Georgia Archives will be open half-a-month

Secretary of State announces post-Nov. 1 plans

— The number of people who will be able to visit the Georgia Archives’ “Open Documents Research Area” each month after Nov. 1 will be cut to slightly more than the number of people who currently visit the entire facility in one week, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has announced.

And, they’ll have less time to spend in the archives when they are there.

Kemp’s office released plans this week on how it will handle patrons once the archives closes to walk-in traffic at the end of this month. The plans will provide some controlled access to the facility, but only for six days spread out across the first two weeks of each month.

The archives’ closure to walk-in traffic is Kemp’s effort to meet a 3-percent budget reduction mandate from Gov. Nathan Deal. Deal has pledged to keep the archives open, but Kemp has said the governor will have to come up with the money to keep it open.

“I will continue to work with the governor, General Assembly and other interested parties to restore funding and access to the Archives,” said Kemp in a written statement.

The new plan is the Secretary of State’s office attempt at keeping the state’s records open to the public in some form, despite the end of walk-in visits.

The archives currently receives an average total of 74 visitors per week for its Open Documents Research, Microfilm reference and Open Reference areas, according to figures provided by Kemp’s office. Under the new plan, there will be 78 appointments per month allowed for the Open Documents Research Area.

That includes 36 two-hour appointments and 42 two-and-a-half hour appointments. There will also be 120 two-hour appointments available for the Microfilm Reference Area and 90 two-hour appointments available for the Open Reference Area.

Those appointment lengths are less than the amount of time people currently spend in the archives. The Secretary of State’s figures show the average visitor spends three hours at the archives per visit.

Kemp’s office anticipates the archives will be able to admit 288 visitors per month under the new plan. That is slightly less than the 296 visitors the archives currently sees each month.

People who need to access the archives will be required to call Georgia Archives Director Christopher Davidson at 678-364-3714, or e-mail him at cdavidson@sos.ga.gov, to set up an appointment.

The decision has drawn sharp criticism from archives supporters from across the state, who have held rallies and organized online petitions to keep the archives open.

Kemp has repeatedly said he did not want to close the archives, but his office had nowhere else from which the cut could be made after years of austerity cuts mandated by the governor’s office.