Federal budget includes funding for new Seattle National Archives

Mar 22, 2024, 3:20 PM | Updated: Mar 25, 2024, 3:36 pm

Image: The National Archives Seattle building, which is located on Sand Point Way NE, can be seen f...

The National Archives Seattle building, which is located on Sand Point Way NE, can be seen from the outside. (Photo: Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Feliks Banel/KIRO Newsradio)

A federal funding measure, passed Friday by a divided U.S. House of Representatives and then subsequently passed by the U.S. Senate, avoided a government shutdown. It also means the General Services Administration (GSA) will get $9 million “for planning and design of a new long-term records storage facility for the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) facility in the Seattle area” according to a press release issued by the office of Washington Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

The possibility of federal funding to begin the process of replacing NARA’s aging facility in Seattle’s Sand Point neighborhood was first reported in October 2023 by KIRO Newsradio in an exclusive interview with Dr. Colleen Shogan, Archivist of the United States.

In January 2020, KIRO Newsradio broke the news that Seattle’s current National Archives facility was slated to be shut down, with its contents – priceless federal documents, maps, photos and other materials stretching back to the 19th century – to be likely shipped to California and Missouri, and the real estate sold off to generate revenue for the federal government. Tribes, museums and others concerned with preserving historical federal records in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska joined in a bipartisan effort led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to successfully keep the facility in Seattle.

More from Feliks Banel: Young aviator’s rediscovered photo albums are full of history, mystery

The measure, signed early Saturday by President Joe Biden, means this funding will allow the GSA, the arm of the federal government that manages real estate and development for many agencies, to begin planning for a new facility for the National Archives. Specific location and other details about the new facility would be determined through this process, with actual construction likely not beginning for several years.

On Monday, Senator Murray’s office shared a statement with KIRO Newsradio about funding for the new NARA facility.

“The generations of history and artifacts stored in the Seattle Archives facility are critical to telling the story of the Pacific Northwest, especially for Tribes in our region—which is why I’ve fought to ensure these records remain accessible to folks here in Washington state,” Murray’s statement reads.

“Since we stopped the Trump administration’s attempt to sell the property and relocate its contents, I’ve been working on a long-term solution that keeps the records in the Seattle area—and I’m thrilled that as Chair of the Appropriations Committee,” the statement continues, “I was able to write into this year’s government funding bills $9 million for the planning and design of a new long-term National Archives facility in the region.”

“We had to write this bill under really tough funding caps, and every dollar counted,” Senator Murray said. “I made clear that the Archives had to be a priority and I’ll keep working to support the preservation of our region’s history and culture.”

You can hear Feliks Banel every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien. Read more from Feliks here and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks.

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