May 25, 2022

DYK: The Washington State Archives Building is Also a Bomb Shelter

From the AP (via The Seattle Times):

In the early 1960s, Washington opened an archives building to safely store the state’s most important documents. The building, constructed as a largely underground bunker and opened just a year after the Cuban missile crisis, served another purpose not widely publicized at the time: nuclear fallout shelter in case of attack.

Today, a series of tunnels built to evacuate state officials and staff to the safety of the bunker go largely unused or serve as utility tunnels for steam and electrical lines. But in that era of heightened fear, “the mood was hysteria,” said Jerry Handfield, state archivist since 2001.


Handfield learned about the history of the building during a tour after he was hired. Intrigued, he and a colleague starting hunting for old fallout supplies and discovered a few things, including a tin still filled with hard candy. Other items meant to reflect the time period – toilet paper still in its original packaging, medication and food – were obtained from the state military department.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.