Nearly 25 million artifacts – and counting.
That’s how many pieces of the Boeing legacy now reside in the new home of the Boeing Archives in Auburn, Washington.
The new location is the fourth location for the company archives, which have expanded over the decades to house documents dating back to the founding days of 1916.
The collection includes models of unbuilt aircraft, artwork, materials, models of airplanes built by Boeing and its legacy companies, special collections, manuscripts, artifacts, flat file and file cabinets, plus items yet to be processed. It is the largest collection of aviation history in the world, according to Michael Lombardi, Boeing chief historian.
Why it matters: Lombardi said the archives provide valuable services to the company beyond preserving its rich and diverse heritage for future generations.
“We provide the engineering organization with data from past projects and the knowledge of former engineers so that they can build upon that rather than recreate it,” Lombardi said. “Our collections also give us the power of storytelling, allowing us to inspire everyone on the Boeing team.”
Getting here: Planning for the move began in 2021, including engaging vendors to document, protect, pack, move and unpack every bit of Boeing history stored in the then-current location in Bellevue, Washington. The company also keeps a Douglas Company collection in El Segundo, California, and a McDonnell Corporation collection in St. Louis, Missouri.
Boeing Historical Services and Iron Mountain staff worked together to stabilize and box loose materials, label materials by heritage company, create box-level descriptions and then barcode collections at the item, box, cart or pallet level.
Over the course of six months, at the rate of up to three trips per day of the 25 miles (40 kilometers) between Bellevue and Auburn, trucks brought 306 pallets and 644 carts of treasures.
Hundreds of aircraft models from the heritage of Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and North American Aviation, including rare models of proposals that were never built, are on display in the Boeing Archives.
Grand opening: Some passionate stewards of the company’s history – all current Boeing executives – recently visited the new location to tour the state-of-the-art facility and participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We are grateful to the Historical Services team for their careful and thoughtful work to preserve these important artifacts from Boeing’s history,” said Brett Gerry, chief legal officer and executive vice president – Global Compliance. “These archives are a powerful reminder of the long and rich legacy of our company – a legacy that all of us have the privilege and responsibility to honor and build upon every day.”
According to Greg Hyslop, chief engineer emeritus, “When people ask me what The Boeing Company is, I always say it is a chain of people going all the way back to Bill Boeing.
“I think when you are here in the archives and see the history preserved you can recognize our proud legacy, and that’s important if we are going to serve that legacy well going forward.”
The big picture: The features that make the new archives a world-class facility include a simple layout designed for safety and efficiency.
- The space is one giant room (14,000 square feet or 1,300 square meters) and a smaller (2,500 square feet or 232 square meters) attached climate-controlled room, which combined contain 180 rows of compact, space-saving shelving that allows easier access to the collection.
- The new space is completely enclosed and features highly accurate environmental controls that maintain temperature, humidity and air purity at the standards set by the U.S. National Archives.
Brian Besanceney, chief communications officer, said “I think the Boeing Archives embody the term ‘living history.’ Yes, it celebrates and preserves our company’s history and the history of aviation, but it’s also an important resource for solving today’s challenges as well as educating and inspiring future generations.”
“I’m pleased that this new facility will ensure we are protecting and accessing these irreplaceable and unique assets forever.”