Happy 10th birthday to our Digital Archives!

Happy 10th birthday to our Digital Archives!


View outside of Washington State Digital Archives. (Photos courtesy of Washington State Archives)

We’re proud to wish a happy 10th birthday to the world’s first built-from-the-ground digital archives facility. The Washington State Digital Archives had its grand opening on Oct. 4, 2004.

The Digital Archives is co-located in the same building with the Washington State Archives’ Eastern Regional Branch on the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney. The Digital Archives includes a state-of-the-art research room, complete with computer research stations, a high-tech presentation classroom and a world-class data center.

The award-winning facility is popular with genealogists, historians and researchers.

State Archivist Steve Excell:

“Thanks to the Washington State Digital Archives, people can access records, photos and other documents in just a few clicks from a computer or other digital device. We’re proud that it’s the first of its kind in the world and that it allows us to preserve born digital records and make them available to one and all.”

During its decade of existence, the Digital Archives’ collection has steadily grown to nearly 150 million digital records. Among its more popular items are the Treasures of the Archives, which includes Gov. Elisha P. Ferry’s oath of office in 1889, the year Washington became a state.Digital-Archives-inside-photo

Inside Washington State Digital Archives.

Assistant Digital Archivist Larry Cebula provides this historical view of the Digital Archives:

The Washington State Archives, Digital Archives grew out of a pressing need to preserve our digital heritage. By the 1990s, many local and state government agencies were producing “born digital” records, from Excel spreadsheets to emails, that needed to be preserved. At the same time, falling costs for digital storage the growing ubiquity of the internet made some begin to think that a genuine digital archive was possible. Then-Secretary of State Sam Reed pushed the state to provide funding, telling anyone who would listen that “If Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on a laptop, we may not have it today.”

The Digital Archives has grown quickly. What began with a modest collection of marriage licenses from a few counties has grown to a collection of nearly 150 million digital records. Visitors to the website will find everything from 19th century naturalization certificates to the preserved website of former Gov. Gary Locke. The DA (as we call it within the agency) also has tens of thousands of historic photographs, audio recordings of oral histories and legislative hearings, property records, muster rolls for militia units from the territorial period, and hundreds of other types of records. Our website also includes unique features, including the ability to keyword search through audio files.

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