On Monday, the National Archive and Records Administration, also known as NARA, announced that it would be closing its facility in Anchorage and shipping all of the records housed there to Seattle.
The decision caused quite a stir across the state and was devastating news to Anjuli Grantham, the curator of collections at the Baranov Museum.
“And it’s just like the loss of our cultural heritage. It’s inexcusable.”
The archive administration is charged with caring for federal records in the United States and Grantham said those records are especially important here in Alaska.
“This is the Bureau of Indian Affairs records, this is Parks Service records, all of Fish and Wildlife Service really the U.S. Coast Guard – all of the federal entities that exist in Alaska and really impact our day-to-day life. The records are housed at this Anchorage facility and they’re open to the public. So any person can go in there and request these records.”
But now all of Alaska’s federal historical records, more than 12,000 cubic feet of material, will be housed in Seattle, making them extremely difficult for Alaskans to access. Grantham said the news is obviously a huge blow to historians, but should really be concerning the general public, too.
“Anyone who is trying to access
critical family information, I mean these are BIA records talking about
who belongs to which tribe. These are census records. These are records
from the Fish and Wildlife Service showing early salmon and halibut
surveys. I mean, this stuff is really instrumental to what we do in
Alaska on a day to day basis.”
A press release from NARA cited cost savings as the reason for the Anchorage facility’s
closure. The closure, combined with consolidation facilities in Texas
and Pennsylvania, is estimated to save the federal government around
$1.5 million a year. But Grantham said the loss to communities will be
information that cities and boroughs are frequently consulting. We say
they are historic, but a lot of this information is quite new, it’s just
decades old and they’re still impacting things that are taking place
Grantham said she and fellow historians around the
state have been getting in touch with Alaska’s congressional delegation
to try and keep those records in state.
A press release from
Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office said Murkowski recently wrote a letter
to the archivist of the United States and proposed some cost saving
alternatives to closing the facility in Anchorage. She suggested selling
different undeveloped NARA-owned property in Anchorage and using the
proceeds to digitize the records, or develop an agreement with an
Alaskan agency that could house and maintain the documents.
According to the press release from NARA, there are two
employees that currently work at the facility in Anchorage and they will
be offered positions at other NARA facilities with paid relocation