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National Archives at Atlanta to reopen today

MORROW — With the federal government shutdown of 2013 now in the history books, Georgians can have access to their national history again.

The Morrow-based National Archives at Atlanta was one of the numerous federal facilities which had to close during the 16-day shutdown. After President Barack Obama signed into law legislation to end the shutdown late Wednesday night, the entire National Archives system, which includes regional archives facilities and presidential libraries, were cleared to open.

But, archives officials urged the public on their website to be patient. Each archives has to go through a re-opening process. In Morrow, the archives was closed Thursday, but staff came in to get things ready for their reopening.

“We’re at work today [Thursday], but we’ll reopen to the public tomorrow [Friday],” said Director of Archival Operations Rob Richards hours after staff returned to work.

The archives will begin accepting visitors today at its normal 8:30 a.m. opening time. With the facility having been closed for more than two weeks, staff were busy getting caught up and updating the website, Facebook page and voice mail messages Thursday which meant they couldn’t re-open immediately.

They also had to get to work responding to reference requests that piled up during the shutdown.

The grounds crew also returned for the first time in 16 days and had to make sure the facility looked presentable to the public while swamped information technology workers had to reset passwords for employees that had expired during the shutdown.

“That’s why you couldn’t just reopen the facility right away,” said Richards.

It’s the same situation at archives facilities around the country, so it was decided to reopen the entire system at one time, said Richards. By taking the entire day to get operations up and running again, the archives could ensure it was better prepared to handle the public when the doors were re-opened.

“If we open the doors and we’re not ready, then we can’t fully serve the public,” said Richards.

Only the facility manager continued to work through the shutdown to make sure historical records ranging from the national collection of World War I draft cards, to important court cases, to NASA and Tennessee Valley Authority documents were OK during the shutdown.

The preserving of documents requires temperatures to be kept at a specific level to slow down the deterioration process. If the temperature control systems had broken down during the shutdown, the lifespan of these historical documents could have been shortened, but Richards said the facility manager made sure that did not happen.

“The documents are safe and were never in any real danger,” said Richards.

But with the re-opening punch list behind them, Richards said archives staff hope to be back to business as usual today. They want to see visitors coming in the front doors to research historical documents and uncover hidden stories from the past.

And it wouldn’t hurt if there were a lot of visitors coming in to the facility.

“We’re hoping to see a lot of familiar faces because we really want to do what we do,” said Richards.