Ranging from oil-on-canvas paintings to video tape, virtually every medium is represented in the California History Section's rich collection of historic images. Prints-including birds-eye views, lithographs, and pictorial lettersheets-provide a fascinating look at the state as interpreted by artists, lithographers, and engravers. The photograph collection features unique images of people, places, events, and subjects. Daguerreotypes illustrate the pioneer era, and stereographs show the development of the state during the 1860's and 1870's. Fine art views by present-day photographers add a contemporary element to the library's holdings. Complementing the photographs are hundreds of picture postcards, depicting historic monuments, public buildings, events, and more.
The California History Section holds significant amounts of the works of photographers such as Louis Stellman, William Fletcher, Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, I.W. Taber, H.J. McCurry, and William Reagh. Selected collections are described in more detail in the State Library's Picture Catalog.
Approximately 20% of the historic image collection can be identified by searching our Picture Catalog. Some of the records in this catalog include a digital version of the image. Images not yet included in the Picture Catalog may be identified using special indexes located in the California History Room.
Unfortunately, we lack the staff resources to research our image collection in response to remote requests. If you are unable to visit the California History Room to use the indexes and view the images yourself, we can provide you with a list of private researchers who may be available to provide these research services for you for a fee. We have also prepared a list of other photographic archives in California that may be able to provide the images you need.
Viewing pictorial resources
All photographs and other pictorial resources must be viewed in our Rare Materials Reading Room. (This room is climate controlled to protect the collections housed there, and it can be chilly.) Cameras may be used, without flash, to make reference copies. The use of scanners is not allowed.
The originals of certain types of images, including daguerreotypes and mammoth prints, are restricted in their use; however, viewing prints are available for most items.
Photocopies of most images can be made by library staff. Certain pictorial resources cannot be photocopied and can be reproduced by photographic reproduction or microfilming only, including photos larger than 12 x 17 inches, photo albums, daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes, and original art works.
Reproductions of selected images may also be purchased from Zazzle.com