Current Exhibitions

San Diego History Center

Animal Aesthetics

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

March 12, 2017 – May 20, 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

Marston’s History Emporium: A Hands On Learning Lab

October 11 – Ongoing

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

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

November 17, 2017 – March 25, 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.

Legacy In Black

November 4, 2017 – April 15, 2018

The San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art (SDAAMFA) is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibit in collaboration with the San Diego History Center (Center). The exhibit will feature the art of African American Artists who are from San Diego or have a significant relationship to San Diego. Each of the artists highlighted has made tremendous historical/cultural contributions to San Diego and beyond.

Mail Call

November 4th, 2017 – February 5th, 2018

A name is shouted out, and a parcel is handed through the crowd to its eager recipient—mail call is a moment when the front line and home front connect. Letters, news, and packages from home unite families, boost morale and in wartime, elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.

The traveling version of the National Postal Museum’s permanent exhibition, “Mail Call” explores the history of America’s military postal system, and examines how even in today’s era of instant communication, troops overseas continue to treasure mail delivered from home. Organized and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibition tells the fascinating story of military mail and communication—from the American Revolution to current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout American history, the military and postal service have combined forces to deliver mail under challenging—often extreme—circumstances. But whether it takes place at headquarters or in hostile territory, on a submarine or in the desert, mail call forges a vital link with home.

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 – January 25, 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.

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: A Disappearing Breed: Japanese Gardeners in San Diego 

February – July 2017

This exhibition points out the differences between pre-war and post-war Japanese gardeners in San Diego. It is dedicated to all those who worked with their hands, who founded related businesses that helped everyone succeed, and who developed leadership skills as the profession of landscape gardening developed.

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