October is California Archives Month!

by Laurie Hannah

In the course of daily life, individuals, organizations, and governments create and keep information about their activities. These records, and the places in which they are kept, are called “archives.” Archival records take many forms, including correspondence, diaries, financial and legal documents, photographs, video or sound recordings, and electronic records.

California Archives Month, part of the greater American Archives month, is a collaborative effort by professionals and repositories around the state, and indeed the nation, to highlight the importance of historical records.

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The poster above celebrates 165 years of California statehood. Documents appearing on the poster include the first law passed in California, Statutes of 1850, Chapter 1, “An Act Concerning a Public Archives,” and pages from California’s 1849 Constitution prepared in both English and Spanish. All three documents are from the collections of the California State Archives, Office of Secretary of State, Sacramento.

Presidio Research Center Archives

Menu from the El Paseo Scrapbook collection
Menu from the El Paseo Scrapbook collection

The Presidio Research Center houses several types of collections:  books and periodicals of the library collection; objects and material culture, which form the curatorial collection; and personal papers, photographs, oral histories, and Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation records, which make up the archival collection.  For the past several decades, personal papers or manuscript collections have been donated by individuals to SBTHP for research and safekeeping. They are used to document and understand the history of the Santa Barbara Presidio—its founding, reconstruction, the surrounding neighborhood, and the city of Santa Barbara.  Many important people in Santa Barbara’s history, such as Nicholas Den, Jose Francisco de Ortega, Pearl Chase, Vivian Obern, and Margarita Villa are documented in our collections.

A sampling of items found in the Research Center collections that might pique your interest include:

  • A receipt from 1848 for a lost cannon (after which the street Canon Perdido is named)
  • Scrapbooks created by the Native Daughters of the Golden West,  Reina del Mar Parlor No. 126 , beginning in 1901
  • Genealogical resources on original Presidio families and their descendants, such as pedigree charts, surname files, and news clippings
  • Original report of a cavalry inspection at the Santa Barbara Presidio by California governor Pedro Fages in 1788
  • Architectural history of El Pueblo Viejo, including building histories, photographs, architectural drawings, and title documents

Many of the archival collections have been inventoried and described.  You can see a list of these collections in the Online Archive of California, and we welcome all interested researchers to make an appointment to use the collections.  Please contact Anne Petersen, Associate Director of Historical Resources at (805) 966-5073, to make an appointment.

Laurie Hannah is the Librarian at the Presidio Research Center, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

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