On July 25, 1969, a group of twenty-one archivists met at the Georgia Department of Archives and History (later Georgia Archives) in Atlanta to found the Society of Georgia Archivists (SGA). The mission of the group was to “bring about a closer communication among people in archives, manuscripts, special libraries, and other historically oriented professions.”
Carroll Hart, director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History from 1964 to 1982 and a charter member of SGA, had earlier founded the short-lived Georgia League of Historical Societies. Both individuals and their organizations were beginning to congregate and to look for common interests and ways that they could share. In 1969 Georgia had twenty individual members of the national Society of American Archivists organization. Recognizing the existence of local and state archival issues that could not be addressed fully by a national organization, ten of the twenty became charter members of SGA.
The group sought to build a partnership between state and federal archivists. In addition, the society sought to aid individual archivists and advance the profession, as well as make Georgians more aware of the rich archival resources that document their history. Although the need for representing archives throughout the state was recognized early on, membership was concentrated in the Atlanta area for the first four years.
To further communication and information sharing, the first newsletter of the society appeared in 1970, and in 1971 the group began to consider the need for a directory of Georgia repositories and archival personnel. In 1973 the society sanctioned an ambitious program of public service and publication. To recruit more members and to get more individuals involved, the executive board accepted a proposal to publish a journal. In 1972 Georgia Archive (later Provenance) became the first journal in the nation to be published by a state or regional archive group.
As membership continued to grow, SGA focused on educational and outreach activities. In 1988 the society established the Carroll Hart Scholarship to fund attendance to the Georgia Archives Institute, held each summer in Atlanta. Hart founded the institute, and in her honor the scholarship enhances archival education and membership.
In honor of David B. Gracy II, the first editor of Georgia Archive, an award was established in 1990 to recognize the best article in Provenance. SGA expanded its scholarship awards by creating the Larry Gulley Scholarship (named for a former president of SGA) in 1993 for attendance at the organization’s annual meeting in the fall and for a one-year membership in SGA. Finally, the Edward Weldon Scholarship (named for the SGA’s first president) was established in 2000, to recognize Weldon’s leadership in furthering the preservation and access of Georgia’s historical records.
As of 2006, the society’s membership has grown to 180 individual members representing 98 institutions from 19 states. The society continues to publish Provenance on an annual basis and the SGA Newsletter on a quarterly basis. Every fall, an annual meeting is held in Atlanta or elsewhere around the state and is supplemented by a workshop in the spring.
The SGA also sponsors Georgia Archives Month, a celebration of the state’s preserved historical record. The event was created on October 4, 2000, through a proclamation issued by Georgia governor Roy Barnes, and the inaugural celebration featured the theme “Georgia Memories: Stories of the Past for the Future.” From 2000 to 2006 the event took place over the course of a single week, but in 2007 the SGA began coordinating activities for the entire month of October. During Archives Month, events and exhibitions are held around the state to showcase the documents and artifacts of Georgia’s material history, as well as the organizations and repositories that preserve, catalog, and interpret those items. Newspaper articles, tours, and receptions also highlight the Archives Month theme, which changes each year.