Conducting Research

Many of our library, archives, and photo records are now searchable online.

Click here for more information and to start searching.

Research Library
Open by Appointment

Tuesday – Thursday
9:00 am to 1:00 pm

To schedule an appointment
research @ historysanjose.org
408.521.5026

There are a few things to remember when using archives. Archival records are the documents created or accumulated by a person or organization in the course of the conduct of affairs. They are preserved because of their continuing value. The format of these materials is diverse and may include letters and diaries, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, objects, computer tape, video and audio cassettes, or compact disks and DVDs. The size of any given collection may range from a single document to shelf after shelf of materials.

History San José also has a library of several thousand volumes. Many of these books and periodicals document the history of San Jose and Santa Clara County. Others relate to the industries and activities of our diverse population, from agriculture to high tech.

For more information on using archives, consult our tips below, as well as The Society of American Archivists’ online publication Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research, written for first-time archives users as well as scholars.

Helpful Tips

  1. Often, the best way to begin research is with secondary sources such as the books, journals, newspapers, and other published materials that you find in libraries.
  2. Questions relating to general historical or factual information, or to statistical information are usually better answered by the reference librarian in your local library.
  3. Doing research in archival sources is different from working with books and journals because archival materials are unique items and are generally cataloged differently from printed matter. While libraries have online catalogs, we have indexes, card catalogs and databases that we use to identify and locate the resources best matched to your research request.
  4. The History San José Research Library contains only materials from San José and Santa Clara County that are unique, original, unpublished sources (known as primary sources). Most, but not all, of the collections are at least 25 years old.
  5. When you ask for assistance, please be prepared to explain your project or topic clearly and to tell us what searching you have already done on your own. It is helpful to describe what kinds of records (textual, maps, photographs, electronic, etc.) you are looking for.
  6. Contact the Research Library before visiting, as we are open by appointment only. This ensures the materials that you wish to examine are available for research and the repository will be open when you arrive.
  7. Please be aware that all requests are handled in the order received and that a response will take time.
  8. The Research Library sets fees for the recovery of costs related to production and research assistance as approved by the Board of Directors of History San José. Photocopies, reproductions including photographs, and other copies are subject to the discretion of the staff in order to protect copyright and other legal issues as well as to insure the long term security and maintenance of the documents and photographs.
  9. Refer to our Historic Building and Site Resources and Biographical Research Resources for specific resources useful for looking up historic buildings and people.
  10. Search our guides at the Online Archive of California
  11. You can submit a research request online with the Research Request Form. Research Library staff responds to requests on a first-come first-served basis. Please allow up to 45 days for us to respond to your research request.
  12. Staff and volunteers are available to guide you during your research visit.
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