On September 21, 2006, I received an invitation to join the Secretary of State, Sam Reed of Washington, at a no-host lunch presentation and discussion regarding the planned State Heritage Center. The invitation gave the time and place, but no date; I was to RSVP the Spokane County Auditor if I were to be attending. I had met Sam Reed at a volunteer appreciation dinner at Cheney, Washington in July. My picture was taken receiving the certificate of appreciation. I am in a couple of the photos, but the one with Sam Reed presenting the certificate is the very last photo.
The Secretary of State has always been the state record keeper, therefore he is also the head of the state archives, and a few years ago became the head of the state library. Presently, the state archives are in a 1950s bomb shelter built to protect the state employees from a nuclear attack, but really not made for an archive. The state library is in a temporary building away from the capital since the 2001 earthquake close to Olympia. The legislature moved into the old library building after the earthquake and has been there until earlier this year when the repairs to the capital building were finished.
Sam Reed's proposal is to build a new State Heritage Center Building right on the State of Washington Capital Campus. His proposal is to combine the State Archives, State Library, State Museum (housed now in a remodeled house in Olympia), and the State Historical Society, which is now in Tacoma. The new building will be state of the art and provide proper storage controls to insure that the records collected from the 153 years since Washington Territory was formed will be available into the future, and not rot away in a bomb shelter. The library will be more accessible to the public and the museum will be more secure than it is now. Sam wants to exhibit collections from all over the state by trading with other museums in the state. The State Historical Society will also have a group of volunteers to help with the museum and archives.
Why was I invited? Well I have been a volunteer in the state historical records program for about four years, and also a volunteer at the records section of the county auditor's office looking up records for genealogists. That put me on two lists of people that would be interested in the new Heritage Center. As a genealogist, I have always been interested in having records available, but also in preserving the records so people a hundred years from now still have access to them, and not to have them rot away in an old bomb shelter. I live about 350 miles from Olympia, and have never been to the library or the archives there. However, I have used the inter library loan program and materials from the state library. I might never get to the new Heritage Center, but I still think it is a good idea. Sam was inviting people like me to get some grass roots support for the building before the election since the state has yet to approve the new building, and there has not been a building built on the capital campus in over 50 years.
November is election month, and we néed to make sure our elected officials are interested in supporting libraries and archives. After the fire in Washington, D.C. flooded the building where the 1890 census was stored, they drained the water but left the paper census records sit on the shelves in the damp storage room for 13 years before they took any action. By then nearly all of the 1890 census had been destroyed, so they threw it out.
SSo many places are feeling the crunch of money and also have concerns over identity theft that officials are thinking of making inaccessible the records we use. Do not let apathy destroy any more records or make them inaccessible. Vote!