Seattle Now & Then: City Archives Silver Anniversary

(click photos to enlarge)

THEN: The clerk in the city's old Engineering Vault attends to its records. Now one of many thousands of images in the Seattle Municipal Archives, this negative is dated Jan. 30, 1936. (Check out www.cityofseattle.net/cityarchives/ to see more.)
THEN: The clerk in the city's old Engineering Vault attends to its records. Now one of many thousands of images in the Seattle Municipal Archives, this negative is dated Jan. 30, 1936. (Check out http://www.cityofseattle.net/cityarchives/ to see more.)
NOW: City archivist Scott Cline, left, and deputy archivist Anne Frantilla look to Jean Sherrard from out of the deep storage of the modern, climate-controlled archives in City Hall.
NOW: City archivist Scott Cline, left, and deputy archivist Anne Frantilla look to Jean Sherrard from out of the deep storage of the modern, climate-controlled archives in City Hall.

It is more than rare when this little weekly feature moves from repeating a “place” to repeating a “theme.” Still, these two places are not far apart; they are kitty-corner across Fourth Avenue and James Street.

The 1936 “then” was photographed in the city’s “Engineering Vault,” then housed in the County-City Building, long since renamed the King County Courthouse. Plans, graphs and maps are held in the tubes on the right. On the left are more rolled ephemera and shelves holding the punch-bound, engineering-project forms and reports that I was introduced to 40 years ago.

The “now” photo is of its descendant, the Seattle Municipal Archives. City archivist Scott Cline says the old records were “a great benefit for the archives; our collection was originally built on the strength of engineering and public-works records.” Cline has been city archivist since the archives’ formal beginning in 1985. Since then he has improved the place and its services while winning prizes from his peers. In 1999 Cline hired Anne Frantilla as deputy archivist. Julie Viggiano, Jeff Ware and Julie Kerssen followed in 2005.

Our archives are at least one happy example of how things may improve. In his recording of the contemporary archives, Jean Sherrard has posed Cline and Frantilla in the one aisle that is open in the long rows of files showing on the right. The rows can be quickly moved by motor along tracks in the floor.

This Tuesday, at 1 p.m., the archives will celebrate their 25th anniversary in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave. I have been asked to take part by showing some slides on the growth of the city and its services, like this one. The public is encouraged to attend.

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