Visiting the Archives

The records held by the Seattle Municipal Archives are open to the public and available for research use during business hours. The City's archival records are unique documents that detail governmental actions and activities. To protect these valuable resources, the SMA has established guidelines for using and handling the records. These measures will help ensure that the materials remain available and in good condition into the future.

Archival records may be used only in the SMA research room; they do not circulate and may not be checked out. There is a small reference collection in the research room that is open to all researchers.

Preparing for Your Visit

If you are planning a research visit to the Archives, we encourage you to call or email to make an appointment. Not only will this help ensure that a staff member will be available to assist you, it will also enable us to pull the records you need before you arrive, saving you time. Additionally, it will allow us to talk with you about your research topic and suggest materials that might be useful, which may help you plan your research time.

We recommend that you review our online indexes before you come in to see what kinds of materials we have relating to your topic and focus in on what you'd like to look at. Our website has search tips for each index, and SMA staff are also available by email or phone if you have questions about how to use them.

Location: SMA is located on the third floor of Seattle's City Hall at 600 Fourth Avenue in downtown Seattle. The building is between Fourth and Fifth Avenues and James and Cherry Streets, and the building's main entrance is on Fifth Avenue. The Archives is co-located with the Office of the City Clerk.

Hours: The Seattle Municipal Archives research room is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. The SMA is closed for all City holidays.

At the Archives

Upon arrival at the front desk, you will be asked to sign in before entering the research room. Archives staff will retrieve requested materials from our closed stacks. We ask that you follow certain rules while using the Archives:

  • Food and drink are not allowed in the research room.
  • Records may be used only at the research tables.
  • Customers may use only one box at a time, and remove only one folder at a time from the box. Records must be left in the order in which they are found.
  • If you would like photocopies, use the paper tags provided to mark the documents; do not remove the documents from their folders.
  • Only pencils may be used for taking handwritten notes. Because ink can damage archival materials, pens are not allowed. Pencils are provided in the research room.
  • Purses, briefcases, bags, and backpacks may not be placed on the research tables.

Photocopying: Archives staff will make photocopies for patrons, and will make every effort to supply the copies while the researcher waits. However, large orders may require additional time. These orders will be completed within five working days. As authorized by Seattle Municipal Code 3.104.010, the charge for standard size black and white photocopies is 15 cents per page. Double-sided copies are charged as two pages. Our full fee schedule is available online.

Electronic equipment: Laptop computers are allowed at the research tables. Digital cameras and video cameras may be used (without a flash) to photograph records with the permission of SMA staff. Scanners are not permitted in the research room.

Citation: The recommended citation when using SMA records is: Name and date of document, box number, folder number, records collection name, series number, and repository name. For example:

Correspondence from Olmsted Brothers to Charles W. Saunders, 7 March 1903, Box 53, Folder 7, Don Sherwood Parks History Collection, Record Series 5801-01, Seattle Municipal Archives.

Questions? Please call us at (206) 233-7807 or email archives@seattle.gov.