Using the Guide
Title: Selected Photograph Collections
California State Archives
California State Archives
For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication
is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility
for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives
[Identification of item], Selected Photograph Collections, California State Archives.
The photographic collection of the California State Archives constitutes a rich and varied source of information about the
history of California state government and of the state as a whole. While portions of the collection have been used extensively,
most of it remains largely untapped. This is due in part to the fact that descriptive information about photographs, which
most often are an integral part of much larger groups of documentary records, is not easily accessed. If one is not familiar
with the structure and functions of state government, knowing where to start looking for photographs of railroads, for instance,
can be somewhat overwhelming. Also lacking is much in the way of cataloging of collections by subject which would allow researchers
to locate the specific images they seek.
The purpose of this guide is to give users of the State Archives an overview of the photographic collection, to increase access
to it, and above all, to encourage greater use of the collection. The guide gathers together in one place information about
photographs which already exists, for the most part, in other State Archives finding aids. Some guide entries were created
just for this purpose because original finding aid descriptions needed to be condensed or particular photographs were not
previously described separately from related records. For example, photographs are part of files of cases heard by the Public
Utilities Commission and derive most of their significance from the context in which they are found. But the photo researcher
interested in locating images of ferry boats may not be interested in the PUC case concerning ferry rates. Other guide entries
were upgraded and standardized to conform with the guide's format.
Although the guide is not comprehensive, it does include the largest and most significant photographic series in the collection.
A quick review of the guide's contents will reveal that the collection consists of primarily twentieth century, black and
white prints and negatives and that it's strengths are in the documentation of state highways and state buildings. Some 185,000
images are described in the guide, about one third of which pertain in some way to the "public works" theme. But upon closer
examination, the researcher will uncover many other interesting items: images documenting the efforts of law enforcement officials
to solve crimes and incarcerate and rehabilitate the guilty, the post-World War II expansion of the state's educational system,
the management of the state's natural and agricultural resources, state officials, politicians and political campaigns, the
celebration of the state's bounty at state and local fairs, and many others.
Using the Guide
Guide entries are arranged alphabetically by the name of the state agency which created or collected the photographs. Collections
from non-governmental agency sources are placed alphabetically following the aforementioned group. At the end of the guide
listings are placed entries pertaining to unprocessed materials to which access may be limited.
Each entry bears a unique, sequential number at the beginning of the entry. The set of numbers which follows the entry number
are collection identification numbers. Use these numbers to determine the location of a particular collection using the
Location Key also at the end of the guide. Location and identification numbers are required when requesting the retrieval of photographs
for research use.
Terminology for photographic formats and for most subject terms is derived from Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN)
online version of
The Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) and
Library of Congress Subject Headings, respectively. Some subject terms are local in origin. Photographs are black and white unless otherwise specified.
Towards the end of most entries, the researcher will see a cross reference to other finding aids which either provide more
extensive information about the collection described or about related records from the same state or local agency. Occasionally,
references to restrictions concerning access are also found here. See the California State Archives for more information.