California's first legislature, meeting in 1849–50, charged the Secretary of State to receive "…all public records, registered maps, books, papers, rolls, documents and other writings . . . which appertain to or are in any way connected with the political history and past administration of the government of California." The California State Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State, continues to serve in the spirit of those early instructions, providing a repository for the state's permanent governmental records as well as other materials documenting California history. The California State Archives serves a wide variety of researchers whose interests range from legislative intent and public policy to genealogy and railroad history in California.
Archives staff continually organize and describe the records we receive to provide easier and faster access for researchers. Visit the Collections & Catalogs page for more information.
The California State Records and Information Management Program (CalRIM) assists state agencies in achieving these efficient records management programs. CalRIM establishes guidelines, including those for the management of electronic records; provides consultation; evaluates the effectiveness of existing records management programs; and assists in the establishment of new records programs.
Government Code §12236 requires the Secretary of State to establish a Local Government Records Program, to be administered by the State Archives, for the purpose of establishing guidelines for local government records retention and providing archival support to local agencies in this state. The Secretary of State is required to establish, publish, update, and maintain on a permanent basis guidelines for local government records retention.
The California State Archives is a public research facility and we encourage you to come in person to do your research. If, however, you are unable to visit, Reference Services will perform a limited amount of research for you. We do not have the staffing available to do indepth research or to look for a specific document within a record series. Generally, this means that staff will identify the series most likely to contain the information requested.
Telephone, email, fax, and "snail mail" requests are worked on in the order in which they are received. We do not expedite requests or do "rush" orders. Generally, the research on these requests can be completed in 3-5 business days, but additional time may be required to photocopy and mail the records.
Before submitting your research request or planning your visit, please read information provided on the linked pages below.
The California State Archives houses records that document the broad scope of California government and its impact on the people of the state. The collection consists of textual records by the millions (in boxes and bound volumes) and graphic records by the thousands (maps, architectural drawings, photographs). In addition to these paper-based records, the collection contains audio and visual materials, both analog and digital, and electronic records in a variety of formats. Records are continuously added to the Archives. Descriptions of the records can be found on Minerva, our online descriptive catalog, as well as the Online Archive of California.
The California State Archives has received grants from several organizations to assist with the preservation of and access to historical records, in a variety of formats.
The California State Archives, in conjunction with The Friends of California Archives, is pleased to announce the beginning of a new National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) funded project. The NHPRC awarded The Friends of California Archives money to support “For Their Protection: Digitizing California's 19th Century Trademark Files,” a project to digitize approximately 24,000 pages from the collection of Trademark Registrations and Specimens, Old Series, 1861-1900 at the California State Archives. Included in the collection are trademarks and specimens from Levi Strauss & Co. jeans, early California wineries' bottle labels, Kentucky bourbon distilleries labels, 19th century medicines and tonics, and the original trademark registered to Anheuser Busch for its Budweiser lager. The project will run from April 2014 through March 2015.
Minerva is a descriptive catalog of the records held at the California State Archives. Start exploring today!
Athena contains scanned records retention schedules for state agencies.
There are many online resources available for research and informational purposes. These links are provided as a courtesy and are not endorsed, operated, or owned by the Secretary of State's Office.