The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), invites all to visit their many locations on their website but perusing the list, there are few located for those in the western states to visit. Only slightly more than a dozen states have archives facilities, but of some 40 or so facilities (including presidential libraries), most cluster in the east and south, with only 2 located in California (along with presidential libraries), 1 in Colorado, and 1 located in Seattle, Washington. Soon to be sold.
Alaska lost their facility in a 2014 downsizing in when their records moved to this Washington state facility. The Alaska Historic Society is asking for action at the prospect of having their records transported further away, without the promised digitization to provide remote access.
The Seattle facility houses the records from multiple western states including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. There is genealogical information as well as the records from numerous federal agencies operating in the west. Basically, stuff that should be available to those who are most affected by the decisions being made by those agencies.
The Federal Assets Sale Transfer Act (FASTA) of 2016
directed accelerated sales to reduce maintenance costs of federal properties.
So they want to reduce properties but disposing of this property doesn’t seem to agree with the last bullet point.
“ • the civilian real property could be used to produce the highest and best value and return for the taxpayer;
• the operating and maintenance costs are reduced through consolidating, co-locating, and reconfiguring space and through realizing other operational efficiencies;
• the utilization rate is being maximized and is consistent with nongovernmental industry standards;
• reliance on leasing for long-term space needs is reduced;
• a civilian real property aligns with the current mission of the agency;
• there are opportunities to consolidate similar operations across or within agencies;
• energy consumption is reduced; and
• public access to agency services is maintained or enhanced.”
Over the past year, the Public Building Reform Board held 4 public meetings to discuss their recommendations which included a list of 12 properties to sell. These meetings were held in California, Colorado, and Washington D.C. Nine of the 12 properties to be sold are in California (5), Colorado (1), Idaho (1) and Washington (2). The other 3 are in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The 12 properties include:
1. Sacramento Job Corps Center (Excess Land Sale Only), 3100 Meadowview Road, Sacramento, CA 95832 – Department of Labor (“DOL”)
2. Information Operations and Research Center, 1155 Foote Drive, Idaho Falls, ID 83401 and Shelley‐ New Sweden Park & Ride Lot, Shelley‐New Sweden Hwy, Idaho Falls, ID 83415 – Department of Energy
3. Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 1352 Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 – Department of Commerce (“DOC”)
4. Edison Job Corps Center (Excess Land Sale Only), 500 Plainfield Avenue, Edison, NJ 08817 – DOL
5. Veterans Affairs Denver Medical Center (Partial Disposition), 1055 Clermont Street, Denver, CO 80220 – Department of Veterans Affairs
6. Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse, 228 Walnut Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101 – GSA7. Auburn Complex, 400 15th Street SW, Auburn, WA 98001 – GSA
8. Menlo Park Complex, 345 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025 – GSA
9. Chet Holifield Federal Building, 24000 Avila Road, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 – General Services Administration (“GSA”)
10. Nike Site, 770 Muddy Branch Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20899 – DOC
11. WestEd Office Building, 4665 Lampson Avenue, Los Alamitos, CA 90720 – Department of Education
12. Federal Archives and Records Center, 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115 – National Archives and Records Administration
It is heartening to see that they took into consideration historic preservation during their deliberations. Historic buildings and structures can be a powerful way to experience history for people. The NARA facility in Sand Point, Washington, built in 1946 was found to not be eligible to the National Register of Historic Places, so there was no further need to consider that.
However, the experience of history can also be found in reading historic records and seeing the artifacts that people used in their everyday lives. Bit by bit, piece by piece, reading through various records, one can find a thread that begins to build a story. The artifacts can show the skill of the maker, their connections with the land and where their resources came from. Well if you’re in the northwest, now you’ll go to Missouri to be able to do that.
NARA is currently striving to digitize their records and make them available online. This is a worthy enterprise and I certainly applaud it. However, they are not there yet. Even if they were, access to the original record can be more informative, as you might be able to read what is in that crinkle in the corner, and consider how it relates to what you found on the last page, of the journal three boxes back. This access should not be restricted only to the south and east of our country. As one of only four non-presidential library archive locations in the west, perhaps the National Archives facility in Seattle should be maintained.
Evidently in October, they notified the local representative’s office that this building was to be sold. By November the list was submitted from the PBRB to OMB, which initially rejected the findings due to lack of adequate detail. The final list was submitted in December. And OMB will make their decision by Sunday. Should all 12 properties be approved, they should be sold within one year, accelerated.
As of last week, the news of this loss has begun hitting local news outlets
https://mynorthwest.com/1670992/seattle-national-archives-closure-recommendation/. Apparently it hasn’t even hit the Seattle Times yet.
Why with several dozen eastern facilities, do they need to close and sell one of just 4 western facilities?
And why did no one in Washington (or Alaska who had to send their records south in 2014) seem to know they wanted to?
Comments are probably well beyond moot at this point, but they could go to:
Public Buildings Reform Board at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington state reps
The Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero at email@example.com or through the webpage archives.gov