Georgia Archives supporters listen as Bob Barr (right), a former U.S. congressman, speaks during a rally Wednesday afternoon inside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. The motto of the rally was “Save the Archives/Save the Staff.”
Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp made that announcement Thursday, saying the state will restore $125,000 to Kemp’s budget — enough money to keep the Archives open until at least the middle of next year.
The emergency move came two weeks before budget cuts were to force the Archives’ closure as a full-time facility except by appointment. It was a muted victory for Archives supporters, who lauded the decision but are still fighting to save the jobs of seven employees who will be laid off as of Nov. 1.
No decision about their fate has been made, Kemp spokesman Jared Thomas said.
Deal also announced he will ask state lawmakers to transfer oversight of the Archives from the secretary of state’s office to the University System of Georgia. The Legislature will meet next starting in January.
“We should be very grateful and appreciative of the governor about what he has been able to do,” said Dianne Cannestra, president of the Friends of Georgia Archives and History. “We are very excited about the move to the university system.”
The extra funding allows the Archives to stay open to the public through June 30. If lawmakers approve, control of the Archives would transfer to the university system July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Deal said the transfer would include state funding needed to keep the Archives open and care for its vast collections, which include important and historical state records dating to at least 1733. The university system would then help staff the Archives, Deal said.
“Georgia’s Archives are a showcase of our state’s rich history and a source of great pride,” Deal said in a statement, adding that the move means “Georgians can continue to come to Morrow to study and view the important artifacts kept there.”
The Georgia Archives already offered the fewest hours in the nation when Kemp announced last month he would sharply curtail even that access and all but shut the facility to the public starting in November. The decision sparked a firestorm among research academics and family genealogists, including more than 17,000 who signed a petition asking Deal to stop it.
Once open more than 40 hours a week, the institution has been getting by with 17 hours a week since last year. It will now remain at 17 hours a week, at least until the university system assumes control.
The move to largely close the Archives would have saved Kemp more than $730,000, enough to satisfy a proposed cut in his office budget. Gov. Nathan Deal has asked most state agencies to trim their budgets by 3 percent next year.
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