As I only post semi-frequently, I am sure many of you will be surprised to notice that this post will be the second of the day. I warn you that it is also will possess quite a different mood from my usual writing. If you have ever wondered how archives and history can affect your life and why you should care about them, now if the time to really think about it.
For those of you who do not understand the reference of my title, the novel 1984’s main character works in a job in which he modifies the memory of his city by destroying or creating things as he is told. Archivists and archives hold great power in that they provide future generations with information on the past based on what they preserve. Because of this important task, archivists must attempt to be as unbiased as possible in their gathering of information.
The State of Georgia is planning on closing the doors of its State Archives to the public as of November 1st. Please read the Governor’s statement below and sign this petition to keep the doors open and history safe.
On September 13, 2012, the Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, issued this statement:
“The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget has instructed the Office of the Secretary of State to further reduce its budget for AFY13 and FY14 by 3% ($732,626). As it has been for the past two years, these cuts do not eliminate excess in the agency, but require the agency to further reduce services to the citizens of Georgia. As an agency that returns over three times what is appropriated back to the general fund, budget cuts present very challenging decisions. We have tried to protect the services that the agency provides in support of putting people to work, starting small businesses, and providing public safety.
To meet the required cuts, it is with great remorse that I have to announce, effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public. The decision to reduce public access to the historical records of this state was not arrived at without great consternation. To my knowledge, Georgia will be the only state in the country that will not have a central location in which the public can visit to research and review the historical records of their government and state. The staff that currently works to catalog, restore, and provide reference to the state of Georgia’s permanent historical records will be reduced. The employees that will be let go through this process are assets to the state of Georgia and will be missed. 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.
Since FY08, the Office of the Secretary of State has been required to absorb many budget reductions, often above the minimum, while being responsible for more work. I believe that transparency and open access to records are necessary for the public to educate themselves on the issues of our government. I will fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia.” found on WSAV3.
And now starts my listing of reasons why this decision must not be allowed to stand:
- The purpose of the archives of this country is to preserve, protect, and give access to the historical and government documents which belong to the PEOPLE. These are the values which we, as archivists, hold dear.
- As a country, we are constantly fighting for openness in our government and the ability for citizens to have access to the information they need. This past year, President Obama and the National Archives agreed to began working on declassifying large amounts materials for this purpose. You can read more about that here.
- Archives hold valuable information. The state archives hold all records created by state, and often county, governments and allow citizens to hold their officials accountable. How will the government be kept in check if they are allowed to hide their paperwork?
- The archivists and records managers who run the archives and records centers use their expertise to inform the government which records need to be saved and when they should be transferred to a repository for safe-keeping. What will these government officials do with no one informing them of and working on behalf of these guidelines?
- There is an economic impact to consider as well. Archivists will be losing their jobs. Any revenue for local restaurants, hotels, and businesses created by those who venture sometimes thousands of miles to do research will be lost. The Governor claims he will be saving money. Has he analyzed this repercussion?
- Will other states see this as a precedent to be followed under the guise of ending state debt?
- Of course, the intellectual loss will be great as well. Public researchers will be allowed only by appointment and only when it fits the schedule of the staff. Who will decide which researchers will be allowed in and when?
While my points and my comparison to the world of 1984 may seem extreme, the world has seen archives closed to the public or controlled by government before: South Africa and Nazi Germany. Please do not show America to be apathetic. Fight for our freedom for information and show Governor Deal that his decision is completely unacceptable.