Local historians are pleased to hear that centuries of Georgia’s past still will be accessible next year.
Gov. Nathan Deal has set aside $4.3 million in next year’s proposed budget for the Georgia Archives, the latest step in efforts to keep the institution’s doors open.
The facility is currently open only two days a week.
In September, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced plans to lay off workers and require appointments to access the Georgia State Archives in Morrow starting in November. The cuts were planned to help his office shave more than $730,000 from its budget.
Deal had asked most state agencies to identify budget cuts equal to 3 percent of their funding for his proposed spending plan.
But in October, Deal and Kemp announced that $125,000 of the planned funding cuts would be restored to the archives and the facility would remain open for two days a week.
Deal’s proposed budget is for fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1.
Glen Kyle, managing director of the Northeast Georgia History Center, said he’s glad to hear the archives will stay open.
“I’m glad (Deal) had the wisdom to see how valuable the archives and access to the archives are, not only to Georgians but everyone who comes here to research,” Kyle said.
Kyle said he completely understands that cuts have to be made during these difficult financial times. But he said the current hours at the facility are somewhat frustrating.
Kyle said he remembers a time when archives staff were able to help historians and researchers locate specific items and send them the information via mail or email.
Now, he says if the history center needs some specific piece of information, no matter how small, staff researchers will have to drive to the archives and find it for themselves. He said it can be difficult for researchers to find the time to make the trip.
Kyle said it creates “a vicious cycle.”
While historians at the center might like to call and get some information from the archives, they often have to find other, more convenient sources.
“We don’t call them as much as we want,” Kyle said “We know it requires a trip down there and it’s going to be more involved. They won’t be able to help us as much as we would like and as much as probably they would like.”
Though the archives limits are challenging for users, Kyle said the resource is invaluable.
“They house Georgia’s past,” Kyle said. “Preserving those records and making them available to everyone who wants or needs them. It basically makes Georgia’s past available to everyone.”
Archive supporters say many more steps remain to keep the archives open and accessible to Georgians. They are pushing for an additional $1.5 million to expand public access to the state’s important and historical records dating to at least 1733, saying the additional money would reopen the archives from two to five days a week.
Meanwhile, a group of academics, historians and librarians will be working out the details for transferring the Georgia Archives from the secretary of state’s office to the state’s public university system.
Clayton State University President Tim Hynes will serve as the panel’s chairman, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby has said.
The transfer is part of a long-term agreement reached by Deal and Kemp to keep the research and records facilities open. A bill allowing the transfer still must be approved by the legislature.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.