By Curt Yeomans
Visitors to the Georgia Archives in Morrow can find more than 260 million documents chronicling the state's history, including the royal charter, establishing Georgia as a British colony in 1732, and Jimmy Carter's 1976 letter to the Georgia Secretary of State, in which he declared his candidacy to become president of the United States.
The archives, which turned 91 last month, is the keeper of several of Georgia's historical documents, which tell a part of the nation's history as well. Among those are Georgia's copy of the Declaration of Independence, and the logbook from the state's convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
This month commemorates the Society of Georgia Archivists' Georgia Archives Month, which is celebrated in conjunction with American Archives Month. "We preserve these records in order to make them available to people," said Georgia Archives Assistant Director Anne Smith. "It gives people a sense of their own roots, not just in terms of people born in Georgia, but for anyone who lives in the state ... It gives them a sense of identity as Georgians."
The National Archives At Atlanta -- which is next door to the Georgia Archives -- will celebrate its neighbor on Thursday, from 4 p.m., to 6 p.m., with a program on moonshining called, "Quench Your Thirst For History With White Lightening."
The program -- which will include Georgia-specific documents from Georgia's U.S. District Courts and the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary -- is designed to give people a chance to research ancestors who may have some connection to moonshining.
"Basically, it teaches people about their own family history," said National Archives at Atlanta Archivist Zina Rhone. "A lot of people may have a grandfather who made moonshine, and this is a way to find out about those people, and what they were doing back then."
Although it is not related to Archives Month, the Georgia Archives has its own display, featuring pieces from its collection called, "Hard Times: Georgia and the Great Depression."
It chronicles life in the state during the 1930's. Many of the documents are from projects that the federal government's Works Progress Administration, and its predecessor, the Civilian Conservation Corps, did in the state. "Although we're not in a Great Depression, we're in hard economic times right now," Smith said. "Many of the programs we're seeing put into place now, are patterned on New Deal programs [from the 1930's]."
Smith said that while some of the items in the Georgia Archives' collection, such as State Senate and House of Representatives registers, can be found at other libraries, it's the original documents from the state's history that make it stand out. "Those do not exist anywhere else," Smith said.
The Georgia Archives is currently reaching out to residents to make contributions as well, Smith said. She explained that the archives has an ongoing "Virtual Georgia" project, through which residents are being asked to submit electronic copies of historical, and modern-day, photographs that depict everyday life in Georgia. Photographs can be submitted for possible inclusion in the project at: sos.georgia.gov/archives/.
"We did a project back in the 1970's, called 'Vanishing Georgia,' and this is really an update to that project," Smith said. "One of the things we're looking for is pictures that show the growing diversity in Georgia. We have a lot of people living in the state now from places like India, Pakistan, or people of Asian descent, such as Vietnamese people ... We want to see all of Georgia represented."
The Society of Georgia Archivists' web site has a list of several Archives Month-related programs taking place around the state. Local events include:
· An exhibit at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Global Health Odyssey Museum, called "The Story of CDC," which chronicles the origins of the CDC in Georgia. The museum is located at 1600 Clifton Road, in Atlanta. For more information, call (404) 639-0830.
· A month-long exhibit at the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, entitled "Wish You Were Here ... Postcards From The Past," which includes vintage postcards from the early 20th Century. The museum is located at 2829 Cherokee Street, in Kennesaw. Admission to the museum is $7.50 for adults; $6.50 for anyone over the age of 60, and $5.50 for children between the ages of 4 and 12. For more information, call (770) 427-2117.
· A family records preservation lecture, presented by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta's Office of Archives and Records, called "Saving Family Treasures and Parish Records," which will be held at the Catholic Church of St. Ann on Oct. 22, at 1 p.m. The church is located at 4905 Roswell Road, in Marietta. For more information, call (404) 978-0796.
The Georgia Archives is located at 5800 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow. It is open Tuesday-Saturday, from 8:30 a.m., to 5 p.m.
On the Net:
National Archives at Atlanta: http://www.archives.gov/southeast/
Society of Georgia Archivists: http://www.soga.org/