NARA Seattle Facility: Decision to close and the subsequent reversal
In April 2021, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) withdrew its approval of the closure and sale of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle. Read the Office of the Secretary of State’s (OSOS) statement here. Scroll down for more information, including a background, news coverage, and other communications.
In 2019, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle was named one of 12 “high-value assets” the U.S. government aimed to sell in accordance with the Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (FASTA). Passed in December 2016, FASTA requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and General Services Administration (GSA) to identify opportunities for the government to reduce its inventory of civilian real property.
On Oct. 31, 2019, the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) submitted to OMB its list of saleable assets, which included the NARA Seattle facility. In January 2020, OMB approved PBRB’s recommendations — without soliciting input or feedback from the public. No closing date was set, but the sale process was expected to take 18 months. The facility would then remain open for an additional three years while its assets and holdings — all of them essential to Pacific Northwest history — were being moved to NARA locations in California (Perris, in Riverside County) and Missouri (Kansas City).
OSOS sent a letter to Washington’s Congressional delegation Jan. 27, 2020, urging lawmakers and OMB to find a way to keep the federal archival records in the state. Members of Washington’s Congressional delegation also sent a letter to OMB, asking to disapprove the board’s recommendation to close the facility.
Over the next 15 months, local tribes, repositories, state and federal lawmakers, the state attorney general, and OSOS — along with news outlets across the Pacific Northwest — urged the federal government to reverse its decision to sell NARA Seattle. On April 8, 2021, OMB withdrew its approval of the sale of the facility.
Washington State Archives, a division of OSOS, created this webpage to chronicle the decision to sell NARA Seattle, as well as the dispute and the resolution that will ultimately keep Pacific Northwest records close to home.
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More information may be added to this webpage as it becomes available.
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- Regional libraries: Libraries from all over the PNW issue a letter to OMB opposing NARA closure.
- My Northwest | Feliks Banel: Expert says it would take hundreds of years to digitize records at Seattle NARA.
- Seattle Times: Ferguson threatens to sue if feds don't reverse 'illegal' decision to close NARA Seattle.
- Attorney General Bob Ferguson: AG Ferguson threatens to sue over NARA closure.
- Crosscut | Knute Berger: Closing Seattle's NARA is a 'paper genocide' for some Natives.
- KTOO (Juneau, AK): Much of Alaska's history is not here anymore: NARA moving again, this time even farther away.
- OSOS: Secretary Wyman presents before the Washington State Heritage Caucus.
- American Library Association: ALA opposes NARA closure with letter to OMB.
- Issues and Advocacy: More than a warehouse: Why the closure of Seattle's NARA facility matters.
- UW Daily: NARA closing could impact researchers, tribes, says UW professors.
- KIRO Radio & TV MyNorthwest: NARA tries 're-set' with tribes about Seattle closure.
- KUOW | NPR: First 'panic,' then a battle to keep NARA in Seattle.
- The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation: CTCR sends letter to OBM to oppose NARA Seattle closure.
- Boise State Public Radio: Northwest's National Archives headed to Missouri and California.
- International Examiner: Concerns raised about closure of NARA in Seattle, which contains Chinese Exclusion Act records.
- The National Coalition for History: NCH sends letter to OMB opposing closure of NARA's Seattle records facility.
- Daily News-Miner (Fairbanks, AK): Alaskans, help save the National Archives at Seattle.
- Spokane Public Radio: OSOS hopes U.S. Archives in Seattle can remain open.
- The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR): Our view: Don't send OR's history to KC.
- Anchorage Daily News: Save the National Archives at Seattle, a link from past to present.
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is an independent federal agency in charge of preserving and documenting government and historical records. It is also tasked with increasing public access to these documents, which comprise the National Archive. Based in Washington, D.C., NARA administers the Office of the Federal Register, 14 National Archive facilities, 18 Federal Records Centers, and 16 presidential libraries and museums across the country.
About the NARA Seattle Facility
The NARA Seattle facility is located at 6125 Sand Point Way NE. The 10-acre property houses both a National Archives and Federal Records Center (FRC) that maintain and provide access to permanent records created by federal agencies and courts in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and — since 2014 after NARA closed its Anchorage facility — Alaska. Until 2018 NARA Seattle also housed Montana’s records. In addition, the Seattle FRC serves most Hawaii federal agencies.
The facility was built in 1946 as a U.S. Navy warehouse; NARA has occupied the building since 1963, and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) owns the facility. NARA Seattle holds millions of records, including genealogical information as well as documents, photos, and maps dating back to the 1840s. These are considered “foundational” documents — essentially, the administrative and bureaucratic DNA — from when the Native ground of the Pacific Northwest officially became part of the United States.