An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

EWU state archives open for tours Thursday

EWU state archives building
Photo by Peter Hassel; courtesy of Washington State Archives
/

The public can see the range of documents stored there and available for viewing.

The Washington Secretary of State’s office will give tours of the state archives building on the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney today [Thursday].

The agency will show what types of records are stored there, both physically and digitally.

The office is working to convert the state’s paper records to electronic versions. Secretary of State Steve Hobbs says his agency could be more efficient if it had more and better tools.

“The equipment needs to be updated. Larger scanners need to be done. Some of our archives need to ship larger documents to Olympia to get them scanned, so we’re in the process of providing larger scanners, more efficient scanners and providing more people. We were depleted during the last Great Recession and we didn’t get those people back so that we can scan those records,” he said.

Hobbs spoke Sunday at a candidate debate in Spokane.

He says the conversion project is important for many reasons. One is space. Hobbs says many of the state archives buildings are running out of room for documents, “which is why we do need to quick scan these and digitize our records,” he said. “Also, we are building a new state library in the Tumwater area, which will give us some more room.”

His challenger, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, acknowledges the conversion work needs to be done. But she says archives officials should also be thinking about how to preserve recent electronic records that have never had a paper history.

“They’re complex. They’re digital. They’re interactive,” she said. “We are producing, at the state and local level, more digitally native documents at a higher volume than you can imagine.

“Think about the redistricting process that we just went through. Yes, it produced a paper map that was adopted. But think about all the interactive versions of that map that are important parts of that history. Think about all the online meetings that local and state government is having right now. That’s online and digital with all of those chats, all of the attached documents. Who’s preserving those records for history and making them accessible for you so you can hold government accountable?” Anderson said.

Whatever form they’re in, Hobbs says he’d like the public to have more access to some of the more notable records stored in the state archives.

“One thing I’d like to do is a traveling show, visiting the various schools, the museums and the communities, bringing out our state constitution and old documents so that people can see it and see the history and understand the history of our great state,” he said.

The Cheney archive will be open to the public from 2 to 4:30. The building is at 960 Washington Street. Secretary of State Hobbs will be there, as will state archivist Heather Hirotaka.