When scanning through the capital budget the other week, I noticed a curious line item: Half a million bucks for a “state of the art” facility to hold the District’s archives. What’s wrong with the current facility, exactly? And don’t we have enough places that want to serve as repositories for D.C.’s historical artifacts?

At the moment, the closest thing D.C. has to a central archive is 1300 Naylor Court NW, an historic alley dwelling in Shaw. It hasn’t been renovated since 1985, and it’s too small: The city’s repository of birth and death records, marriage certificates, and other documents of historical importance keeps getting bigger, after all. At the moment, a significant amount of material is stored in a General Services Administration warehouse in Suitland, which costs the District $750,000 every year (on top of the Office of Public Records’ proposed $1.035 million budget this year).

The planning funds will help figure out how best to digitize a lot of that stuff, as well as scope out a new location that could more securely house the hard copies that really should be preserved (Duke Ellington‘s birth certificate, for example). Perhaps the answer ends up being a remodeled Martin Luther King Dr. Library, which needs to be re-thought as well.

Picture by Lydia DePillis