MORROW In an 11th-hour move, Gov. Nathan Deal has found $125,000 to keep the Georgia State Archives open.
In the shadow of a previous announcement this week that the archives would be closed to walk-in traffic and opened by limited appointment only, Deal and Secretary of State Brian Kemp made the dramatic announcement Thursday.
Only after a public outcry and months of posturing, Deal claimed in Thursday’s statement, “I worked quickly with my budget office and Secretary Kemp to ensure that Georgians can continue to come to Morrow to study and view the important artifacts kept there. I appreciate Secretary Kemp’s commitment to work with me to find a solution.”
The governor’s office outlined a plan to infuse the $125,000 to keep the Georgia State Archives open through the remainder of the current fiscal cycle, June 30, 2013.
Deal also announced a plan for the archives to be transferred to the University System of Georgia next year, contingent upon approval by the General Assembly. The University System oversees Clayton State University, which helped bring the archives to Clayton County nearly a decade ago. The university and the archives work together on a master’s degree program in archival studies.
The governor’s office claimed that by transferring management of the archives to the University System, it could operate more efficiently and have long-term sustainability.
The governor’s press release stated, “This transfer will include appropriations required for operation and assets of the Georgia Archives. Additional staff will be provided by USG at that time,” comparing the move to the consolidation of the state’s library system.
In the short term, the plan unveiled Thursday means the general public will be able to access the archives during the current operating hours.
Kemp had outlined a plan prior to the Thursday announcement to essentially close the archives except for an appointment-only basis, saying he was forced to do so because of a mandated 3-percent budget reduction handed down by Deal.
However, in a joint statement Deal and Kemp talked about how they had worked together for this outcome. Kemp said, “I greatly appreciate Governor Deal’s leadership and recognize the difficult decisions that had to be made in order to identify this funding.”
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.
When the possible closing, reduced hours and appointment-only status were announced, it led to protests, letter-writing campaigns and petitions, beginning in Morrow then extending statewide.
Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott praised the governor for the announcement, explaining it allows the county to go forward with plans for its University Station development across the street from the archives. Wainscott said the development, which is intended to draw genealogy-related companies to Clayton County, was jeopardized by Kemp’s original statement regarding the closing of the archives. “Sometimes it takes the rest of the state to realize the value of what we have here. We applaud the governor for making this decision. It is a big step in the right direction.”