Hidden Treasures: Celebrating Archives Month

Originally written by Estella Inda.

October is American Archives Month, which is, according to the Society for American Archivists (SAA), an “opportunity to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists.” To celebrate, we're going to look at the archives inside the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library's Special Collections of San José Public Library and San Jose State University Library.

What is an Archive?

"A collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people" Google.com

An archive is a place where historical treasures are kept. There are archives of all different shapes and sizes, meaning they each have unique items within their collections. They can have government and company records, newspapers, photos, reports, recordings, books, notes, memos and other forms of ephemera.

Our Archives in Special Collections

California Room, San José Public Library

The California Room contains unique materials documenting California history with emphasis on the city of San José and the greater Santa Clara Valley. Through our one-of-a-kind collection, you are able to view San José as it was with historic images, documents and more.

Aside from providing resources for genealogical and property research with city directories, yearbooks, and building permits, the California Room has an aerial collection including aerial and street level photographs from the City of San Jose Planning Division (1931, 1948, 1960, 1968, 1981) from Fairchild Aerial Photography and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Another part of the unique collection held by the California Room is the Historic Postcard Collection, which contains over 3,500 pictorial and photographic postcards of San José, Santa Clara County, other counties and more. Also, the Historic Photograph Collection includes over 2,500 contact prints, negatives, transparencies, and 35mm slides comprising diverse subjects including schools, churches, businesses, parades, valley views, theaters, street scenes, hotels, the 1906 earthquake, the Winchester House, and residents.

San José State University's Special Collections & Archives

San José State University (SJSU) Special Collections & Archives collects and preserves materials pertaining to SJSU and Silicon Valley's rich history.

Part of their one-of-a-kind collection is their collection of Political Papers, containing items from politicians that detail their political careers and legislative work through campaign materials, correspondence, reports, and more.

Another unique collection that SJSU Special Collections & Archives has is their Rare Book Collection. This collection consists of approximately 20,000 volumes and over 3,000 folios. The collection includes incunabula (works printed before 1501), illuminated manuscripts, classical fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fine press editions, and folio formats.

Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History

The Sourisseau Academy archive contains historical materials that primarily document the history of San José and the Santa Clara Valley from the late 1800s through the 20th century. Their collection contains more than 80,000 photographs, negatives and postcards that document a broad spectrum of life in the area.

Part of their uniqueness is the three photograph collections that document the regions transformation from ranches and orchards to today's Silicon Valley. The Leonard McKay Negatives Collection contains photographs dating between the 1870s and 1950s, while the Arnold Del Carlo collection contains photographs of San José's built environment from the 1950s through the 1970s. The Les Amis de Sourisseau collection of photographs and postcards covers more than 100 years of San José and Santa Clara County history, documenting almost every aspect of life in the area.

Other Archives in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library - Special Collections

Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies

The Center is an extensive library and museum devoted solely to the life, works, and accomplishments of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). Established in 1983 when Ira F. Brilliant donated his Beethoven collection to San José State University, the Center officially opened in September 1985 with a gala co-sponsored by the San José Symphony. Building on Ira Brilliant's original donation, the Center now has the largest collection of Beethoven materials outside of Europe. In addition to functioning as a research library and museum, the Center is involved in a variety of educational programs and sponsors concerts, lectures, tours, and other events. Long-term projects include publication of The Beethoven Journal and development of the Center's online catalog, the Beethoven Gateway. The Center is also the headquarters for the American Beethoven Society.

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies

Founded in 1973 as the Steinbeck Research Center, the Center is now the largest Steinbeck archive in the world. In 1997, the Center was renamed the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies in honor of its founder, a professor of English at San Jose State. The Center is administered by the Director under the authority of the Dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts with consultation with an Advisory Board.

The Center houses over 40 000 items - manuscripts, original letters, inscribed first editions, secondary works, film memorabilia, films, cassettes, and over 1 400 photographs. Significant manuscript collections have been donated to the Center by Elaine Steinbeck, the author's widow; Sharon Brown Bacon, stepdaughter of Steinbeck's first wife Carol; and Marlene Brody, Steinbeck's secretary in Paris in 1954. Scholars, students, and members of the community are welcome to use the collection and view the changing displays in room 590 of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.

In addition, the Center actively promotes Steinbeck studies. The Center has published The Only Weapon is Your Work, a letter from John Steinbeck to Dennis Murphy; a Grapes of Wrath bibliography in honor of the novel's Fiftieth anniversary; and Centennial Reflections by American Writers in 2002. Each is available through the Center. Twice yearly the Center issues the only journal dedicated to John Steinbeck, Steinbeck Review, an award-winning journal which includes photographs, scholarly papers, and articles of general interest.

Other Local Archives

History San Jose

History San José preserves and enriches the cultural heritage of San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley through research, collections, partnerships, educational programs and events.

Santa Clara County Archives

The mission of the Santa Clara County Archives is to collect, preserve, and make available the historical records of Santa Clara County government. The Archives’ goals are to be a center for research and information about Santa Clara County and to foster an appreciation and understanding of the county’s history and development.

This blog was written by Estella Inda.