“American Archives Month is a collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories around the nation to highlight the importance of records of enduring value. Archivists are professionals who assess, collect, organize, preserve, maintain control of, and provide access to information that has lasting value, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records.”
The above paragraph comes from a sample press release provided by the Society of American Archivists for use during American Archives month. It is a nice, succinct summary of who archivists are, what archivists do, and the goals for this celebratory month. But it is perhaps lacking in some of the passion and fervor that is needed when discussing the importance of archives generally, and the impending loss of the Georgia State Archives specifically.
For those of you readers who don’t keep on top of all topics archival, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp issued a press release on Thursday, September 13, 2012, announcing that the Georgia State Archives will be closed on November 1, 2012 due to budget cuts. “After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment; however, the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees.” There will only be three employees left. Hopes for a reprieve were raised when Governor Nathan Deal announced at an Archives Month event that he promised to keep the Archives open. However, he’s not in charge of the Archives, the Secretary of State is, and the Governor hasn’t been forthcoming with alternate ideas for funding.
You may be thinking, “wow, that’s sad for Georgia, but is doesn’t impact me.” Yes, actually it does because, as the Universal Declaration on Archives says:
Archives record decisions, actions and memories. Archives are a unique and irreplaceable heritage passed from one generation to another. Archives are managed from creation to preserve their value and meaning. They are authoritative sources of information underpinning accountable and transparent administrative actions. They play an essential role in the development of societies by safeguarding and contributing to individual and community memory. Open access to archives enriches our knowledge of human society, promotes democracy, protects citizens’ rights and enhances the quality of life.
To close a state archives is to make it that much harder for a child to learn about his or her family and heritage; that much easier for a government to hide its misdeeds; that much easier for us all to forget who and what went before us; and that much easier for it to happen here too. I would urge you to check out the Georgians Against closing the State Archives Facebook page and follow the link to their petition to keep the Georgia Archives open. And while you’re cruising the web, check out the Universal Declaration on Archives from the International Council on Archives.