California History collection highlighted in prominent publications

As they do with many libraries with regional history collections, writers, publishers, and producers regularly turn to the California State Library (CSL) for photographic gems to stunningly illustrate their projects.  In just the past year 230 of the historical images housed in the CSL’s California History section have found their way into deluxe “coffee table” books, historical documentaries, textbooks, and more.

CSL photos were showcased in items like Art of an American Icon: Yosemite published jointly by the University of California Press and Autry National Center. The book includes a chapter by CSL Special Collections Curator Gary F. Kurutz on pioneer photography in the great valley. And many CSL images were selected to illustrate the book.  

Windgate Press of Sausalito has made extensive use of the CSL’s rich pictorial resources to publish such elegant books as The Architectural Terra Cotta of Gladding McBean; California Calls You: The Art of Promoting the Golden State; A Southern California Album: Selected Photographs, 1880-1920; and Mt. Shasta Camera: The Photographs of Charles R. Miller. All of these award-winning titles were based primarily on CSL collections. Presently, the Windgate Press is producing a book on art deco architecture in Southern California. The CSL’s Mott Studios Collection is the primary resource for what promises to be a spectacular volume.

Photos of diverse Californians most popular

According to Kathy Correia, the CSL supervising librarian who handles many CSL photo requests, California History’s most requested items are daguerreotypes of Gold Rush miners, such as the 1852 image of people in Auburn ravine.  Correia says the daguerreotypes are in great demand because they show ethnic diversity in the minefields (They also show a woman which is rare).   Gary Kurutz explains, ”Modern historians and writers have discovered the important contributions of California’s amazingly varied pioneers who rushed here from all points of the globe.” The CSL daguerreotype of an African American miner is featured in Blacks in the California Gold Rush by Rudy Lapp.  

Need for historic photos comes in “waves”

Correia reports that image requests come in “waves” paralleling historical events and anniversaries.  In early 2006, just before the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Correia says the California History Section was “swamped with earthquake and fire requests.“  The CSL’s 1906 photos appeared in dailies from the San Francisco Chronicle to the San Diego Tribune as well as in exhibits at the California State Capitol, and on the Bancroft Library commemorative website of the 1906 earthquake and fire. 

Reprint process protects CSL treasures

The CSL’s some 130,000 images are in the California History Room’s temperature controlled storage areas.  Customers may view approximately 12,000 digitized images on the picture catalog or they may visit the California History Room to see thousands more images.  If customers wish to have reproductions made of an image, customers can view price lists and additional information on the CSL webpage or contact the California History Room for more information at (916) 654-0176.

If customers wish to use an image in a book, publication, exhibit or website, they need to request permission to use the item.  Additional information is on the California History webpage at:

For more information about purchasing reproductions or using images from the California History Room’s collection please contact Kathy Correia at (916) 653-0771 or email at




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