Dr. Melvin Steely, Director of Georgia’s Political Heritage Program at the University of West Georgia and UWG professor emeritus of history, will be the 2010 recipient of the Georgia Library Association’s Charles Beard Library Advocacy Award. The award will be presented on Thursday, October 14th, in Athens.
The Charles Beard Library Advocacy Award recognizes an individual not employed in a library who has made outstanding contributions to libraries and honors the memory of Charles E. Beard, Director of University Libraries at UWG from 1978 to 2004. Past recipients include Governor Zell Miller and Stephen Portch, Chancellor of the University System of Georgia.
Through his extraordinary determination to collect the papers and recorded comments of Georgia’s political leaders, Dr. Steely has made a tremendous contribution to documenting and preserving the political history of Georgia and has been a tireless advocate for the role libraries play in preserving unique collections.
“Almost three decades ago, Dr. Steely recognized the importance of preserving materials that were sometimes discarded or retained in private hands, and he also realized that current technology—first audio tape, later video tape, and then digital recording allowed the preservation of personal recollections of individuals who had contributed significantly to the realm of politics,” said UWG Dean of Libraries Lorene Flanders.
Georgia’s Political Heritage Program was officially born in 1983 with Steely’s series of interviews of former Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge and the decision by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich to deposit his political papers in UWG’s Annie Belle Weaver Special Collections. Through Steely’s work, the program expanded to include interviews with Georgia governors, lieutenant governors, U.S. senators and congressmen, state legislators, and political activists.
In 2003, outgoing Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy donated his papers and office contents.
In 2008, the state legislature honored the late Speaker, funding an $8 million library renovation to feature Murphy’s State Capitol office, associated exhibits, and a research room for scholars.
In 2005, Steely negotiated an agreement with Georgia Public Broadcasting to air a selection of interviews on the GPB website. Currently, UWG Special Collections is collaborating with the Digital Library of Georgia to digitize and upload the political heritage interviews to the DLG website for viewing.