The decision by the federal Public Buildings Reform Board and the U.S. Office of Management and the Budget to empty out this region’s National Archives is, at best, miscalculated, at worst, it is deplorable.
Since its approval earlier this month, the recommendation to sell the 73-year-old building in Seattle and its 10-acre site has met a wave of opposition from historians, Pacific Northwest tribes, all senators from Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Idaho, and eight of the 10 Washington state representatives to the House. At the core of this issue is the lack of discussion and notice given to all “affected communities.”
“I’m deeply disappointed that OMB failed to heed bipartisan Congressional requests & approved selling #Seattle’s archives facility w/out engaging state & local officials & affected communities as required by law,” tweeted Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Democrat whose 7th Congressional District includes the Sand Point archives property. “We must get answers about why the law wasn’t followed in this case.”
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is rightly looking into the matter. “If, in our opinion, the administration did not follow the law, there would be a lawsuit,” he said.
If the building is sold, nearly one million boxes of archival records would be relocated to National Archives storage in Kansas City, Missouri, and Riverside, California. The lack of access to our area’s history is an unacceptable result of this transaction.
Held within the archives is history vital to many. As reported by The Seattle Times, “The archives are a repository for all federal records generated in the Pacific Northwest. The expansive collection includes military, land, court, tax and census records. It contains important treaty documents relating to the 272 federally recognized tribes in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.”
If and when the records are moved, access to information could only be a significant logistical and financial burden to those researching, from tribal members to students to community members alike.
It is of the upmost importance that all of our communities have access to documents that helped form our present. Central to our democracy is an informed, participating people; central to being an informed, participating people is access to information. How can we informedly participate in our democracy if information is nearly impossible to get to?