Current Exhibitions

San Diego History Center

Guy William’s Painters Notebook printed by Irwin Hollander. 

Gaps in the Record: Vanguard Print Culture in San Diego

June 1 – August 5, 2018

Gaps in the Record: Vanguard Print Culture in San Diego documents the overlapping literary and visual art practices and independent publishing activity within San Diego’s mid-twentieth century creative community. The exhibition centers on a small group of painters who were also writers: Don Dudley (1930), Guy Williams (1934-2004), Richard Allen Morris (1933), Malcolm McClain (1923-2012), John Baldessari (1931), and Fred Cooper (1939).

Animal Aesthetics

Celebrate San Diego! The History & Heritage of San Diego’s Jewish Community

March 12, 2017 – June 3, 2018

An exhibition that chronicles the history of San Diego’s Jewish community beginning with pioneers who arrived in 1850 looking for adventure, good weather, better health, and, above all, the opportunity to make the American dream their own, to the thriving community it is today.

Film Jewel of San Diego

Alice Klauber, Untitled Landscape [Mission Bay Causeway Bridge], c. 1930s.

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

November 17, 2017 – August 5, 2018

With more than 1,700 works of fine art in its Collection, many of which were donated throughout the years by generous San Diegans, the History Center’s collection represents the visual culture of the San Diego region from the mid-1800’s through the 1950s. Exquisite Views, the inaugural exhibition launching a new gallery dedicated to exhibiting works from the Fine Art Collection, is an introduction to the collection focusing in the divergent movements which took place in San Diego between 1880 and 1950.

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

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

March 2017 – July 15, 2018

Inspired by the opening of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and as a Smithsonian affiliate, the San Diego History Center looked to its own archives to see what stories of African-American life in our region could be uncovered. The photographs, documents, and oral histories displayed here are the result of that investigation. With all its nuance and complexity, telling a full and comprehensive story of the African-American community is a monumental task for any archives or collection. This means that the story presented here is incomplete. For the San Diego History Center, the work of collecting our region’s history—and especially that of underrepresented cultures and communities—remains a cornerstone of our mission yet is also a work in progress. The snapshot you see here is evidence of progress but there is much more work to be done.

Fashion Redux:
90 Years of Fashion

March 3, 2018 – June 24, 2018

Ninety years of San Diego fashion is the “common thread” this year in the exhibition Fashion Redux: 90 Years of Fashion, the annual fashion collaboration between the San Diego History Center and Mesa College School of Fashion & Design.

The exhibition features historical garments from the History Center’s extensive textile collection paired with history-inspired garments created by Mesa College fashion students.  The garments will be on view in an interactive learning space where visitors can learn about fashion techniques and fabrication, and why San Diego’s fashions were both unique and part of international trends.

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.

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.

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