Editorials

State can’t hire Marie Kondo to de-clutter state archives

Secretary Wyman gives Archives building tour to highlight issues with current longtime location

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman leads a Jan. 29th tour of the Library-Archives Building on the east Capitol campus in an effort to gain support for a new location in Tumwater.
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Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman leads a Jan. 29th tour of the Library-Archives Building on the east Capitol campus in an effort to gain support for a new location in Tumwater.

Unlike Netflix’s de-cluttering star Marie Kondo, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman can’t ask herself if documents kept in the Washington State Archives building bring her happiness.

Kondo’s organizing method suggests getting rid of items that don’t spark joy in your heart. However, that won’t work when it comes to official records and state historical papers.

Wyman is legally required to keep them all.

And that is a problem because the state ran out of storage space over a decade ago.

What’s worse, Wyman’s office said documents are at risk of fire and water damage in the archives building, and it is critical the state find a new home for these irreplaceable items.

We agree.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved HB 2015, which would build a new $108 million state library-archives building in Tumwater.

It would be paid with funding sources already identified by the Secretary of State’s office, along with a $2 increase in fees counties currently charge people for filing documents like real estate transactions, and marriage and birth certificates.

Since those documents are saved in the state archives, charging people a couple dollars more to house them in a safer location is a reasonable ask. The plan is that those fees will go away once the building is paid off.

The bill is now in the Senate, and we encourage its approval.

Both the State Archives on the Olympia Capitol Campus and the Washington State Library in Tumwater outgrew their facilities years ago, forcing the state to lease space in other buildings.

Instead of scattering important records at six different facilities, the proposed Library-Archives Building would house everything at one location.

That makes so much more sense.

In addition, the new building will better protect these valuable papers. Wyman said on a media tour of the Washington State Archives building that the 1962 structure was originally constructed as a bomb shelter, but much of it has deteriorated to the point that the threat of water and fire damage is extremely serious.

She noted that sewage pipes run along the ceiling of the basement storage facility, and those pipes leak periodically. The facility also does not meet modern environmental and atmospheric requirements for storing archival documents, according to her office.

Some of the state’s most precious documents, photos and maps are fragile and should be housed in a safer environment. The archives building keeps records that date back to 1853 and include original territorial and state laws.

The 1889 State Constitution, Supreme Court cases and countless legislative documents are historical treasures and must be treated that way. Let’s give them the home they deserve.

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