One building in particular, that is.
The National Archives building in Seattle, Washington.
Which the Public Buildings Reform Board has decided should be sold… because the real estate it sits on is a hot property.
Not one whit of consideration for the fact that the records housed within that facility are of enormous value to the people of the Pacific Northwest.
Not one whit of consideration for the fact that records previously housed in Alaska have already been moved once, to the Seattle facility.
Not one whit of consideration for the fact that the alternate repositories proposed — Kansas City for some records and Riverside, California, for others — are not at all easy to access for folks from this part of the country.
And not one whit of consideration for the fact that accessing records at Kansas City is probably the least convenient of all the archival facilities in the country.
But only the fact that “Relocating (this facility) will make 10-acres of highly valuable land available, likely for residential housing, in the Hawthorne Hills neighborhood just to the west of Lake Washington in the Puget Sound region of Washington…”
All without a single opportunity for a single member of the public impacted by this decision to be heard.
A letter sent by Vince Patton, President of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon, to the federal Office of Management and Budget blasted the decision:
“The decision to close this federal repository of public records was made in complete secrecy, with no input from the public or any other government entities in the region. No local hearings or requests for feedback were held in Washington, nor in Alaska, Idaho, Montana or Oregon.
The Seattle National Archives and Records Center holds records, mostly un-digitized, starting in the 1840’s for the five NW states. These records are vital public documents for anyone researching American history.
No consideration of the importance of maintaining archival resources in the Pacific was made. The National Archives goals do not appear to include keeping local resources close to their origin and where most use will occur. We must ask, “Why not?”
It is vital these record are kept in our region and remain accessible. Transferring records relevant to the Pacific Northwest to a records center in Kansas City, Missouri, effectively bars access to those to whom the records are most relevant.
We urge you to keep Northwest records where they will be most used, and to keep the expert archives staff who specialize in Pacific Northwest records.”1
And the Records Preservation and Access Committee — jointly comprised of representatives from all the major national genealogical societies — has joined in opposing the move: “If a decision is made to sell the property, the National Archives Branch needs to be relocated into another facility in the Seattle area. Each National Archives Branch includes original documents from the region that are available at no other location and have not been digitized. If the Archives Branch were closed and not relocated, it is our understanding the records would be moved to Kansas City, Missouri (1,800 miles from Seattle) or Riverside, California, (1,200 miles from Seattle). Either location would make those records inaccessible to most residents of the northwestern United States.”2
And historians, researchers and others in the Pacific Northwest are just appalled.3
A final decision on this building sale could be made by the Office of Management and Budget as early as this Sunday, January 26th. If there’s any chance for us to be heard, we need to speak out NOW.
The Legal Genealogist would love to tell members of our community concerned about this where to write to express their own individual concerns — and our outrage at this decision and its secrecy. But there’s no clear path to comment on this because of the secrecy.
So here are our options:
1. Write (email) to the head of the Office of Management and Budget, acting director Russell T. Vought. His email is [email protected].
2. Write (email) to the agency proposing the sale of the property, the Public Buildings Reform Board. Its email is [email protected].
3. Contact the National Archives via its contact page at https://www.archives.gov/contact.
4. Contact your United States Senators (find the contact info for your two senators at https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm) and your member of the House of Representatives (find the contact info for your representative at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative).
The one option we do not have is to stand silent.
Access to our heritage is at stake.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “2020 alphabet soup: B is for…,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 23 Jan 2020).
- Vince Patton to Russell T. Vought, Acting Director, Office of Management & Budget, email, 22 Jan 2020, copy provided to JG Russell. ↩
- RPAC to Public Buildings Reform Board, email, 23 Jan 2020, copy provided to JG Russell. ↩
- See Feliks Banel, “Officials, historians slam ‘horrendous’ plan to close Seattle National Archives,” MyNorthwest.com, posted 22 Jan 2020 (https://mynorthwest.com/ : accessed 23 Jan 2020). ↩