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Georgia Archives supporters to fete operations expansion

Despite facing a possible elimination of walk-in traffic less than a year ago, the Georgia Archives is set to expand the number of days it is open to the public next week. Supporters are planning multiple parties to commemorate the occasion.

Despite facing a possible elimination of walk-in traffic less than a year ago, the Georgia Archives is set to expand the number of days it is open to the public next week. Supporters are planning multiple parties to commemorate the occasion.

— Supporters of the Georgia Archives will have reason to celebrate next week after years of gloom over the effects budget cuts have had on the facility.

Genealogists and historians had gotten used to hearing bad news about the facility. Whether it was an announcement that another day of operations had been cut or last year’s announcement that walk-in access might be eliminated, good news had been in short supply before this year.

But the Morrow-based archives’ operations will expand July 31 from two days a week to four days, and supporters plan to mark the occasion with multiple parties.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis to remind people how fortunate we are to have such incredible assets like the Georgia Archives, and that they neither come easily nor remain without continual work and cooperation,” said Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott.

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Curt Yeomans

A sign from the University System of Georgia lists the Georgia Archives' current operating schedule as Fridays and Saturdays only. Wednesdays and Thursdays will be added next week.

The expansion of the operating week means residents will be able to visit the archives and do historical and genealogical research on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. That’s a far cry from last September, when Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced he would close the archives to walk-in traffic because of mandatory budget cuts.

In response to a public outcry, Kemp, Gov. Nathan Deal and University System of Georgia officials came up with an alternative in which the archives would be transferred from Kemp’s office to the university system. The transfer took place July 1.

The first celebration to mark the additional days of operation will be a private affair hosted by the Friends of the Georgia Archives Monday. Dianne Cannestra, the group’s president, said it is designed to thank people who were involved in getting the fight to keep the archives open.

“There was a lot of energy put forth by a lot of people to keep the archives open, so there is certainly a reason to celebrate now,” said Cannestra.

The second event will be a public party hosted by the Georgia Genealogical Society July 31 to mark the first Wednesday the archives has been open in several years. Residents from across Georgia are invited to attend the July 31 party, which will be held from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road in Morrow.

The event will begin with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to usher in the expanded operating week, and will include refreshments and door prizes.

“It’s a public institution and a public building, so we want everyone to come celebrate with us,” said Vivian Price Saffold, the society’s newsletter editor. “And if they haven’t seen what the archives has to offer, that’ll be a good day to find out. The research room will be open, but I don’t think they’ll be conducting full tours because they don’t have enough staff to give tours for a large number of people.”

Saffold was the co-chairman of the Campaign to Save the Georgia Archives, and was one of the supporters who protested for additional funding on the steps of the state Capitol Jan. 14 as the 2013-2014 legislative term began.

The news that the archives will be open four days a week has come as welcome news to archives supporters. Cannestra called it “marvelous” while Saffold said the number of extra days is more than she and other supporters could have dreamed for.

“We were hoping for one day a week so two more is a blessing,” she said.