ďThe mission of the Georgia Archives is to identify, select, preserve and make accessible records that constitute Georgia's recorded history; to increase the efficiency of the State Government through effective records management; and to improve the quality of records and archives management throughout the state.Ē
In other words, we decide which records are important to Georgia history and we bring these things to the Archives building where they can be kept safe and where researchers (people looking for information) can come to use them. We even help people take better care of records that arenít inside the Archives building.
What are records? People make and collect information. Members of your family may send letters or e-mails to each other. You may have scrapbooks, diaries, and photo albums around your home as well as birth certificates and important bills. These are just a few types of family records. The records carry information about the people in your family such as when they were born, what they look like, or how they spend their time and money. This information is important to your family now but it may also be interesting to your children or grandchildren someday!
People in businesses, government offices, or organizations (such as a historical societies or charity groups) make and collect records too. They send, receive, and save messages, write notes about projects they are working on, and keep papers about the money they spend. Maps, drawings, computer files, sound recordings (such as audiotapes or CDs), and motion pictures (such as videotapes or DVDs) can also be records. The records kept by the Archives help government workers and historians as well as regular citizens learn more about Georgia. At the Archives, researchers can study changes in laws, read about important events of the past, search for the history of family members from this state, and explore what life was like for Georgians all the way back to our first recorded history in 1732.
Where do records in the Georgia Archives come from? Our records are from state government offices but also from important organizations, businesses, churches, families, and individuals. Sometimes records from offices for county and municipal (city) governments can be found at the Archives too.
Are all Georgia government records at the Georgia Archives?
If your family kept every bill, e-mail, card, letter, and note you received, wouldnít your house be overflowing with paper? People look through their records and decide which ones to throw away, which ones to keep for a little while, and which ones they want to save forever. This is true for government offices and organizations as well. The Georgia Archives helps offices and organizations decide how long to keep records.
Some government records that will be kept forever canít be brought to the Archives right now because they are still being used by the people in the office who made or collected them. This is also true for some of the organizations who will give their records to the Georgia Archives someday. When this happens, we give the offices and organizations advice about keeping their records in good order. When these records finally come to the Archives, they are clean and tidy for the researchers who come to use them.
Where does the Georgia Archives keep the records?
Important records need to be kept in a place where no one can steal or damage them. They also need to be stored in a cool, dark room with low humidity (little moisture in the air) so they will last as long as possible. The Georgia Archivesí four floors of special storage areas safely keep about 100,000 cubic feet of records. (This means we have enough records to fill 100,000 boxes that are twelve inches tall, twelve inches wide, and twelve inches deep. Thatís a lot of paper!)
The Archives also keeps over 65,000 reels of records on microfilm. Microfilm is a long strip of film that has small photographs of paper records on it. The film is rolled around a reel (spool). When a researcher puts the reel on a microfilm reader machine, he or she can look at the records and print paper copies of them. Using microfilm keeps the paper records from becoming worn and ratty from too many people touching them. We can also make extra copies of the microfilm reels, and there are several good reasons for doing this: We can give microfilm copies to libraries, sharing the records with their researchers who might be too far away to visit the Archives. Many researchers can use the same record at the same time when there is more than one copy of microfilm. Also, if something bad happened to one roll of microfilm or even the records themselves, the extra copies of microfilm would keep the information from being lost.
How can researchers use the records?
Nearly 20,000 people visit the Georgia Archivesí Research Room each year to use the records we collect as well as our collection of books about Georgia. Researchers show picture identification and register (fill out a form), and then they can visit the Research Room whenever it is open (Friday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) Special staff called reference archivists help researchers find what they are looking for. Kids are welcome at the Georgia Archives, but researchers under the age of sixteen must have a registered adult with them. Also, groups of researchers have to let the Archives they are coming several weeks before they arrive.
What else does the Georgia Archives do?
The Archives has a Conservation laboratory where staff can repair many types of damaged records. There is a reformatting lab where Archives staff can make new microfilm or make computer-scanned pictures of records. We also help people learn more about records and Georgia history, offering tours of our building and inviting historians and records experts to give lectures.
Where is the Georgia Archives?
Until recently, the Georgia Archives was located in downtown Atlanta. In May of 2003, a new and improved Archives facility opened to the public. This new building, located in the city of Morrow just south of the Atlanta Perimeter (Interstate 285) near Interstate 75, is a secure house for Georgiaís important records.
What can you do to help the Georgia Archives?
The Georgia Archives wants important records to last as long as possible. This includes your family records! Here are some things you can do to save your family history:
- Store family records in a cool, dry place away from things that might damage them. -- Donít store records in a hot attic or damp basement. Place records in boxes where the light wonít fade them and they are safe from dust, dirt, and spills.
- Be gentle with family records -- Wash your hands before handling papers. Touch photographs only by the edges. Turn pages slowly and carefully.
- Let your family know that you are interested in your family history. Sometimes people throw away records because they donít know other family members want them.
- Save family stories. -- Ask your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and family friends about their lives and important family events. Tape or write down what they tell you. Keep a diary about your own life. Print out important e-mails and save letters.