Collections

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History San José preserves and makes available to scholars, teachers, researchers and 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. As part of our mission to “celebrate the stories of diversity and innovation in San José and the Santa Clara Valley,” collections are utilized in rotating exhibits at History Park, as well as satellite exhibits at San José City Hall and other County locations.

Artifacts

BasketsHistory San José manages one of the largest object collections in California. The objects collection consists of more than 500,000 artifacts that document the lives of the diverse inhabitants and the history of the institutions of the Santa Clara Valley. Reflecting the breadth and complexity of the region’s history, the collections bring together a variety of objects, including Native American artifacts, Spanish/Mexican Era artifacts, furniture, household items, costumes and textiles, personal items, toys, vehicles, agricultural equipment, canning machinery, art, tools, and objects from the technology industry. Locally made items are especially well represented. Some artifact collections are also augmented and documented by material in the Museum’s library and archival collections. Some major collections include:

Access to the artifact collection is by appointment only.

Photography

Two cased images in the History San Jose collectionThe photographic collection of more than 30,000 images documents the breadth of Santa Clara Valley history. It includes photographs from the San José Chamber of Commerce, as well as photographs by local freelance press photographers, early portrait artists (such as the eccentric Astley David Montague Cooper), and personal family albums of Santa Clara Valley citizens. The collection includes glass-plate negatives, daguerreotypes, tintypes, and albumen prints, as well as modern formats. Notable series include a group of rare portraits (salted paper prints) by Carlton Watkins, and photographs by Alice Hare, one of few female photographers working in Santa Clara County as the turn of the 20th century. The Burrel Leonard Photograph Collection documents one Cupertino ranching family’s history from the 1850s to their management of a prominent canning operation in the early 20th century and later development of their land into one of the first shopping malls in the South Bay Area. Our series of 400 aerial photographs from 1931 to the late 1960s document dramatic changes from agricultural lands into today’s suburbia.

Research Library and Archives

The Research Library and Archives include more than 5,000 linear feet of archival records and manuscripts, architectural drawings and specifications, maps, oral histories, audio and film materials, and books. Records of the Pueblo of San José (founded 1777) are the oldest municipal records in the state, while documentation of Silicon Valley records the reinvention of the future almost daily. It is used by scholars and researchers in a variety of disciplines, city and county employees, and the general public. The collection is housed in the seismically retrofitted, climate-controlled collections center in the Beechnut Building, and is open to the public by appointment.

Historic and Reconstructed Buildings

Peralta Adobe - Fallon House Historic SitePeralta Adobe – Fallon House Historic Site is located in the historic heart of San José. The 1797 Peralta Adobe and 1855 Fallon House are in their original locations and tell the stories of El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe and San José as a new American city. The site is in the center of the new San Pedro Square Market.

 

History Park at NightHistory Park is a 14 acre park that features 32 reconstructed and relocated historic buildings. The relocated buildings were moved to History Park to prevent their demolition and for their historic value. Reconstructed buildings represent lost structures that are significant to San José’s past. History San José partners conduct programs at several of the buildings to tell their diverse stories of Santa Clara Valley.

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