Monday, April 25, 2011

Preserving Washington's Territorial Session Laws

If you want to look at the laws enacted by Washington's territorial legislature, you can, because we have a handsome facsimile set on the open shelves (Statutes of the Territory of Washington, being the code passed by the Legislative Assembly, at their first session begun and held at Olympia, February 28th, 1854 : also containing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Organic act of Washington Territory, the donation laws, &c, &c, KFW30 1854 .A22 at Reference Area and Compact Stacks). (The title's a mouthful, isn't it?)

But walking to the shelf and picking up a volume hasn't always been easy. In fact, even as early as 1892, an author wrote that it was nearly impossible to find a complete set.

(The author mentioned "the disastrous fires occurring in the principal cities of the Territory in the year 1889." I didn't know about any besides Seattle's Great Fire, but fires also ravaged the downtowns of Cheney, EllensburgSpokane Falls, and Republic in 1889, the year Washington became a state.)

By now, there are even fewer complete sets, and many of those are showing the effects of time.

Territorial Session Laws volume with missing cover.
The facsimile edition you can now consult so easily–and that will soon be online as well–is the product of years of work by library staff and a publisher. Ann Nez, Coordinator of Technical Services, explains the challenges in this web page.

This week is Preservation Week. Watch for more posts about preserving library materials–and your own!

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