Our History


One of the oldest and largest historical organizations on the West Coast, the San Diego 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 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 then-Historical Society and Research Library. In 1982, the Historical Society moved its collections and museum from Presidio Park to the Casa de Balboa in Balboa Park, maintaining the Serra as an auxiliary museum and educational center. In 2010, the name, San Diego History Center, was formally adopted. The History Center remains one of the very few institutions in the U.S. dedicated to a major American city.


The San Diego History Center is the steward of our community heritage and the principal institution reflecting our community identity. At our 50,000 square foot History Center and Research Library in the Casa de Balboa, we continue to collect, preserve and display unparalleled collections of regional history. We are a vital community resource for all San Diegans, showcasing San Diego and its diverse communities through our exhibitions and public programs, highlighting what makes San Diego unique and the region’s emerging role in our 21st century world. We also serve as a lifelong learning center for all ages and members of our community. Our K-12 educational programs, including School-in-the-Park, currently serve over 11,000 school children annually and our popular adult and family programs and our Speakers Bureau serve thousands more. Our Research Library serves residents, scholars, students, researchers and historians both onsite and, globally, online. With its rich historical content, archived material and online photo sales, our website is visited by more than 1,000 distinct visitors daily, making it among the most visited museum websites in our region.