The History Center presents dynamic, engaging exhibitions highlighting what makes San Diego unique and the region’s emerging role in the 21st century. We serve as a lifelong learning center for all members of our community, providing outstanding educational programs for school children and popular programs for families and adults. The Research Library serves residents, scholars, students and researchers onsite and online. With its rich historical content, archived material and online photo gallery, our website is visited by more than 1,500 distinct visitors daily. Since 1955, in cooperation with the University of San Diego, the History Center has published the prestigious Journal of San Diego History, one of the only scholarly publications dedicated to a major American metropolitan region. Since 2013, the History Center has been a Smithsonian Affiliate.
One of the oldest and largest historical organizations on the West Coast, the San Diego History Center is one of the only institutions dedicated to the heritage of a major American metropolitan region. The History Center was established in 1928 by noted philanthropist, businessman and civic leader George W. Marston, who built the Junípero Serra Museum to house the new institution on Presidio Hill, site of the founding of San Diego and California. Marston gifted the Serra Museum and the adjacent land to the City of San Diego in 1929. For over sixty years, the Serra was the site of the Historical Society and Research Library. In 1982, the Historical Society moved its collections and museum to Balboa Park, maintaining the Serra as an auxiliary museum and educational center. In 2010, San Diego History Center was formally adopted as the institution’s name.
Recent exhibitions have showcased the San Diego tuna industry and the regional craft brew industry and explored the history and impact of the U.S. Military on San Diego. Art exhibitions include major exhibitions on Charles Reiffel, WPA Depression Era art and contemporary San Diego landscapes. The Balboa Park museum was at the historic heart of the 2015 Centennial Celebration, with year-long marquee exhibitions on the Art of Dr. Seuss; the 1915 Exposition; Masterworks, displaying paintings shown at the 1915 Expo; and a new documentary film, Balboa Park: Jewel of San Diego. Major 2016 exhibitions are The Lore behind the Roar! 100 Years of the San Diego Zoo, and a comprehensive exhibition on famed San Diego architect, Irving J, Gill.