Oregon State Archives history
Prior to 1946 no unified approach existed for preserving historical state records in Oregon. The Secretary of State had custody of the records of the Legislative Assembly and the Governor. All other departments and agencies cared for their own records. Some records of defunct agencies had been deposited with the Secretary of State or with the State Library, however many were presumably destroyed. The Oregon Historical Society in Portland held the Oregon provisional and territorial government records at the request of the Secretary of State because of a lack of suitable storage space in Salem. A large number of records documenting state government in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had disappeared over the years. Moreover, the fire that destroyed the state Capitol in 1935 consumed additional valuable records.
World War II played a significant part in the efforts to create a state archives. Only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Committee on the Conservation of Cultural Resources organized. Concern for the safety of historical records in the event of enemy air raids occupied much of the early committee discussion. The resulting research into how and where records were housed led to the realization that many valuable records were in danger of destruction because of neglect.
The 1945 Legislative Assembly allocated a small amount of money to start the program under the State Library and David Duniway was soon hired as Oregon's first state archivist. He set up shop in the basement of the State Library Building, developing policies and procedures designed to improve government record keeping and preserve the most valuable documents.
Over the years the program needed more space and staff to keep up with expanding state government. Holdings grew from 406 cubic feet in 1946 to over 12,000 cubic feet in 1972 (not counting the 37,000 cubic feet of non-permanent records held in the State Records Center). Eventually, the operation moved into a large warehouse with four floors of storage. The Legislative Assembly transferred control of the program to the Oregon Secretary of State in 1973 to better consolidate jurisdiction over record related issues in one office. Further growth and the need for climate controlled storage areas led to the opening of the current Archives Building in 1991.
It was constructed on state-owned land bordered by Summer, "D", and Capitol streets and Mill Creek. The two-story building encompasses 50,000 square feet. There is underground parking for 26 vehicles and surface parking for 16 vehicles. The building includes a research area for patrons, a public meeting room, an exhibit area and 50,000 cubic feet of storage. The storage area has a closely monitored environment, and includes two vaults, one for a variety of media and the other for microfilm. The exterior facade is marble with granite elements in a variety of surface finishes.
For a more detailed history of the first 25 years of the program, see The Duniway Years at the State Archives, 1946-1972.