Research

Research Services

The Research Archives provides public access to the History Center’s Photograph Collection and Document Archives, which combined are the region’s largest collection of historical materials covering hundreds of years of San Diego history.

Scholars, students, professional researchers, and the general public may visit us in person. Hours and location information is here. For those who can visit but require more individual research help, we offer One-on-One research appointments for an hourly fee. In addition to providing reference assistance in the reading room, the History Center offers Remote Research Services for patrons who would like our professional staff to research specific items on their behalf. Fees for remote research are hourly, please see details below. All fees from research services go directly to support the San Diego History Center and maintaining our collections.

For questions or more information, contact: collections@sandiegohistory.org or (619) 232-6203.

On-Site Reference Services:

Admission to the archives is donation based upon our Give Forward program.

Basic Reference Request by Email:

There will be no fee for questions that can quickly and easily be answered by email with information readily available. These answers will be very limited in scope. If staff determines that the question is beyond the scope of the basic reference service you may visit the Research Archives, submit a request for Remote Research, or schedule a One-on-One appointment.

Records Request:

You may also request searches for specific records in the collections listed below for $10 per request (includes search of up to 5 names in a maximum of 3 databases, does not include copies).

  • Marriage Licenses (1871-1960)
  • Biographical Files articles
  • Subject Files articles
  • Declarations of Intent (1906-1941)
  • Burial and Removal permits (1876-1945)
  • Superior Court cases (1879-1921)
  • Court of Sessions cases (1850-1860)
  • County Court cases (1850-1880)
  • District Court cases (1850-1880)
  • Justice Court cases (1870-1918)
  • Probate Court cases (1850-1937)
  • Coroner’s Court cases (1853-1904)
  • Articles of Incorporation papers (1869-1940)
  • Property Deeds (1850-1931) – must provide Deed # which is available at County of San Diego

To request an individual record research, download the Document Archives Individual Records Search Request Form and email to collections@sandiegohistory.org. 

Staff will contact you with the results of the search and copies can then be ordered for 50 cents per page plus an administration fee.

To order copies, click on the button below or download the Document Archives Record Copies Order Form and email to collections@sandiegohistory.org.

Copies of Public Records are for research purposes only and are not certified copies with legal status.

One-on-One Appointments:

Appointments are available 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Mondays and Tuesdays and from 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm Wednesdays – Fridays and provide guided access to the Document Archives, the Photograph Collection, or the Object Collection (which includes the Fine Art Collection). Appointment times will vary weekly according to staff availability. Appointments are with one staff member per department, per hour. Access to the Object and Fine Art Collection is limited to museum professionals and researchers.*see further information under Object and Fine Art Collection Information.

Fees:

SDHC member: $25 per hour
Non-member: $35 per hour

To request an in-person one-on-one appointment, download the Request an In-Person One-on-One Appointment Form and email to collections@sandiegohistory.org.

Please allow for at least one week’s notice before requested appointment date. Appointments are first-come, first-served. Please provide at least three possible appointment dates and times. 

Remote Research Services:

Staff will complete requested research on your behalf for an hourly fee. Please complete the appropriate form below (based on the collection you are interested in: Photograph, Documents, or Objects). Research is limited to one well-defined individual, topic, or question. Please submit one request at a time.

There is a one-hour minimum and pre-payment is required for research to begin. Additional time will be charged in half-hour increments after the first hour. Staff will check relevant resources and contact you if more time, beyond the initial hour, is required. Upon completion, staff will supply a summarized written response of the findings.

Remote research requests are on a first come, first served basis. When possible we will accommodate rush requests. Rush job fees are double the regular fees. The average time for Remote Research request completion may be up to 4 weeks. Results of searches are not guaranteed. This service includes three fax scan copies of photographs. Document copies and additional photographs can be made to order. 

Fees:

SDHC Members: $35 per hour
Non-Members: $45 per hour

To request remote research for the Document or Object Collection or the Photograph Collectiondownload the Remote Research Request for Document or Object Collection Form or the Remote Research Request for Photograph Collection Form and email to collections@sandiegohistory.org. 

For questions or more information, contact: collections@sandiegohistory.org or (619) 232-6203. Please note: Fees paid for research requests are non-refundable unless it is immediately apparent that your request is outside the scope of our collections.


About The History Center Collections

Photograph Collection

Containing over 2.5 million images, the Photograph Collection documents the people and the environment of San Diego County. Though images are from the late 19th century through the present, the strength of the collection is before the 1980s. More recent collections including the photo archives of the San Diego Union-Tribune through 1981 are also available.

In addition, a selection of images is available for purchase on our online photo gallery. The Photograph Collection contains significantly more images than you will see here, so please contact us if you don’t find what you’re looking for.

Learn MorePhotograph Collection

Document Archives

The Document Archives is the region’s largest collection of historical materials covering hundreds of years of San Diego history. The Archives houses over 45 million documents: public and architectural records, books, maps, scrapbooks, manuscripts, newspapers, ephemera, diaries and oral histories.

Learn More: Document Archives

Object & Fine Arts Collections

The Object Collection is comprised of 17,000 objects consisting of four main collection areas: costume and textiles, decorative arts, fine arts, and objects of daily life.

Due to the extensive resources required to handle and retrieve this type of material, One-on-One access is limited to museum professionals and researchers who are able to demonstrate that in-person access is required to support substantive research and that the results of that research will be disseminated widely and thoroughly (i.e. through publication or museum exhibitions).

Learn More: Object CollectionFine Arts Collection

Appraisals and Authentication

History Center staff does not appraise or offer authentication services for objects, artworks, photographs or documents; to locate an appraiser that matches your needs, call or visit the websites of the following professional associations: American Society of Appraisers or Appraisers Association of America.

Conservation

The Balboa Art Conservation Center (BACC) is a nonprofit regional conservation center devoted to the preservation of material culture in the areas of art and history. As an exclusive benefit of History Center Membership, members have access to services at BACC. If you have conservation needs or questions, please contact them at info@bacc.org, 619-236-9702, or visit their website at www.bacc.org.