History San José preserves and makes available to the general public, as well as its own exhibit and educational staff, one of the largest and most comprehensive regional history collections in the state of California. The seismically retrofitted, climate-controlled Collection Center is located in the Beechnut Building, and is open to the public free-of-charge weekdays by appointment.
Search the Collection
We are increasing the number of records and images available online on a weekly basis. In addition, audiovisual content is available through YouTube and the Internet Archive. Search now.
More than 500,000 artifacts document the lives of the diverse inhabitants and the history of the institutions of the Santa Clara Valley. The collection brings together locally-made Native American artifacts, Spanish/Mexican Era artifacts, furniture, household items, costumes and textiles, personal items, toys, vehicles, agricultural equipment, canning machinery, art, tools, and technology. Artifacts are complemented and documented by material in the Museum’s Library and Archives. Major collections include:
The collection comprises over 30,000 images on glass-plate negatives, daguerreotypes, tintypes, and albumen prints, as well as modern formats, from the San José Chamber of Commerce, local freelance press photographers, early portrait artists (such as the eccentric Astley D. M. Cooper), and personal family albums of Santa Clara Valley citizens. Notable series include:
Rare portraits (salted paper prints) by Carlton Watkins
Photographs by Alice Hare, one of a handful of female photographers working in Santa Clara County at the turn of the 20th century
Photographs of Big Basin Redwoods Park taken by local photographer Andrew P. Hill
Images of post-War San Jose by commercial photographer Shirlie Montgomery
Research Library and Archives
In addition to the Photograph Collection, the Research Library and Archives holds more than 5,000 linear feet of archival records and manuscripts, architectural drawings and specifications, maps, oral histories, audiovisual materials, sheet music, and books documenting the history of Santa Clara Valley from 1777 to the present. Included are the records of the Pueblo of San José (founded 1777), the oldest municipal records in the state.
History Park represents San José’s past through 32 original and reconstructed historic buildings, many relocated to the 14-acre Park to prevent their demolition. History San José partners and affiliates conduct programs at the buildings, bringing to life the diverse stories of Santa Clara Valley.
Donations to the Collection
History San José is a collecting institution and welcomes donations that reflect our mission. Please visit our Donations page for guidelines.