Current Exhibitions

San Diego History Center

Part of the Patchwork: Reflections of African-American Life in the History Center Archives


December 15, 2018 – March 24, 2019

Bob Matheny: Almost Anonymous is the first major survey of the work of San Diego-based artist Bob Matheny. Since the late 1950s Matheny has developed his expansive practice through the lens of many different disciplines and mediums, including graphic design, sculpture, small press printing, painting, writing, photography, curating and performance. Grounded in the formal tenets of modernist design, but mitigated by a healthy dose of Dada irreverence and Duchampian hijinks, Matheny’s diverse body of work is a singular blend of craftsmanship and concept, idea and object, wit and intelligence.

Part of the Patchwork: Reflections of African-American Life in the History Center Archives

LGBTQ+ San Diego:
Stories of Struggles and Triumphs

July 8, 2018 – January 20, 2020

The San Diego History Center in partnership with the Lambda Archives brings the first exhibition EVER in Balboa Park, focused on San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community. Titled LGBTQ+San Diego: Stories of Struggles and Triumphs, this will be the History Center’s major exhibition of 2018 and will run to January 2020 with an estimated 250,000 visitors!

Visitors will hear from those in the LGBTQ+ region about the struggles to overcome persecution, the battle with AIDS, bullying and intolerance and the power of the community coming together and within growing activism and community engagement. Specifically for this exhibition, the San Diego History is arranging for the rare display of a portion of the AIDS Quilt, with significance to our region.

Part of the Patchwork: Reflections of African-American Life in the History Center Archives

Pioneers of San Diego

August 10, 2018 – April 2019

The Ladies Pioneer Society was composed of educated women who arrived in San Diego in the late 1800s from diverse places around the country. This exhibition looks at 6 of these intrepid women pioneers and, through their own writings, examines their perspectives of their new home in San Diego during the early days of American settlement in the area.

Part of the Patchwork: Reflections of African-American Life in the History Center Archives

Let’s Eat! A Taste of History

June 27, 2018

The Japanese first came to San Diego in the late 19th century. San Diego was not San Francisco or Los Angeles with their large immigrant populations and there were too few Japanese people here for the stores to stock Japanese food items. It was not really a problem as they had got used to eating Chinese food on the ships that had brought them from Japan as well as in the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles where it was readily available and cheap. They had also discovered American food which although it contained much more meat than they were used to in Japan, was invitingly different.

Film Jewel of San Diego

Exquisite Views: Selections from the History Center’s Fine Art Collection

September, 2018 – January 27, 2019

Exquisite Views is the inaugural exhibition in the History Center’s new gallery dedicated to displaying works from the fine art collection. Many of these works have rarely, if ever, been on public view. The artworks that comprise the exhibition are unique examples of the depth and breadth of the fine art collection, which focuses on art created in San Diego since 1880.

Film Jewel of San Diego

The Jewel of San Diego


Featuring stunning aerial vistas juxtaposed with historic images, this documentary film provides an introduction to Balboa Park for visitors. Using state-of-the-art motion graphics, three-dimensional mapping, an original sound track and photomontages, the 30minute capsule history explores the Park from the heights of the California Tower to underground museum collectionsan unforgettable visual experience.

Permanent Exhibitions at the

San Diego History Center
in the Heart of Balboa Park

Place of Promise

Place of Promise

Closing January 28, 2019 for update
This permanent exhibition showcases San Diego history from 10,000 BCE up to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The San Diego region has been home to native peoples like the Kumeyaay for thousands of years; they lived in complex societies and established trade with other tribes. Since Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s European contact in 1542, San Diego has undergone extensive transformations as the Spanish, Mexican and American cultures have all shaped our region.

Inside | OUT

Inside | OUT

A permanently exhibited, rotating display of rarely-seen items from the San Diego History Center archives.

Inside|OUT is the San Diego History Center’s newest permanent exhibition located in our central atrium and brings objects, photographs, and documents from the archives to the exhibition floor! Inside|OUT is a large lighted display unit with 16 cases of different sizes and will be curated internally by collections staff and feature a rotating inventory of items that are rarely displayed in the museum.

Film Jewel of San Diego

Marston’s History Emporium: A Hands-On Learning Lab

October 11, 2017 – October 25, 2019

Who is a San Diegan? Why is it important to know and understand our history? What do objects, photos, and documents say about our past? How have other children in San Diego made a difference in our community? These are just a few of the questions that will confront visitors to the History Center’s newest exhibition Marston’s History Emporium.

Permanent Exhibition at the

Junípero Serra Museum



Visitors will learn about the Presidio from its early years near the Kumeyaay village of Kosa’aay and the San Diego River to the establishment of the Royal Presidio and the Mission San Diego de Alcalá (1769). The Presidio is the birthplace of San Diego and California. The exhibit traces the American period and efforts to preserve the Presidio by George Marston, who created the San Diego Historical Society in 1928.



Located on the northeast terrace exterior, the vantage point offers sweeping views of San Diego and Mission Valley. The interpretive panels explore and interpret the historic role that the San Diego River has played in the development of our region. The exhibit uses images from the History Center’s Historic Photograph Collection and features a stunning panorama of the San Diego River and Mission Valley from the Serra Museum’s iconic tower.


Survival & Transformation:
San Diego’s Journey


This exhibition showcases San Diego’s cultural influences from indigenous Kumeyaay to the Spanish, Mexican and early American settlers. Displays focus on early challenges with natural resources, trade and development, and the role archaeology has played in uncovering San Diego’s buried past. Climb the tower to experience the San Diego of 1929. See spectacular views from multiple directions and contrast them with historic vantage points from the History Center’s photograph collection.

Special Exhibition Hosted by

Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego (JAHSSD)

The Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego Gallery is located at the San Diego History Center.

Current exhibitions: School Days in Camp 

Imagine attending school surrounded by fences and overlooked by guard towers. For children of Japanese descent detained in internment camps during World War II, this was their reality. Did it deter them from learning? How different were their school days from those of students outside the fence? This exhibition highlights what school was life for those students and how they overcame their location to continue their education.

Previous exhibitions: Only the Oaks Remains: The Story of the Tuna Canyon Detention Center