Murkowski Continues Fight for Access to Alaska’s History

Senator Demands Action Plan, Answers from NARA

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s request to include language in the Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill has been accepted by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. The language requires the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to provide details within 90 days of the bill’s passage on its plans to digitize Alaska’s archival records. It also requires NARA to seriously consider any requests to transfer records to the Alaska State Archives or other appropriate Alaskan archives.

Earlier this year it was announced that NARA would close its Anchorage location in a cost-cutting move and would transfer many important historical records of Alaska’s past to Seattle. Senator Murkowski has strongly and successfully advocated that Alaska’s Territorial Court Records and other documents remain in Alaska.  She has also repeatedly encouraged NARA to quickly digitize and post online those records that are removed to Seattle so that Alaskans’ access to the state’s history remains as accessible as possible.  The costly alternative would have Alaskans travel hundreds or thousands to Seattle.

Alaska’s history is an important key to our future and Alaskans deserve to know how, when, and where they will be able to access important historical records so they may study and learn from our state’s rich past,” said Murkowski. “I will continue to demand answers from NARA until we know what the future is for our state’s records. I am determined to ensure that Alaskans do not lose access to their own history.”

The specific language in the Financial Services General Government Appropriations Committee Report reads as follows:

The Committee notes that NARA is taking steps to reduce costs by reducing its real property footprint. However, the Committee recognizes that NARA facilities play an important role in providing citizens with access to archival Federal records, and is concerned that NARA’s plans to relocate records out of the State where they are currently stored will require researchers to travel significant distances to access original records. The Committee encourages NARA to digitize and post on-line archival records that are relocated as a result of a facility closure; however, the Committee is concerned that NARA has not yet provided detailed plans that show a firm commitment to digitizing relocated archival records in a timely manner. The Committee directs NARA to report, within 90 days of enactment, on its plans to digitize and preserve physical access to archival records that have been or will be relocated to another State by any facility closure occurring in fiscal year 2014 or planned for fiscal year 2015. The report shall: (1) describe NARA’s digitization priorities for any relocated archival records; (2) explain how NARA incorporated stakeholder input when developing its priorities; (3) include a timeline for digitization and posting on-line; (4) identify any relocated archival records that NARA does not believe are suitable for digitizing or making publicly available on-line; and (5) describe the services that NARA will provide to facilitate access for researchers who must travel significant distances to access records previously stored in their States of residence. The Committee further directs NARA to give due consideration and appropriate adjudication, within the limits of the Federal Records Act and all applicable laws, of any request to review archival records that are relocated as a result of a facility closure, to determine whether those records continue to require permanent preservation in the National Archives.