Category Archives: Research Center

Seeing History in Photographs

by Laurie Hannah

L. to r. Sidney Ascher, Johnny Fung, and Jordyn Napier during a cataloging session. Photo by Laurie Hannah.

Four UCSB students took part in a spring quarter project to catalog the historic photographs in the Presidio Research Center. Seniors Johnny Fung, and Jordyn Napier were part of Dr. Randy Bergstrom’s public history class and chose this project as part of their coursework. Senior Sidney Ascher and Junior Julia Madden-Fulk also participated in this year’s Docent Training Program at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP). They were introduced to the Research Center collections during the training and wanted to get more experience in an archives setting. Sidney will continue her interest in collections at George Washington University’s graduate program in Museum Studies this fall. Jordyn will be working at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History this summer.

Librarian and Archivist Laurie Hannah gave each student an in-depth crash course in cataloging photographs according to best practices. Students learned the rationale behind the complex cataloging record we use, which provides access to the organization’s collection of over 20,000 images through description and subject headings, but also documents provenance and rights. The students were also challenged with determining copyright status to see if an image was protected by copyright or now in the public domain, and they learned the implications of owning images versus reproducing images.

Each student was responsible for a binder of their choice ranging from images of Mission La Purísima to El Paseo. Response was positive from the students about the project.  Both Johnny and Sidney were able to apply new research skills and historical context to current history research projects they were working on, and Jordyn claimed this was her favorite internship at UCSB. In total, the students catalogued about 700 photos this quarter—a significant contribution to SBTHP.

#AskAnArchivist Day

Rare books in the Presidio Research Center. By Laurie Hannah

On Wednesday, October 4, archivists around the country will take to Twitter to answer your questions about any and all things related to archives. Have a question about Santa Barbara history, the Presidio, your ancestors? Want to know how to take care of valuable family papers, photographs, and scrapbooks?

As professional experts who do the exciting work of protecting and sharing important historical materials, archivists have many stories to share about the work they do every day in preserving fascinating documents, photographs, audio and visual materials, and artifacts. Increasingly, archival work extends beyond the physical and includes digital materials.

Archival collections in the Presidio Research Center. By Laurie Hannah.

This day-long event, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, will give you the opportunity to connect directly with archivists in your community—and around the country—to ask questions, get information, or just satisfy your curiosity.

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) Will Participate

#AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone—all you need is a Twitter account. To ask SBTHP’s Archivist Laurie Hannah manages the collections at the Presidio Research Center. To ask Laurie a question, include our Twitter handle (@SBTHP) and the hashtag #AskAnArchivist with your question.

To ask any participating archivist in the country a question, just tweet a question and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Your question will be seen instantly by archivists who are standing by to respond directly to you.

Happy #AskAnArchivist Day! Your Archivist is waiting for YOUR questions. Tag us at @SBTHP and use #AskAnArchivist.

El Coro Collection at the Presidio Research Center

by Laurie Hannah

Elizabeth Hvolboll.  Photo courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.
Elizabeth Hvolboll. Photo courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.

Several years ago, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation received a donation of papers from longtime member and volunteer Elizabeth Hvolboll featuring the musical program reenacted every December at the Presidio and Casa de la Guerra called “Las Posadas.”  The collection of sheet music and lyrics makes up the entire repertoire of El Coro del Real Presidio de Santa Bárbara, the local group that celebrates and performs music of the Californios, founded by Elizabeth Hvolboll and Luis Moreno.  Besides many individual songs for “Las Posadas” and Christmas, there are another 50 folders of folk and mission music that the group has performed over the years.

Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.
Courtesy of the Presidio Research Center.

This collection complements other materials in the Presidio Research Center, such as the Early California Music audio collection.  Some of the artists represented are The John Biggs Consort of California Mission Music, Musica Antigua de Alta California, and Elizabeth Hvolboll performing in the Chapel.   The Research Center also has a number of songs, songbooks, and articles about California and Spanish music in the vertical files.

The guide to the El Coro del Real Presidio de Santa Barbara collection can be viewed in the Online Archive of California, along with other Research Center collections.  To make an appointment to use the Research Center, please contact Laurie Hannah at 805-965-2004.

Laurie Hannah is the librarian at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

The Curious Medical History of the Cota-Knox House

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Syringe in the collections of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, held by Archaeologist Michael Imwalle. Photo by Anne Petersen,

What does this nineteenth-century syringe excavated at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park  have to do with an unassuming 1871 brick building at 914 -1916 Anacapa Street?

All will be revealed in the upcoming Winter 2016 issue of La Campana. Do you receive La Campana?  This full-color publication is a benefit of membership in the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.   For more information on how you can keep up to date with wonderful articles on local history and the latest efforts at SBTHP, click here.

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The 1871 Cota-Knox House at 914-916 Anacapa Street at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. Photo by Michael Imwalle.

Meanwhile we’ll  be putting the finishing touches on the story of a little known center of medical treatment in Santa Barbara, which will land in your mailbox soon!

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.


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.

New books at the Presidio Research Center!

by Anne Petersen

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The reading room at the Santa Barbara Presidio Research Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.

Many members of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and the larger Santa Barbara community make use of our excellent reference library at the Presidio Research Center.  In case you have not paid a visit, the Research Center is open to the public by appointment.  We have placed many research tools online to give patrons detailed information about our holdings, which you can find here.   In addition to our vertical files, photographs, periodicals and manuscript collections, we maintain a diverse collection of books covering the fields of Spanish Colonial history, California history, Native American studies, Asian American studies, genealogy, public history, museum studies and archaeology, among others!   We are proud members of the Central Coast Museum Consortium, which hosts a website where our book catalog is listed, along with those of our local partners. You can search the catalog for titles here.

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Donation from Robert L. Hoover.

Gratefully, we are able to keep our holdings updated in our key collecting fields. Every once in a while, however, a wonderful and unexpected donation comes in that fills a gap in one of our specialty areas and really helps set our collection apart.  Last month we received one of those donations from Dr. Robert L. Hoover, Professor Emeritus in Archaeology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  Dr. Hoover’s donation includes several invaluable reference books for historical archaeologists, many of which are aids for identifying artifacts uncovered during excavations.  These volumes include guides to ceramics, bottles and coins, among others.

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Donation from Robert L. Hoover.

The donation is especially timely as SBTHP is preparing to host an Archaeology Field School on site at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park this summer.  Students in the field school will be excavating the rear area of the north wing of the fort. For more information about this summer’s field school click here.  For more information about SBTHP’s ongoing commitment to archaeological field work and collections, click here.

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Donation from Robert L. Hoover.

To make an appointment to visit the Presidio Research Center contact Anne Petersen, Associate Director for Historical Resources, at (805) 966-5073 or

UCSB Students Work with Oral History Collection

by Kenny Le and Myisha Stanford

Kenny Le and Myisha Stanford during their internship at SBTHP's Presidio Research Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.
Kenny Le and Myisha Stanford during their internship at SBTHP’s Presidio Research Center. Photo by Anne Petersen.

Good news everyone! There is a brand new interview available on the SBTHP Collections Online website featuring Gary Chafe, brought to you by Kenny Le and Myisha Stanford (that’s us!). How did we stumble upon this jewel of an opportunity you may ask? We were enrolled in Professor Ambi Harsha’s Community Studies Class at UCSB where we were introduced to Anne Petersen, the Associate Director for Historical Resources of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. We were given the opportunity to participate in a ten week internship. Now, a little bit about us. We’re both students at UCSB. Myisha is a fourth year Asian American Studies major while Kenny is a third year History major with a minor in Asian American Studies. Together, we were delighted to have the opportunity to not only learn about Santa Barbara’s past, but to actively participate in sharing its history via an interview with a community member.

Gary Chafe working in his former studio at 121 East Canon Perdido Street. Courtesy of Gary Chafe.
Gary Chafe working in his former studio at 121 East Canon Perdido Street. Courtesy of Gary Chafe.

Following in the footsteps of our predecessors, we contributed to the Oral History Collection by piecing together audio clips of Gary Chafe’s life as an artist in Santa Barbara based on an interview conducted with him by Mary Louise Days on July 29 2013.

Born on September 1st, 1937 in Los Angeles, California, Gary Ray Chafe was the eldest son of Raymond Chafe and Edmee Silva. Chafe relocated to Santa Barbara in 1947 and graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1955 and went on to attend Santa Barbara City College. Chafe was first introduced to art when he visited exhibits liberated from the Nazi following World War II. Although he would go on to pursue multiple careers, his innovative set designs for the Alhecama Theater would be amongst his many notable works. Chafe had a long relationship with the Presidio Neighborhood, including running an art studio on the 100 block of East Canon Perdido Street and living in an apartment above the Whittaker building.

You can find clips from Gary’s interview  here (please be advised that in order for the interview clips to play properly, you must have Quicktime enabled as the default player for your internet browser).

Mary Louise Days with Gary Chafe on  July 29, 2013, the day of his interview with SBTHP. Photo by Anne Petersen.
Mary Louise Days with Gary Chafe on July 29, 2013, the day of his interview with SBTHP. Photo by Anne Petersen.

Unfortunately, our journey with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation has come to an end. We are very thankful for the opportunity and were glad to be introduced by our professor. Not only did we learn about historical locations, events, and community members in Santa Barbara, we were also taught how to use editing programs. Additionally, we were given a glimpse about the tight-knit community within Santa Barbara and a chance to be historians, deciphering clues about the past. These valuable lessons might not have presented themselves had we not interned here. As we move forward with our lives, having had this experience and exposure, we have learned the importance of historical and community preservation.

Kenny and Myisha were dedicated to their project and immersed themselves in the life of a single community member for the duration of their 10-week internship. Their joyful demeanor was an added bonus.    Keep an eye out for these two, we expect to see great things from them in the future.  Thank you from all of us at SBTHP.  

Who uses the Presidio Research Center?

Today we are pleased to share a post by one of our patrons at the Presidio Research Center.  SBTHP Thanks you, Tom, for sharing your perspective on why small archives and libraries like ours are a valuable resource for scholars!

by Thomas E. Tolley

Graduate Student Thomas Tolley, in Inis Mor Ireland. Photo courtesy of Thomas Tolley.
Graduate Student Thomas Tolley, in Inis Mor Ireland. Photo courtesy of Thomas Tolley.

The Research Center at the Santa Barbara Presidio is  a remarkable archive. Built in some part on the collection of the late Richard Whitehead, along with many contributions from within and outside of the community, the Center is a rich, diverse resource for those who are compelled to pursue interests in local, state, and regional histories. Many people also use the Center to pursue family histories, looking for clues and answers to what components make up the mélange that all of us are.

I have had the fortune of using the Research Center over the course of two summers, as part of the process of completing my Dissertation (Anthropology-Historical Archaeology, expected Spring 2014). The first, in 2012, allowed me to reconfigure my dissertation topic into a more refined question, one that will hopefully reopen the discourse on California mission histories, and move the field into new areas of consideration. The accessible documents in the Research Center gave me the chance to remove unnecessary tangents, and essentially planted the seeds that grew into my opportunity to contribute to both Mission Studies and public knowledge as a whole. The second, this summer of 2013, I was able to locate additional original resources that support and reinforce my topic, and greatly aid in the process of making a compelling argument, as well as one that matters. To be blunt, my PhD would not be happening if it had not been for places like the Research Center.

I have over 20 years of business experience and CRM (Cultural Resource Management) experience, so I appreciate the amount of background research that needs to take place before many projects can get off the ground. Time is precious, and if you have resources you cannot find, that ends up costing time and money. For projects in construction, renovation, historic preservation, even in school projects and personal curiosity, the Research Center is the place to start. There is a great chance that you will find what you need there, and if by chance you do not, the staff will be able to tell you where on the Central Coast it is. That kind of ability, accessibility, and professionalism is invaluable.

Thomas Tolley is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Syracuse University