Document Archives

The Document Archives contain an extensive collection of material related to San Diego regional history including books, public records, maps, scrapbooks, unpublished manuscripts, document and manuscript collections, architectural records, newspapers and serials, biological and subject files, oral history interviews, and ephemera. 

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GRant Projects

Sticky Monkey FlowerCLIR Hidden Special Collections 2010 - Enhancing Access to the History of San Diego and the Border Region.

A twenty-four-month grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.






Our collection of reference books is related to all aspects of the history of San Diego, both social and political, with many written by local authors.

Public Records

The Archives currently has over half a mile of shelf space of San Diego City and County public records. We are not the official repository for either San Diego City or County, but we have been fortunate over the years to have received from them donations of original records. Included are court case files, minutes of the Cit Council and Board of Supervisors, local ordinances, Coroner’s inquest reports, probate records, tax lists, school reports, deed records, marriage licenses and mining records.


Over two thousand cataloged sheet maps are available illustrating the Hispanic and American periods.

The maps most in demand are of the San Diego City area (1849 to present). Other subject area strengths include subdivisions; topographic quadrangles; a county-wide file of more than 20,000 "parcel" (assessor's) maps for 1957-58; an aerial photomap collection of western San Diego County containing several hundred high elevation exposures shot in 1928; and a set of Sanborn fire insurance atlases updated to 1955. The Sanborn Collection contains a four volume set of fire insurance maps for the City of San Diego (1955) and volumes for La Jolla, National City, Chula Vista, La Mesa, and Coronado (1959-60). A rare Dakin insurance map book shows San Diego in 1885.  


Scrapbooks are a rich resource of historical comment and a reflection of times, events, and attitudes.  
There are scrapbooks on railroads, the Expositions, the WPA, and local theatres, clubs, and communities, as well as collections of more personal memories.
The Ernestine Schumann-Heink Scrapbook Collection chronicles the opera singer’s professional career from 1883 through to her death in 1936, while the International Theosophical Headquarters Scrapbook features news clippings from 1896-1978 covering the activities of the Theosophical Society and its founder, Katherine Tingley.  

Unpublished Manuscripts

Included here are master's theses and doctoral dissertations completed at local and state universities and, along with numerous other unpublished manuscripts provide researchers with resources on a wide range of local history topics.  

Document and Manuscript Collections

These extensive collections serve to document all facets of San Diego history. 
The Ephraim W. Morse Collection of correspondence, letter-press books, and business records is a valuable chronicle of the first four decades of the City of San Diego. The Ah Quin Diaries provide a rare glimpse into San Diego's small Chinese community in the late 1800s. Nine diaries survive in this collection dating from 1879 through 1902. Another set of diaries, the notebooks of E.H. Davis, are invaluable to understanding San Diego's Native-American population and Backcountry. The fifty-two notebooks written between 1884 and 1942 describe the social and economic culture of Southern California Indians in detail that is virtually unknown for this period.

The George Marston Papers contain personal and business records from the San Diego merchant and civic leader. The collection documents Marston's role in city planning, park development, and business.

The Amero Collection is the notes of local author Richard Amero, a useful compilation of material on Balboa Park and other subjects including Mission Bay, Horton Plaza, U.S. Naval Hospital, San Diego High School, water development, and transportation.

There are also collections of personal papers, records from social and cultural organizations, and institutional and business records.

Architectural Records

The Architectural Drawings Collection contains the work of more than 75 different architects including Irving Gill, Richard Requa, Hazel Waterman, Lillian Rice, William Templeton Johnson, and Sim Bruce Richard.  There are architectural drawings for nearly 900 projects including public and commercial buildings and private residences.


These are documents that were created specifically for a transitory purpose such as theater programs, restaurant menus, postcards, information leaflets, telegrams, advertising literature, recipes, pamphlets, brochures, tickets, fliers and posters. The Ephemera Collection is invaluable for documenting the social history of everyday life in San Diego.

Oral History

This program was initiated in 1956 by former county supervisor, Edgar Hastings. Hastings interviewed 309 pioneer residents of San Diego County in the next four years and these formed the basis of a collection that now numbers over 1400 interviews, available to researchers as indexed transcriptions.

As part of this ongoing project, the Society is presently involved in collaborations with various local groups including the Hoffman Society who are using video interviews to document the post-War history of medicine in San Diego County

Newspapers and Serials

Extensive runs of newspaper titles are available in the Archives on microfilm and in bound copies. The San Diego Herald (1851-1859), San Diego Union (1868-1916), and San Diego Sun (1881-1939), are all available on microfilm. Bound volumes of the San Diego business newspaper, the Daily Transcript, are available for 1937 through 1977. The Sentinel Newspaper collection contains 540 bound volumes of local titles including Sentinel newspapers from Kearney Mesa, Ocean Beach, La Jolla, Clairemont, and Pacific Beach. The newspaper dates range from 1922 to 1985.

There is also an interesting range of underground newspapers like The San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal.

Biographical and Subject Files

The Subject Files are a popular first step for study. Composed of more than 1,000 folders of newspaper clippings, the files are arranged alphabetically for over twelve hundred topics.
The Biographical Files contain over 260 notebooks of newspaper clippings arranged alphabetically by name.