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Local History

Central Library Collections

Biography Files: Biographies of local luminaries, celebrities, authors, artists and other persons of note can be found at the Central Library Reference Desk; please ask for assistance.

Black Gold Digital Collections: Hundreds of historic photographs from the Black Gold Cooperative Library System are available to view online. Collections include "Adobes in San Luis Obispo Country Library," "Hispanics on the Central Coast - 300 Years of History," and more.

Edson Smith Photograph Collection: The Edson Smith Photograph collection contains nearly 1,500 early images of Santa Barbara County dating from the 1870s-1940s, many of which were collected by Santa Barbara native, and long-time resident, Edson A. Smith (1877-1947). The photographs capture historic buildings, adobes, houses, views of State Street, cultural landmarks, local dignitaries, and many events including early Fiesta parades, the arrival of the first Southern Pacific train in Santa Barbara in 1887, and the Santa Barbara Earthquake on June 29, 1925. Over 300 of the 1,500 images are online to view now; more coming soon. For more information contact Jace Turner, Community Relations Librarian, 805 564 5611.

Local History Reference Collection: Books and bound periodicals of interest to readers and researchers of Santa Barbara are available for use within the Central Library. A local history database is maintained at Central Library; please ask for assistance.

Microfilm Collection: In addition to the current print editions of local and national newspapers, the Central Library houses nearly 40 regional newspapers on microfilm. Many papers in this collection date back to the late 1850s. Indexes are available for select years. Access to the online archive of the Santa Barbara News-Press is also available. Please inquire at the Reference Staff for assistance with microfilm or archive searches. 

Sanborn Maps: Initially created to estimate fire insurance liabilities, Sanborn maps are frequently used for preservation and restoration efforts. The Central Library has historical maps of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, and other regional cities dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Please inquire at the Reference Desk to access the microfilm.

Santa Barbara City Directories: Materials include Santa Barbara City directories from 1875 through 1989 and the current Haines Criss-Cross directory.

Obituary Searches

For obituary searches click here


Local History Searches

$25.00 fee / 30 minutes of research

Local History search requests will only be accepted by regular mail and must include payment by check or money order made out to Santa Barbara Public Library. Do not send cash.

Please submit requests for a local history search in writing:

 Santa Barbara Public Library
 Reference Unit - Local History Request
 PO Box 1019
Santa Barbara, CA 93102

Please include any names, places, dates or other information that might help in the search. Searching past the first half hour will only be done if staff believe there is a reasonable chance of further information being found. Before extra charges are incurred the patron will be contacted. Please include your email address and/or phone number in your letter to facilitate any questions that might arise. Requests can take 4-6 weeks to process.

For more information, contact the Central Library Reference Department at 805-564-5604.


Community Resources

Carpinteria Valley Museum of History - Museum and research library operated by the Carpinteria Valley Historical Society

Carriage and Western Arts Museum - Collection includes 86 "antique" (working and rentable) carriages, and 55 historic saddles.

Central Coast Museum Consortium - A group of six museum libraries devoted to providing access to information and materials on the cultural, historical, and natural resources of California's Central Coast.

Chronology of Santa Barbara - From the City of Santa Barbara.

Elverhoj Museum of History & Art - One of few museums outside Denmark devoted solely to the Danish culture and Danish-American experience. A spacious art gallery rotates exhibits of regional and international Danish art, and showcases many traditional fold arts including weaving, needlework, lace making, wood carving, and paper cutting.

Goleta History - A growing collection of easy to read stories of local history.

Goleta Valley Historical Society - The mission of the Goleta Valley Historical Society is to collect, preserve, interpret and foster research of Goleta Valley’s history through exhibits, programs, and stewardship of the historic Rancho La Patera, home to the Stow family.

History All Around Us - A local history blog, by a local author. The histories are grouped by geographic areas or subjects.

Montecito Association History Committee

Pearl Chase Society - Preservation of historic sites in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society & Sahyun Genealogical Library - Collection includes books, periodicals, vital records, and local school yearbooks.

Santa Barbara Earthquake History 1800-1960 - Includes photos, personal accounts of the quake, and a catalog of the times, sizes, and felt effects of pre-instrumental earthquakes that have been felt in the Santa Barbara and Ventura area.

Santa Barbara Historical Museum & Gledhill Library - Through exhibitions, education, research, and publication, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum interprets over 500 years of history with collections from the Chumash, Mexican, Spanish, and American periods.

Santa Barbara Independent: History 101 articles by Michael Redmon – Articles on the history of Santa Barbara written by the Santa Barbara Historical Museum's Director of Research, Michael Redmon.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum - Preserving and celebrating the maritime heritage of the California Coast.

Santa Barbara Mission Archive - Library - Home to a unique collection of sources related to the missions of California, California history, Franciscan history, and the history of native peoples in the Southwest until approximately 1850.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History 

Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation - Collections include books & scholarly articles, historic maps, oral histories, photographs, and the Pearl Chase Papers, among other manuscript collections.

Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum - The Museum preserves the history and nostalgia of the City of Santa Maria and its environs with pictures, artifacts and valley memorabilia.

Santa Barbara Vintage Photography - Historic photos of Santa Barbara places, events, adobes, fiesta, people, & more.

Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society Museum - Houses exhibits from the Chumash period through 20th century ranching days. The Museum features displays of Native American, pioneer and early Valley ranch artifacts. The adjacent Parks-Janeway Carriage house is home to one of the largest horse-drawn carriage and stagecoach collections in the U.S.

UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive - The UCSB Library invites you to discover and listen to its online archive of cylinder recordings; donate to help the collection grow; and learn about how these sounds and songs create an audio history of American culture.

UCSB Department of Special Research Collections

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