In 1990 the National Archives and Records Administration opened its Anchorage office, but federal belt tightening due to sequestration is forcing NARA to close the office and relocate most of the archive to Seattle.
During nearly 25 years in Alaska, NARA officials have collected almost 12,000 cubic feet of archived documents. The decision to close the archive ultimately came down to cost, but the number of people accessing the archive’s resources remotely also played a role.
"One of the things we considered was the cost of the facility compared to researcher usage," said NARA's chief operating officer, Jay Bosanko. "The majority of the research contacts concerning the records that are there are actually done by Alaskans who don't travel to Anchorage."
Bosanko says the Anchorage facility is the least-used out of all NARA offices in the country. Nationwide, NARA has seen almost a 50 percent decrease in users, while at the same time seeing use of its web-based archive system soar -- prompting officials to ask themselves an important question.
"How we can provide access to our holdings in the best possible way?" Bosanko said. "Unfortunately, that resulted in the closing and consolidation of several facilities across the country."
The closure impacts frequent users like Penelope Goforth, who has used the Anchorage facility for many years to research Alaska's maritime history for her writings.
"Sometimes you don't know, until you actually have the document in front of you, that it's exactly what you're looking for," Goforth said.
Starting this summer, the documents kept in Anchorage won't be available for Goforth to physically sift through. The local office has set a Sept. 30 target date for the move, but facility access will actually be curtailed months earlier.
"It's going to make the research of a lot of other people impossible as well, because the history of Alaska is federal history," Goforth said.
Much of that federal history will be moved to NARA's Seattle facility, but some things will stay, including state microfilms as well as the Alaska Railroad's archived documents. They’ll be moved to state archive offices, but an exact location has not yet been determined.