The collection is comprised of the Historical Society of Southern California (HSSC) business archives (1890s-2017), and books,
ephemera, photographs and manuscripts all collected by the HSSC. The organization was formed in 1883 to collect and preserve
manuscripts, periodicals, newspapers, and both written and oral historical accounts regarding the history of the Pacific Coast
in general and of Southern California in particular.
In the May 2018 Board meeting of Historical Society of Southern California, a decision was made that the organization was
no longer a collecting institution and that a suitable repository for the collection should be approached. It was decided
to approach the History Department at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM), to determine if they would accept
the major portion of the collection, and the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Los Angeles, to see if they would take the
materials relating to Charles F. Lummis, founder of the Southwest Museum, whose collections are now a major holding of the
Autry. Both institutions were selected because of their long history with HSSC and their accessibility to researchers, students,
and the general public.
The Historical Society’s long association with the Natural History Museum dates back to 1910 with the founding of the Los
Angeles County Museum of History, Art and Science. The HSSC provided one of the founding collections to the Natural History
Museum. HSSC along with the Fine Arts League, the Southern Division of the Cooper Ornithological Club, and the Southern California
Academy of Sciences entered into an agreement with the County of Los Angeles on February 7, 1910 to build a historical museum
and art gallery. The agreement required the four groups to furnish the new museum with exhibit materials. HSSC’s contributions
in accordance with the agreement were each designated an accession number “A.30” denoting that they were received as museum
property. Prior to the contribution, HSSC did not have a permanent home for their collection. Since then, its mission to collect
historical materials on California saw its collections grow significantly while securing a place to house and properly care
for these collections remained a challenge.
Beginning in August of 2018, NHM staff made several visits to the storage unit in Long Beach, California where the collections
were stored after leaving the Homestead Museum. The History Department agreed to accept the bulk of the collection that did
not duplicate materials already in the NHM collections and to take possession by the end of September. These collections amount
to nearly 10,000 historical items ranging from 1798 to 2017.
Some items were not accepted by NHM or the Autry, so other institutions were approached including the Los Angeles Public Library,
Heritage Square Museum in Highland Park, Special Collections at Chapman University, UCLA - Center for the Study of Latino
Health and Culture with some objects and documents being returned to the Lummis Home (El Alisal) which is currently managed
by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.
A large volume of HSSC materials previously incorporated into the NHM’s founding collections includes over eight linear feet
of papers and photographs currently housed in the Seaver Center for Western History Research.
19 Linear feet, 3 extremely oversize maps, 6 framed items, flat files