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State Archives

The State Archives, a division of the Kansas Historical Society, has the most comprehensive collection of historical documents in the state. 

Since its founding by newspaper editors and publishers in 1875, the Kansas Historical Society has actively collected and made available the photographs, letters and diaries, books and periodicals, maps, newspapers, videos, and government records that tell the story of Kansas.

Originally housed in the Kansas State Capitol, the Archives collections were moved in 1914 to the newly constructed Memorial Building in downtown Topeka. Over time, the Historical Society expanded to include the Kansas Museum of History and divisions dedicated to cultural resources, education, and historic sites.

In 1984 the Kansas Museum of History relocated to a new facility in west Topeka near the site of the historic Potawatomi Mission. The State Archives and other divisions of the Historical Society remained downtown until 1995, when the west Topeka complex was more than doubled in size to accommodate staff and collections for all divisions.

More information on the history of the Historic Society can be found here.

State Archives building

Printable brochure about the State Archives limestone (PDF)

The 80,000 square-foot State Archives building addition was designed by architects at Abend Singleton Associates, Inc., of Lenexa. It houses the Historical Society’s extensive books, records, manuscripts, and photograph collections. Extending from the Kansas Museum of History, the State Archives building forms an L-shaped complex that complements the Potawatomi Mission, which is the visual centerpiece of the complex.

The building sections are staggered with pitched roof forms characteristic of the mission. The subtle, yet finely detailed use of limestone, metal, and wood both outside and in provide a simple elegance befitting the importance and permanence of the institution and its functions. A glass and metal canopy leads to the stately, open lobby. Skylights, clerestories, and open roof trusses create a light, spacious feeling to the State Archives, which is connected by an interior hallway to the Museum.

Exterior

Cottonwood limestone covers the State Archives exterior façade. Chase County’s J. T. Lardner Cut Stone quarried the stone and prepared it to reduce soiling and moisture penetration.

Dating from the Permian Age 250 million years ago, the limestone withstands the freezes and thaws of Kansas weather. These materials can be found in many state buildings including all but the east wing of the Kansas State Capitol and and the Kansas Museum of History.

Interior

The interior lobby walls also feature the light-colored Cottonwood limestone. Medium dark Tuxedo Gray limestone, quarried in Jackson County by Bayer Stone of St. Marys, was used for the State Archives lobby and reception area floors and the treads and risers of the main staircase. Tuxedo Gray limestone dates from the Lower Permian Age, approximately 275 million years ago. The geometric floor pattern was created using Tuxedo Gray limestone and the darker Buckingham Grade A blue-black slate. The Virginia Slate Company quarried the slate in Arvonia, Virginia.

The State Archives interior combines soaring wood trusses; combinations of natural light, direct lighting, and indirect lighting; light oak wall panels, doors, and trim; sandblasted concrete columns and beams; contrasting tinted glazing; aluminum structural connectors; and exposed air ducts to provide contemporary yet warm and spaces.

Conference Room Table

Created as a functional sculpture, the extraordinary 16-person conference room table is a showcase for the fossils found in the Tuxedo Gray limestone. A gift from the Kansas State Historical Society, Inc., the table was created in three matching pieces because Tuxedo Gray occurs only in small thin layers.

Archeological artifacts inspired the 18-foot long table much as a broken pot would be assembled to reveal missing portions. The table’s three separate pieces of the limestone were clamped together with polished aluminum hardware and together weighs more than 7,000 pounds. The beveled edges and one curved side add to the user’s comfort. The limestone material and the design details of the table are complementary to those of the custom light fixtures, the light oak wall panels, and other architectural components of the conference room.

Because of the table’s weight and size, it was installed in the building by crane once the floor was poured but before the roof and finishes were installed. It remained covered in a protective wood box for several months until the building was finished.

Entry: State Archives

Author: Teresa Jenkins

Date Created: October 2010

Date Modified: July 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.