Oregon State Archives History

Before 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. Other departments and agencies cared for their own records. Some records of defunct agencies were with the Secretary of State or the State Library, but many were destroyed. The Oregon Historical Society in Portland held the Oregon provisional and territorial government records at the request of the Secretary of State due to lack of storage space in Salem. Many records documenting state government in the late 19th and early 20th centuries disappeared over the years. Moreover, the fire that destroyed the state Capitol in 1935 consumed valuable records.

World War II

World War II played a significant part in efforts to create a state archives. 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 committee discussion. Their research of how records were housed showed that many valuable records were in danger of destruction because of neglect.

The 1945 Legislative Assembly allocated money to start the program under the State Library and hired David Duniway as Oregon's first state archivist. He worked in the basement of the State Library Building, developing policies and procedures to improve government record keeping and preserve documents.

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 37,000 cubic feet of non-permanent records at the State Records Center). Finally, the operation moved to 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 consolidate control of record related issues in one office.

Cecil L. Edwards Building

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​. The exterior facade is marble with granite elements in a variety of surface finishes.
​​​​​​​ ​​​

State Archives First Home

Oregon State Library seen from the Capitol State park in early spring. The trees are just getting green.
The basement of the Oregon State Library was the first home of the Oregon State Archives. Authority over the state archives program moved from the library to the Oregon Secretary of State in 1973.