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Historic corporations documents now available online

OLYMPIA - Building on its groundbreaking efforts in using technology to open up public records, the Washington Office of Secretary of State will be making hundreds of thousands of historic corporations documents available to the public online, free of charge.

As part of a massive project involving the preservation of corporate documents dating back to the beginning of Washington’s statehood, the agency’s Corporations Division is working to scan approximately 1.8 million pages into the state’s Digital Archives. It is one of the first states in the country to make this kind of information searchable on the Internet.

“Washington has become a leader in the nation in utilizing technology to preserve our history,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “It is our mission to give the people of this state the best, most convenient access to the records that are so important to them, and this project proves that we are succeeding in that goal.”

Visitors to the Digital Archives Web site can now instantly track down any type of corporate record that has existed since before 2003 – from the original document of formation for Starbucks to a merger of a local family business.

This month the public can start accessing documents from Washington-registered businesses and companies with names A through E. Over the next nine months, additional documents – like original articles of incorporation, amendments, mergers and annual renewals – will be scanned and added online, as well as trademark and charities records.

The goal is to have corporate documents from the early 1800s to 2003 online at the Digital Archives by June 2009.

Prior to this project, a person who wanted to get a copy of a historic corporate document in Washington needed to put in a records request and wait for the request to be filed. Now, these same records will be made available instantly online and can be printed out from anywhere. Certified hard copies of documents can still be ordered via regular requests, including by self service phone.

“Having these corporate records so readily available on the Web is providing the public with quicker, more convenient and complete access to the historical records that are so important,” said Acting Corporations Director Pam Floyd.

The Office of Secretary of State gained national recognition when it launched the nation’s first-ever Digital Archives in October 2004, allowing people to access all types of historic documents and government archives online. Since then, the agency has been constantly working to find ways to use technology to better serve the public’s needs.

A division of Washington State Archives, the award-winning State’s Digital Archives has used technology to preserve more than 70 million items – from birth records to election results – that document Washington’s history. The Corporations Division registers and tracks Washington’s corporations and charities.