Research Library & Archives

Pasadena Museum of History maintains the area’s largest and most comprehensive collection of documents and artifacts related to the history of Pasadena and the West San Gabriel Valley.

The Pasadena Museum of History logo is a symbol that represents the home of the museum.

The Research Library & Archives are open Friday to Sunday from 1 TO 4 PM

Members of the public are welcome to use the PMH Research Library & Archives for both personal and professional research projects during our regular hours; no appointment necessary. Visitors will be assisted by Archives staff and volunteers, who are the only individuals permitted to retrieve research materials from storage. Use of the materials is restricted by rules intended to protect and preserve them in good condition for the future.  We look forward to helping you with your research.

 

PMH Research Library and Archives staff and volunteers work closely with members of the public to assist with individual research needs while making sure proper procedures are followed. While a library user may be accustomed to finding a specific answer to a specific question quickly, the archives user must be prepared to spend a lot of time “digging” for answers. Although staff and volunteers do provide direction and advice, researchers are encouraged to spend some time looking for what they need on their own.

 

  • There are charges for photocopying, scanning and mailing the results of our research (see Reproduction Services).
  • The Research Library & Archives can be contacted at 626-577-1660 ext 205 or research@pasadenahistory.org.
  • Please note that the entire Museum is closed on all major holidays. Check our calendar for specific dates.

Note to Researchers: We also encourage you to search the photograph collections of PMH and other institutions on the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration website.

Collections

There are over 12,000 artifacts in the object collections. The Museum’s collections contain significant paintings and artifacts relevant to the history of the area. Major collections include the Costume & Textile Collection, the Ernest A. Batchelder Tile Collection, and a mid-century ceramics collection. Objects from the Museum’s collections are regularly on display in our changing exhibitions in the History Center. A selection of fine art and decorative art from the Fényes-Curtin-Paloheimo Collection can be viewed on the Fényes Mansion Tour.

Museum Collections

These collections reflect the history of these families and their relationship to Pasadena. The Fényes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers are comprised of the paper collection housed in and accessed through the Research Library and Archives. (View the Fényes-Curtin-Paloheimo index) The Fényes Collection is comprised of the contents of the Fényes Mansion, both on display and in storage. It includes books, textiles, household objects, decorative arts, and fine arts.  It is made available through docent-led tours, by appointment, or in special exhibits.

Biographical sketches, based on research in the Fényes-Curtin-Paloheimo Papers and published online, can be accessed on the Hometown Pasadena website. Browse articles by Julie Stires and Sheryl Peters. Fényes-related articles can also be found on our Blog.

This collection contains over 3,000 textiles dating from 1859 to 1970, with the majority of the collection dating from 1880 to 1920. The collection is stored archival boxes in a climate-controlled room. Most of the items have a Pasadena or San Gabriel Valley provenance. The costume collection is strong in the area of women’s formal wear, but there are also examples of shoes, hats, handbags, parasols, fur pieces, uniforms, bathing suits, coats, shawls, gloves, handkerchiefs, underwear, stockings and jewelry for women, men, and children. There are separate collections of antique buttons, political and civic badges and ribbons, and quilts. Some noteworthy items in the collection include a Charles Frederick Worth gown, circa 1880; several Rose Queen gowns from the Tournament of Roses; a Red Cross nurse’s uniform and an aviator’s uniform from World War I; and a boy’s Little Lord Fauntleroy suit, circa 1880.

There are approximately three dozen quilts, including several late nineteenth century crazy quilts.

This collection is available to the public by appointment only or when on display.

This collection reflects the various eras in Pasadena’s history through utilitarian, decorative and fine art materials. Holdings include silver used in the dining rooms of Pasadena’s resort hotels; Winfield pottery; paintings and watercolors, especially portraiture and plein air paintings; sports memorabilia; early technology and other business artifacts.

The objects in the Museum storage are used in special exhibits and are available to the public when on display or by appointment.

The Batchelder Tile Registry was launched in conjunction with the Museum’s 2016/2017 exhibition Batchelder: Tilemaker,which explored the design aesthetic and range of production of Ernest A. Batchelder (1875-1957) the prolific author, designer, educator, artist, and tilemaker who lived and worked in Pasadena and Los Angeles.

If you have a Batchelder tile fireplace, fountain, or other type installation in your home or office, we would like to hear from you. Submit your Batchelder Installation here!

In summer 2015, PMH turned to two sources for help in preserving its highly at-risk, irreplaceable historic photos: cryogenics and crowdfunding. The Great History Freeze had over 80 generous backers who contributed over $37,000 in donations. This generous funding from our supporters enabled us to move much more quickly on the monumental task of preserving these invaluable negatives. But why did we need freezers in the first place?

Historic negatives from the Great History Freeze are now on view in PMH’s premiere online exhibition, Frozen Frames: Preserving Pasadena’s Visual Legacy. This exhibition will unfold in four parts over a year-long period, bringing artistically and historically compelling images out of the deep freeze and into public view. MORE INFO

Archival Collections

Historian Robin Kelley researched and interviewed a number of prominent members of the African American community such as Olympian Mack Robinson; Ray Bartlett, who was Jackie Robinson’s college teammate, a veteran, and one of the first black employees of Los Angeles County Fire Department; and Ruth Wright who was married to the founder of Pasadena NAACP John Wright.

The book collection includes key reference works on Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley, and general California history. Popular reference sources include the Design and Historic Preservation Reports of the City’s Planning Department as well as a nearly complete run of Pasadena city directories dating from 1893 to 1976.

This collection includes a wide variety of ephemera and memorabilia covering every aspect of the city’s history. Items range from pamphlets and brochures, fliers, souvenirs, tickets, programs, advertisements, and menus dating from the 1870s to the present.

The manuscript collection contains more than 300 items, including correspondence, diaries, essays, documents and other original writings dating from the 1830s to the present.

The Archives house approximately 45 cubic feet of maps and plans, some dating from the late 19th century. There are also two sets of Sanborn fire insurance maps for Pasadena (1910 and 1931).

Fifteen linear feet of scattered local newspapers, clippings files (by subject), and bound volumes of the Pasadena Star-News (1886 -1924).

Nearly 50 linear feet of periodicals supplement the book collection. Valuable holdings include California Southland/California Arts and Architecture, Land of Sunshine, Out West, and Pacific Monthly.

There are an estimated one million images (many in negative format only) of Pasadena and surrounding areas.

There are more than 150 collections given by generous donors that are kept intact in the Archives. These range from the papers of individuals to those of organizations and businesses.

A black and white aerial view of a city, perfect for research purposes.
A vibrant tiled wall adorned with flourishing ivy, showcasing the perfect blend of colors and natural beauty.
A box containig a vhs tape that has undergone research.
A row of research books on a shelf in a library.