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Originally published Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 9:06 PM

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National Archives to close in Alaska, relocate in Seattle

The National Archives in Alaska is closing, the federal government says, and its documents will be coming to Seattle.

The Associated Press

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has told employees the agency will close its Alaska facility and move documents to Seattle.

The closure will be part of cost cutting that will save the federal government more than $1.5 million annually, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Other facilities will be consolidated in Philadelphia and Fort Worth, Texas.

The agency’s staff was notified of the decision last week.

Alaska historians said the move of millions of pages of documents will be a severe blow.

“It’s just hard to put into words what a loss this would be to us,” said Katie Ringsmuth, president of the Alaska Historical Society and an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “It would be devastating to see that national archives and all of the treasures that it holds, and those firsthand experiences of our past, disappear.”

The facility in Anchorage opened in 1990. Its storage space contains maps, photo albums, censuses and shipwreck reports. Historical documents include files from the Coast Guard, Alaska Railroad, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the New Deal-era Matanuska Colony Project.

Ringsmuth recently used the archives to research a map project to commemorate Anchorage’s centennial. Digitizing the documents will take “an army of digitizers,” she said.

“There’s also something about holding a journal — actually seeing the written word on the page that someone who is there, at that time, experienced and wrote,” Ringsmuth said.

NARA maintains facilities in 17 states.

The notice sent last week to NARA staff said Alaska’s two employees would be relocated at federal government expense.

Savings generated by the consolidations “can be reinvested in our staff and in programs that expand access, improve customer service, and increase public engagement with our records,” the notice said.

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