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Enhancing Access to the History of San Diego

Beneath the San Diego History Center’s galleries is a trove of materials that document the history of San Diego.

More than a couple of shelves and photo albums.

The library is home to 2.5 million images and about 45 million pieces of paper, along with oral histories, maps, and other valuable holdings for researchers interested in the history of the San Diego region and its mixture of Spanish, Mexican, and American cultures.

In January, SDHC received a major grant to improve access to its collection through the creation of finding aids, or documents containing information about a specific collection that can be used by researchers to determine its relevance to their research. The first finding aids created from newly processed collections are now available online through the Online Archive of California (OAC) as well as SDHC’s project webpage

Even though I’m not writing any kind of research paper or historical fiction book, I spent some time browsing the finding aids to learn more about local history. It’s always helpful to have fun facts to share with visiting friends and family (Did you know the Hotel Del once had a bowling alley?) and it’s cool to see the great scope of SDHC’s collection.

Highlights of the collections include:

  • 19thcentury registers from the Albemarle Hotel and Hotel Brewster
  • Early advertising ephemera of the Hotel del Coronado
  • Early records from the Pioneer Society of San Diego County, whose mission was “to collect, record, and preserve the history of the State of California, and more especially the history and traditions of the City and County of San Diego.”
  • Deeds to Fitch family properties in San Diego from the 1830-1850s
  • Federico Fitch’s diary narrating surveying expedition to Sonora, Mexico, 1858-1860
  • Pacific Coast Steamship Company and its San Diego agent, S.T. Johnson
  • Information on the early land grants and development of the San Diego Pueblo Lands
  • Records of the activities and interactions of intellectual female writers who banded together to form the Writers’ Club of San Diego in 1915
  • Articles on filibustering expeditions of late 19thcentury
  • Jacob Price diary recounting his sea-voyage to South America in 1912
  • Hand-drawn maps of Denton family estates and mines, as well as land surveying expeditions

Learn more through the San Diego History Center's website.