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History and Holdings

History of the Archives Program
The Seattle Municipal Archives was established in 1985 with a two-year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The Archives was a program of the City Clerk Division of the Office of the Comptroller from 1985 through 1992. A City Charter amendment, which took effect January 1, 1993, transferred the City Clerk and the Municipal Archives to the Legislative Department.

In 1988, as part of the NHPRC grant, the Municipal Archives published A Guide to the Archives of the City of Seattle. The Guide was awarded the Society of American Archivists' C.F.W. Coker Prize as the year's outstanding work in the area of archival description. The Guide is available online with up-to-date information on holdings in the Archives.

In 2004, the Archives moved into a new facility in the new City Hall. Researchers have access to a large research area with a view of Elliott Bay. The large storage area, with moveable shelving for maximum storage space, enables the Archives to bring collections back to the Archives that previously were stored at different locations in the area due to lack of space. The new storage area also has a freezer, ensuring a stable environment for long-term preservation of film.

The Municipal Archives holdings document the history, development, and activities of the agencies and elected officials of the City of Seattle. Strengths of the records include those documenting engineering, parks, urban planning, the legislative process and elected officials. Holdings include over 6,000 cubic feet of textual records; 3,000 maps and drawings, 3,000 audiotapes; hundreds of hours of motion picture film; and over 1.5 million photographic images of City projects and personnel.

The Archives is open to the public. The holdings of the Archives are public records and are managed in accordance with the Revised Codes of Washington public records law and public disclosure law. For more information on holdings, please refer to the various indexes and guides.