October will showcase Washington State Archives

Home may not be the first thing you think of when you hear about the State Archives — but it should be.

This month, through a series of free public workshops and seminars, the State Archives reveals how historic documents can shed on people’s home lives — from the actual structure they live in, to their family lineage, to the state they call home.

The State Archives, a division of the Washington Office of Secretary of State, is co-sponsoring the special events throughout October to help the public explore their personal histories through archival collections and institutions in Washington.

State Archives joins repositories from across the state to put on “At Home in the Archives” — an entire 31 days dedicated to better understanding historical records, how to preserve them, and how to use them to better understand the key aspects of everyday life.

“Archives are crucial in preserving our history to allow future generations to learn about the rich stories of this state’s past and the people who have shaped its identity,” says Secretary of State Sam Reed. “There are so many exceptional resources available in the Archives that can make history truly personal to citizens, and we hope they will take advantage of them.”

October was officially designated Washington’s Archives Month by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The general public, students, teachers, and average homeowners alike are invited to take advantage of courses that will teach them how to research the history of their homes and properties, break through the brick walls of their genealogy research and learn the basics of archiving documents. A calendar of events can be found at http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Archivesmonth/events.aspx .

“Archives provide an exciting window into the stories of your homes and personal histories,” says State Archivist Jerry Handfield. “The changes in our society are documented in the records and photos contained in Archives across the state. Putting together the deeds, photos and personal histories of homeowners provides new discoveries and adventures for anyone who has ever lived ‘at home in the Archives.'”

Washington Archives Month 2008 is held in conjunction with American Archives Month and is co-sponsored by the State Archives, the Washington State Historical Records Advisory Board, the Washington State Historical Society and the Heritage Resource Center.

The Washington State Archives, based in Olympia with five regional branches throughout the state, contains millions of historic items and is the umbrella division for the nation’s first Digital Archives, which has electronically preserved records in an award-winning online database.

Washington State Archives At-A-Glance

— The main branch of the State Archives in Olympia was actually built as the State Records Center and state nuclear bomb shelter, during the days following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

— The Digital Archives, an arm of the State Archives, is an online database that has preserved more than 74 million historic items electronically.

— The Prison file of Henry Young, whose story was told in the movie “Murder in the First,” is in the Archives. He escaped the Walla Walla Penitentiary in 1971 and has not been seen since.

— The Olympic Torch carried through Olympia in 1984 is considered an Archives treasure.

— An original letter written by George Washington in 1877, during the Revolutionary War just before Valley Forge, is in the state government collection.

— Before he was elected Minnesota’s governor, Jesse “The Body” Ventura applied for a Washington State Wrestling License, and that record is kept in the State Archives.

— Shamu, the world-famous Sea World orca, is documented in the Archives, as are files about Sea World catching orcas off the Washington coast.

— You can find panicky telegrams received the day after Pearl Harbor alerting authorities to the expected invasion of Washington by the Japanese at the Archives.

— The Washington State Archives partners with the State Library to provide genealogical resources, many of which are easily searchable online.