Society of Georgia ArchivistsPreserving the past and present for the future.

Martin Elzy
SGA Fellow
Class of 2011

After doing research as a graduate history student at the Truman Library, I applied for a job with the National Archives and Records Service (part of the General Services Administration at the time) in the Office of Presidential Libraries. After a year-long introduction to archival work with NARS in Washington, I moved to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. Six and one-half years later, I transferred to what was called the Jimmy Carter Presidential Materials Project in Atlanta, starting work the day before President Carter left the White House. With the opening of the Library in 1986, I became Assistant Director, and I retired in 2003, returning to Austin.

Describe how SGA influenced your development as a professional.

Starting work in Atlanta as one of three people on the Carter Presidential Materials Project staff, it was imperative to make contacts in the local archival community. Many of the local archives held material related to the career of President Carter, and most staff members had valuable memories of Governor Carter’s career in Georgia politics and his Presidential campaign. I soon found the annual SGA meetings an ideal opportunity to share information about holdings, best practices, and new developments in the profession. My opportunity to serve one year as SGA president and for several years as co-director of the Georgia Archives Institute allowed me to strengthen ties with archival colleagues around the state. The wit and wisdom of my Georgia colleagues was always inspiring.

What advice would you give to a student or individual considering a career in archives?

I was hired as an archivist in the mid-1970’s without any education or training in archives. My education was in history, which was common for a new hire of the National Archives and Records Service in those days. I don’t believe I ever used a computer until I began work at the Carter Presidential Materials Project in 1981. Today’s archival applicant is usually expected to be fluent in both archives and computers. But I do believe that a successful archivist also must have a passion for the subject of the archives in which the archivist works. And despite all of the other demands, each archivist must keep the needs of researchers in mind when establishing priorities.

Describe one of your fondest memories or a highlight of your career in archives.

Certainly two highlights of my career were the opening the Carter Presidential Materials Project in January, 1981, and the opening of the permanent building on October 1, 1986. It was a great pleasure to welcome SGA members to both of these facilities for behind-the-scenes tours. It was also a pleasure to share the excitement of SGA colleagues throughout Georgia as they dedicated new buildings or renovated facilities.

But my truly fondest memories are of the people I worked with at the Carter Library for twenty-three years and the many friends I made in the Georgia archival community during that time. They were always gracious to me and to my wife and son. All three of us remember those years and associations fondly.

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