26 September 2012

Wednesday Worry - Hear that Clanging? It's Your Freedom Calling...

While on my lunch break today, I saw Michael Hait's post updating the situation regarding the State of Georgia's Archives. A link to that post is here. After reviewing it and posting a comment to it (it's currently waiting for moderation), I thought, 'what happens if he chooses not to post it?' So, fortunately, I was able to copy and paste it here. For those of you who don't really know me, it takes a lot to get me fired up. But, once something gets to me, I have to DO something. Yesterday was a great example, and I can't tell you all how excited and proud I was that a question I asked was answered by the Director of the Modern Records Program of NARA as well as the Archivist of the United States. Wow. Anyway, here's the content of my comment on Michael's blog. Please do take a few minutes to go and check it out if you don't already follow him.

Yesterday, NARA held its annual Records Administration Office Conference, it's 24th. The main topic of discussion was the Presidential Records Management memoranda announced November 28, 2011 in which the President of the United States requested the Chief Records Officer set out "to develop a 21st-century framework for the management of Government records.  This framework will provide a foundation for open Government, leverage information to improve agency performance, and reduce unnecessary costs and burdens." (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/28/presidential-memorandum-managing-government-records accessed 26 Sept 2012) What does this have to do with Georgia? Everything. Let me explain.

During the morning, there was a Q&A session. In that session, questions are taken from the audience as well as those participating in the conference virtually. As an Archivist, and a Genealogist, I took the opportunity to ask what, if anything, NARA or the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, had to say about this situation, framing it in the context that the State's actions are counter to what is happening at the Federal level. The 'non-answer' that both Paul Webster, Director of the Modern Records Program, provided, along with the answer of David Ferriero, only underscores how dire this situation has become. You can see their answers in the video ( http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/25699469) starting at 1:22:19 and ending at 1:23:37.

Additionally, as was noted on the Facebook page "Georgians Against Closing State Archives" yesterday, Linda Davis met directly with Georgia's Secretary of State, Brian Kemp. (apologies for not providing the link; I'm working on a computer that does not allow access to Facebook). I will quote the final words of her post (which I was able to access via my cell phone): "We will not get anywhere through the Secretary of State, even though he is ultimately the one running this show. I suggest we move on to another source. I am not sure who that would be. I am open to suggestions."

The consequences of the State of Georgia closing its Archives cannot be stressed enough. While, as a genealogist, I would hate to see us all take a giant leap backward in our ability to access records, the more dire fact remains our government was formed to be OPEN to everyone, and by shutting off access to ANY records of the State, the government is being closed to the People. It isn't about history; we're talking about the day to day functioning of our government. THIS is the point that those outside of the genealogical realm can understand, and the one that I hope your readers will take to their family, friends, co-workers, and whomever else will listen. If the State of Georgia can shut off access to its daily business, other States will follow.

I hope all of you can genuinely appreciate what concerns me so greatly about this. I would HATE to see access to any Archives cut off because of a funding issue. As an Archivist, I've been directly affected by all these cutbacks. However, my greater concern is the cloaking of the government's daily business, done under the guise of budget constraints. I'd love to hear your comments on this subject.


  1. Laura, I saw Michael Hait's post, too. And I know you are deeply concerned about this issue. Broadening the scope so all affected constituencies may see the impact this decision poses is the best strategy, and the way you are re-framing the threat speaks volumes to all who should be concerned. Thank you for persistence in revisiting this topic.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. I keep thinking that if they succeed, then surely other states will see it as a good option for cutting their expenses as well and will follow suit. I also feel that there is a fundamental right for us to have access to these governmental records and that limiting that right is a step in the wrong direction. It scares me to death. Thanks for the post.


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