History Room

The Library preserves Monterey's memory in the California History Room.

The Monterey Public Library collects and preserves written, visual and audible materials created by and about residents of the Monterey area, both past and present. These records are housed in a secure, climate-controlled room, and made accessible to scholars and the public for research. California History Room collections relate specifically to the geographic, cultural and social region including the Monterey Peninsula and extending from Moss Landing to Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

Identification is required to use California History Room materials, and the permanent historical materials of the California History Room may not be checked out.

California History Room

In this Together: Community Voices

In this Together: Community Voices sets out to document our community's experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic through writing and art. Become part of this historical record by submitting an entry to "In this Together: Community Voices". Submissions can be poetry, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, reflections, photographs or artwork; all forms of expression document how we cope, survive, and live as our lives have changed. These submissions will document our experiences and will become a historical record that we will be able to look back on. Help us record this time through your personal lens.


The Library's archival collections contain resources of enduring historical value, often unpublished materials in a variety of formats. They include typescripts, handwritten documents, photographs, scrapbooks, news clippings and printed materials.

Each archival collection and map is included in the catalog. Archival catalog records have detailed information about historically significant collections such as the Edward F. Ricketts Papers, scrapbooks and registers, several photographic collections containing thousands of photographs, historical clipping files, and hundreds of maps.

Search the catalog for the subjects you are interested in, or click the links below. New windows will open.

Archival Collections
Audiovisual Materials
Clipping Files
Pictures and Graphics


These images are beautiful and historically significant photographs and other documents, including works by local photographers Julian P. Graham, William Morgan, J.K. Oliver, C.W.J. Johnson, and others. To view samples of these images click on the links below. New windows will open. Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge.

Information about Reproduction and Use of California History Room Images

The sample images are provided for personal viewing. The original photographs or other documents are located in the California History Room Archives.

Reproduction and use of all images and documents in the Archives are subject to copyright law and Monterey Public Library policy. Use does not grant exclusive publication or exhibit rights. Exhibit or publication permission is for one-time use only.

The California History Room archival cataloging and digitization project was made possible by a generous grant from the Doud Fund of the Community Foundation for Monterey County and matching donors.

For more information, please contact Museums, Cultural Arts and Archives Manager Dennis Copeland at (831) 646-3741.

History Slam

See and hear the winners of Monterey's First History Slam, originally sponsored by the Japanese American Citizen's League of Monterey Peninsula (JACL) and the National Steinbeck Center. The History Slam will be an annual event held at the Monterey Public Library, co-sponsored by the Library and JACL.

Historical Monterey Newspapers Available Digitally

The Library’s holdings of Monterey newspapers on microfilm from 1846 – June 1964 have been digitized and are accessible online from anywhere with an Internet connection.

You can access the digitized newspapers by clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

The California History Room is closed during Library holidays and other closed days.

No. You are welcome to use the California History Room during open hours.
For extensive research inquiries, to arrange a class visit, or to view archival materials (including photographs, maps, and locked-case books), please schedule an appointment with Museums, Archives and Cultural Arts Manager Dennis Copeland by telephone at (831) 646-3741 or e-mail libchr@monterey.org

Use Advanced Search in the Library catalog:

  • Enter your search criteria
  • In the Shelving location tab, select any or all of the following locations:
    • California History Room
    • California History Room (Locked Case)
    • Colton Hall Museum
    • Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Library
    • MHO Library - Amelie Elkinton Collection
  • Click the Search button

The catalog includes the books in the reading room and maps, photograph collections, text collections, clipping file folders, and other materials in the Archives. Images of sample photographs, maps and documents are linked to selected archival records.

A card catalog is also available in the California History Room. The card catalog provides a finding aid to the Historic Clipping File, Game & Gossip magazine, Monterey Life magazine, and Californiana (early California) sources.

The Museums, Archives and Cultural Arts Manager and other Library staff will be happy to answer questions regarding collections or holdings on a specific subject. Call (831) 646-3741 or email copeland@monterey.org.

No, staff members do not provide research services for a fee. Staff and volunteers can assist you in locating research materials in the California History Room. Staff can also provide limited reference and research services if you are unable to visit the California History Room. For more information, contact Museums, Archives and Cultural Arts Manager Dennis Copeland at (831) 646-3741 or copeland@monterey.org.

Archival materials are reproduced or scanned by Library staff or by professional services under the oversight of Library staff only. By special arrangement, video/motion picture filming may be scheduled with the Museums, Archives and Cultural Arts Manager. Fees are charged for reproduction services.

The California History Room and Archives includes the reading room and the Archives. The reading room contains books, pamphlets, periodicals and the historical clipping file. The Archives contain photographs, published local historical maps and unpublished materials created or received by a person, family, or organization and specially preserved because of their enduring historical value. The collection as a whole covers early California to 1850 and the Monterey area from 1850 to the present, with an emphasis on the City of Monterey.

The California History Room, is open to all readers and researchers of early California and local history. Staff and History Volunteers are available to assist you in locating materials and using the Library catalog and other resources in the California History Room.  Class visits are welcome by appointment only.   Call (831) 646-3741 or email libchr@monterey.org for an appointment.

Researchers may photocopy materials that are located on the open shelves or in the clipping file using the photocopier in the California History Room.
Staff will photocopy or arrange for reproduction of archival materials and locked case books. Reproduction may be restricted for fragile materials. A fee may be charged for staff reproduction of archival materials. For more information, contact Museums, Archives and Cultural Arts Manager Dennis Copeland at (831) 646-3741 or copeland@monterey.org.

You will need a Monterey or Pacific Grove Public Library card or a current photo i.d. when you register to use the California History Room. To protect the collections, pens may not be used in the History Room. Laptop computers are permitted. Please keep the materials you take to the History Room to a minimum. Avoid bringing bags, cases, or valises if possible.

Requests for copies of particular materials must be made in writing, either by letter or e-mail, or by telephone. Photocopy orders are limited to 50 pages and in some cases may be limited or restricted due to the condition of the material. Fees are charged for photocopy services.

The Monterey Public Library is located at 625 Pacific Street in Monterey. When you register at the Library Help Desk on the main floor of the Library, a staff member will escort you to the California History Room.

Materials in the California History Room and Archives do not check out to individuals or other libraries. These materials are part of a permanent and secured collection. Materials do not circulate to preserve our community heritage for future residents and researchers.
There are books and other materials about Monterey and California history in the circulating collection. For more information, search the catalog or contact the Library Help Desk (refdesk@monterey.org).

The first books of the Monterey Public Library date from its origins in 1849 as the first public library in California, the Monterey Library Association. The idea of maintaining a permanent historical collection originated with Library Director Bertha Hellum (1937-1946). Library Director D. R. Jeffers (1946-1951) planned and created a special collections and history room in the Library. It is called the California History Room because of the emphasis on early California and Monterey history. After all, Monterey was the capital of Spanish and Mexican Alta California.

No, we cannot provide appraisals or assign monetary values to books or other historical materials and artifacts. Here are some links to assist you in locating an appraiser:
 Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America
 American Society of Appraisers



California History Room display case

Panorama From Cannery Row rooftop, 1919. A. C. Heidrick, photographer.