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Seaver Center for Western History

black and white image of motorcycles driving down pch seaver center

The Seaver Center for Western History Research is the two-dimensional and flat objects collection area of the History Department.

Our purpose is to collect, preserve, and make available to the general public research materials documenting the history of the trans-Mississippi West, with special emphasis on Southern California and Los Angeles.

Historic records include manuscript materials, books, serials, pamphlets, broadsides, maps, posters, prints, and photographs.

The Seaver Center is located on the Ground Floor and is open from 10 am to 4 pm on Mondays and Thursdays by appointment only. As research space is limited, reservations are essential. Please contact the Seaver Center at 213.763.3359 to discuss your research interest and to schedule an appointment.


Photograph Collections
View the Guide to the Photograph Collections 
View the Index

There are approximately 290 photograph collections. The photographic holdings comprise more than 300,000 images recorded on different photographic media, such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, glass and cellulose negatives, and a variety of paper prints.

General Collections
View the Guide to the General Collections
View the Index

The term "General Collections" refers to the holdings of manuscript materials and ephemeral printed materials. There are approximately 370 separate general collections.

Manuscript Materials
The collections of manuscript materials relate to the history of Southern California to about 1940. These include, but are not limited to, letters, diaries, telegrams, memos, ledgers and other financial records, legal papers, research notes, and manuscripts and typescripts of books, scripts, and short stories.

Ephemeral Printed Materials
The collections of other printed material, often referred to as "ephemera", includes pamphlets, brochures, booklets, tickets, and clippings. The bulk of the ephemera items consist of materials relating to Los Angeles county and city. There is also a large amount of material for other counties in California. Topics covered in these collections include tourism and promotion of California, theater and film, the 1932 and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and Los Angeles people and places.

The Seaver Center collects books for research and rare books as museum artifacts. Books for research may relate to very broad subject areas, while rare books pertain more narrowly to California and Southern California.

The Seaver Center collects serials published in and relating to Southern California and selected California serials to about 1940. Serials are collected in both hard copy and microfilm.

The Seaver Center collects maps dating back to the discovery and exploration of the Americas in the sixteenth century. The Warren C. Shearman Collection comprises a large number of world maps and European city views printed as early as the 1500s. However, the strength of this collection is Southern California, with maps that document real estate development, transportation patterns, the promotion of tourism, and a variety of other subjects. The focus of the collecting policy narrows, according to time period:

  • 1500-1800 Maps of the Americas, especially North America and the Pacific coast;
  • 1750-1940 Maps of the Western United States and the Pacific coast;
  • 1850-1940 Maps of California, especially Southern California.

The Seaver Center collects Southern California newspapers and important California papers from the earliest published to about 1940, in both hard copy and microfilm.

Historic Sites
View the Historic Sites Files

The Seaver Center also has a large file of information on individual historic sites in Los Angeles County that were surveyed by museum staff in the 1970s.

Guide to Other Southern California Collections and Libraries

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – Margaret Herrick Library
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Loyola Marymount University Archives and Special Collections
Online Archive of California
USC Libraries Digital Archive


Search our Collections

Visit to search object information and images for selected collections from the Seaver Center for Western History Research.

Collection guides, finding aids, and documentation for our collections are also available in the Online Archive of California.

Questions? Contact us at or call 213.763.3359. 

Notes from the Archive Newsletter

Frequently Asked Questions