AHA Joins Coalition to Save National Archives Facility in Seattle (January 2021)

The AHA has joined the Washington state attorney general’s office; the state of Oregon; 29 tribes, tribal entities, and Indigenous communities from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska; and 8 community organizations, historic preservation organizations, and museums in filing a lawsuit “to halt the federal government’s unlawful and procedurally deficient sale of the National Archives at Seattle facility.” The government plans to transfer the Seattle facility’s records, most of which have not been digitized, to archive centers in Kansas City, Missouri, and Riverside, California—rendering public access to the records difficult if not impossible for millions of users.

Update, February 2021: The efforts of the American Historical Association (AHA) and co-plaintiffs in State of Washington et. al. v. Russell Vought et. al. have successfully halted the sale of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle, Washington. A federal judge in Seattle blocked the federal government's plan to expedite the sale of the facility and the removal of the records from the Pacific Northwest. The delay provides time for the Biden administration to reconsider the facility’s closure and sale, which from all appearances seems to have been focused more on real estate than archival or community priorities.

Update, April 2021: The efforts of the AHA and co-plaintiffs in State of Washington et. al. v. Russell Vought et al. have been successful. On April 8, 2021, the Office of Management and Budget withdrew its approval of the sale of the National Archives building in Seattle, stating that “the process that led to the decision to approve the sale of the Federal Archives and Records Center” was contrary to the Biden administration’s tribal-consultation policy. Any future attempt to sell the building must “be preceded by meaningful and robust tribal consultation” and “must proceed through the appropriate administrative process, based on a new factual record, and must comply with the attendant substantive and procedural safeguards of that process.”