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The Presidio Research Center Presents: New Online Tools for You!

by Anne Petersen

Presidio Research Center. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

Presidio Research Center. Photo by Michael H. Imwalle.

We are pleased to announce two new digital tools that will help researchers locate resources in the Presidio Research Center.   Digital tools like these empower users of the collection to find sources of interest before they make an appointment to visit, and allow for the most efficient use of our facility.

We have always posted pdfs of the finding aids for our manuscript collections on our website, a useful tool in itself, but last year the California Digital Library (CDL) authorized the creation of free accounts for small libraries, museums and historical societies outside the University of California system.  We jumped on this opportunity, and have been building our institutional home page on one of CDL’s major user interfaces, the Online Archive of California (OAC). OAC includes finding aids from manuscript collections state-wide, and is an incredible tool for researchers.

The Presidio Research Center's page on OAC.

The Presidio Research Center’s page on the OAC.

Manuscript and record collections include original materials such as personal papers, correspondence, diaries and journals, organization and business records and scrapbooks. They often serve as the foundation for published histories.  By conducting general searches on OAC for your subject of interest, you can pull up finding aids at institutions that contain manuscript collections that fit your research interests.  Each collection has a finding aid that is fully searchable by keyword within the OAC. It includes detailed box and folder lists and inventories where available, either embedded within OAC or as an attached PDF.  For example, click here to see the finding aid for our Pearl Chase collection.  Finding aids contain rich information about each collection, including the size, types of materials included, biography of the donor (if appropriate) major subject areas, and often contain detailed box and folder lists of everything in the collection so you can narrow down exactly what you want to see. We will continue to add more finding aids to OAC, so it is worth checking back every month or so to see what’s new!

The Presidio Research Center maps and plans inventory.

The Presidio Research Center maps and plans inventory.

We have also completed a new inventory of our maps and plans collection, and have made it available as a searchable PDF on our website here.   You can search any term through the “find” function, and call up the related entries.  If you are interested in browsing the inventory, it can be helpful to know that the inventory begins with historic maps of the Santa Barbara Presidio, and then moves into groupings of plans of structures within the city blocks associated with the Presidio site.  It then moves to maps and plans of structures within the City of Santa Barbara, the County of Santa Barbara, and moves out geographically from there.

We hope these new resources will make our collections more accessible to the public.  The Research Center collections page on our website is a simple reference page that includes links to all of our available digital resources. This is the best first place to start if you have questions about our collections. As always, you can make an appointment to visit the Presidio Research Center.  Just give me a call at (805) 966-5073 or send me an email at

Anne Petersen is the Associate Director for Historical Resources at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.

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