Finding home for state's archives could be left to future legislators

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 6, 2013 at 6:59 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 6 at 7:00 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. - When the State Archivist says the Archives is full of history, he means it.

"You will not see any empty space," said Washington State Archivist Steve Excell as he gave KING 5 News a tour of the Olympia facility.

The original copy of the state's constitution, every bill ever signed into law and every supreme court decision are stored in the 1960s-era building near the state Capitol.

Excell said the state has run out of room to store what he calls the state's "buried treasures."

For example, a locked, climate-controlled room stores hundreds of boxes containing documents from past Governors.

There's no room in the "Governor's Vault" to store items from former Governor Chris Gregoire.

"It has served its useful purpose. Now we need space for the records we are storing in inappropriate places," said Excell.

He and his boss, Secretary of State Kim Wyman, want lawmakers to build a new storage facilty and museum space on the Capitol campus.

Lawmakers in 2007 approved funding for a building called the Heritage Center, which was supposed to combine the Archives and State Library.

By 2009, lawmakers struggling to balance a budget decided against funding the center.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who chairs the House Capital Budget Committee said building a new Archives is not a priority for most lawmakers.

"It's great stuff to keep and we should keep it, keep it good, but we don't need another museum right now," said Dunshee.

Excell said today's lawmakers need to follow the lead of those who came before them.

"We've had recessions, a Great Depression and guess what? These records are here today because previous generations cared enough to preserve and protect them," said Excell.

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