas celebrations, that's what everyone's doing, so it gives you a picture of everyday life that's incredibly important. It's just a visual insight that's worth saving."

Using today's technology, the Secretary of State and the Georgia Archives hope to accomplish the same thing, though more cheaply and more efficiently than before.

Many, many Georgians, Carmichael said, have taken photos which they don't realize have historical significance. Many, too, have photographs around the house, in old chests or stashed in attics, that they don't realize ought to be preserved and archived. The Archive, in Morrow, will often receive inquiries about preserving pictures about a Civil War soldier's portrait, Carmichael said, and then people will casually mention destroying other historical things.

"They'll say, 'Oh, you know, we were cleaning out my parents' house and we threw away all these letters and pictures from the '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s," the archive director said. "We just cringe, because that's history, too. Maybe, right now, a letter from the '60s doesn't seem important, but 50 years from now, we'll want that document. I guess unless you're born an archivist, you don't think like that."

Virtual Georgia is designed to allow for the preservation of these things -- a minute of uploading a digital picture, and checking through an online form, and the old photo can be preserved digitally.

If accepted into the collection, the photo will be shown on the Georgia Archive's web site.

On the Web:

Virtual Georgia:

http://content.sos.state.ga.us/cdm4/vrg.php

Virtual Vault photos:

http://sos.georgia.gov/archives/Vault/ArcVirtualVault

Submit photos:

http://content.sos.state.ga.us/VirtualGeorgia/