Let’s Talk Atlanta . . .

Courtney Chartier, Emory University, and Traci Drummond, Georgia State University
2016 Host Committee Co-Chairs

ARCHIVES * RECORDS 2016, the Joint Annual Meeting of the Council of State Archivists and Society of American Archivists, is July 31–August 6 at the Hilton Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia. On a recent Sunday afternoon, Courtney Chartier and Traci Drummond sat around Chartier’s kitchen table in Atlanta to talk barbeque, their go-to spots, and the spirit of the city.

CC: One thing I want people from SAA to know about Atlanta is the variety of archives. It’s an archives-rich city. We both work in academic archives, but there are many corporate and religious archives. Georgia’s archives is here, as well as NARA and the Carter Presidential Library.

TD: That’s true. There’s also the Atlanta History Center, which is a private institution, but has a city-based collection. Decatur has the DeKalb History Center.

CC: And the Auburn Avenue Research Library, which is focused on African American history and culture but functions as an Atlanta archives in a lot of ways.

TD: And it’s part of the county’s public library system. The corporates include Delta Air Lines, The Coca-Cola Company. . .

CC: . . .Chick-fil-A, Turner.

TD: There’s a lot, too, when it comes to academic archives.

CC: Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Agnes Scott, Emory, all the Atlanta University Center schools.

TD: Just a little north up I-75, there’s Kennesaw State, and up I-85 there’s The University of Georgia. There’s also the archives for the Archdiocese for the City of Atlanta, plus some of the city departments themselves.

CC: Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta Housing Authority—some of our utilities have their own. And the museums! The Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum comes to mind.

TD: I grew up in Georgia and I moved back to Atlanta about eight-and-half years ago. But you had never really been to Georgia before your first job here. What surprised you about Atlanta, and what would you want people to know about the city?

CC: One thing that is really interesting about the city is how rapidly it changes, how close together some of the areas are that seem really different from each other. It really is a city based around neighborhoods. There are these sections of town that have their own name, have their own subculture and their own pockets of restaurants and stores and cultural spaces. You go to the next neighborhood and it has its own, too.

TD: One thing that I think people would be surprised by is how much tree cover we have. I love that we are a “city in a forest” and have really great green spaces. Close to me is Grant Park, which has the Atlanta Zoo. Then there is Piedmont Park which has lots of festivals and road races. Those are both easily accessible from downtown.

CC: Piedmont is the biggest in the city and there is always something going on there, especially with the Botanical Garden. Another big outdoor space is the Beltline, which is a walking path that cuts through the center of the city. It’s a place to walk, bike, and skate (there’s a skate park alongside it), and there are also public art and restaurants and bars along the way.

Within the city limits there’s a lot of great, hidden hiking. Some are small, like Lullwater, an estate that has trails through it, but some are really big, like the Chattahoochee National Recreation Center. It’s a huge, beautiful federal park in the city limits.

TD: Panola Mountain and Arabia Mountain are two of my favorites—and just a short drive from the city.

CC: Don’t forget Stone Mountain!

[Laughter. Stone Mountain is a large, granite outcropping in Georgia State Park that hosts a fabulous laser and fireworks show. The character of Kenneth the Page on the show 30 Rock is from Stone Mountain.]

TD: Yes, Stone Mountain, just to the Northeast. There’s also the Path Foundation, which is a biking, walking, and running trail which runs from the Carter Library all the way out to Stone Mountain.

CC: For people who have time to explore further, Atlanta is within driving distance of a lot of cities. You mentioned Athens, but there is also Charleston, Savannah, Asheville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Birmingham—a lot of great cities in the South with interesting scenes. Athens is pretty well known for local music, which isn’t too shabby in Atlanta either.

TD: All of our neighborhoods have their own places to catch music or comedy. We have a fair amount of comedy if you aren’t into seeing a band. Or if you want to sit while you go out or you want to be home by midnight.

[Laughter. Chartier and Drummond are both over 35 and prefer sitting down to standing and being home before midnight.]

TD: There are clubs like the Improv and the Laughing Skull. Also Dad’s Garage and the Village Theater for improv.

Of course we have sports. The Braves. The Falcons.

CC: The Hawks.

TD: The Yellow Jackets are over at Tech. And just up north, I think it’s worth noting, we have the Georgia Bulldogs.

CC: Emory . . . not so big on the sports.

TD: Georgia State has a football team, but . . .

CC: . . . a very young football team.

TD: One fun thing about working downtown in recent years—equal parts fun and frustrating—is the amount of filming being done in the city. Sometimes I’m not able to get anywhere because there is a movie location in my way. It’s annoying, but it’s still cool to get the email that says, “If you hear a lot of car crashing noises, it’s because a movie is being filmed two blocks from the library. Don’t worry about it.”

There are good tax incentives for filming in Georgia, and that has brought some production in, most notably The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games. Those are two a lot of folks know about, love them or hate them, and there are movie tours for both. Do you remember that Ant-Man was filmed in front of the old state archives?

CC: I think that the building was a stand-in for his company in the movie.

Another thing that I love to do in Atlanta is eat. You are never far from five great choices. The train stops have clusters of good food places. Because we are such a large city with big corporations, people move here from all over, and our cuisine really reflects that.

If you want to come here and just get fried chicken, you can do that, too. My favorite thing I’ve learned about Southern food is “tomato pie” which has a Ritz cracker crust. It’s amazing.

We have a great farm-to-table culture, too, since Atlanta is so close to rural areas. A lot of our restaurants have committed to buying from north Georgia farms.

TD: There are the traditional places, like Colonnade or Mary Mac’s. If you’re coming to Atlanta for Southern food, don’t worry. There’s a great tradition of barbecue—Atlanta has its own thing going on, and we could probably do one blog post alone on burgers.

CC: True.

TD: I do want to talk about one more thing to wrap it up. The city of Atlanta is well known for its place in the civil rights movement, and rightly so, as Dr. King was born and lived here. The King Center is here, and they have an archives, which is very close to the Hilton Atlanta conference hotel. It’s a wonderful spirit, I think, that stays with the city. Maybe it doesn’t extend to all parts of Georgia or the South, but it’s with us in Atlanta.

CC: Atlanta is a city that’s focused on moving forward and rebuilding; it’s been part of the culture since Sherman. Atlanta changes really quickly and in some ways, because our skyline is never the same, it can feel like a city without a memory, but I don’t think that’s true when it comes to the legacy of Dr. King and the movement. It’s still thought about and breathed in within our culture. Going down to Sweet Auburn and seeing his home and his church and the King Center is an important thing to do when you visit Atlanta, but it’s also just as important to Atlantans.

Courtney and Traci hope to see you in Atlanta at ARCHIVES * RECORDS 2016! If you have questions about Atlanta, don't hesitate to contact Courtney at courtney.chartier@gmail.com or Traci at traci.drummond@gmail.com. Also check out the Host Committee’s blog (available by May 1) at http://www2.archivists.org/am2016 for more tips, recommendations, and the all-important travel logistics.

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