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History Room

The Library preserves Monterey’s history through its California History Room Collection, which houses and preserves materials about or related to the greater Monterey region. Many of the items in the collection are made available to the public in our California History Room, while rarer and more delicate items are stored in the California History Room Archive, and are available to view by appointment.

California History Room
The California History Room is a quiet study space dedicated to the research, reading and viewing of materials from the California History Room Collection. The room contains books, manuscripts, periodicals, newspaper clippings and audiovisual material - all of which can be accessed, photocopied and photographed. Items from the collection are available for reference inside the California History Room, and are not available for check out.

To access the California History Room, visit the Information Desk inside the Library. Guests must fill out a short form and provide a current and valid Identification Card. For assistance or research inquiries, email

California History Room Hours of Operation:
Tuesday - Saturday: 10am - 6pm


The California History Room Archive contains rare, delicate and invaluable items, which are housed in secure, climate-controlled rooms, and made accessible to the public for research purposes. Archival materials are resources of enduring historical value, and are often unpublished materials in a variety of formats. Some formats include maps, photographs, ephemera, typescripts, handwritten documents, scrapbooks, news clippings and printed materials.

Archival collections may be found in the Library Catalog

Note: Search results in the Library Catalog will also include items from Colton Hall Museum, Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Library and Pacific Grove Public Library's Historical Collection.

To search a specific collection in the Library Catalog, click one of the links below:

Access to archival materials must be made by appointment. To schedule an appointment to view an item from the California History Room Archive, email

The Archive's photograph collections include beautiful and historically significant photographs, as well as other documents. The collections include work by local photographers Julian P. Graham, William Morgan, J.K. Oliver, C.W.J. Johnson, Rey Ruppel and

Reproduction and Use of California History Room Images
Reproduction and use of all images and documents in the Archives are subject to copyright law and Monterey Public Library Policy. Use does not grant exclusive publication or exhibit rights. Exhibit or publication permission is for one-time use only.

One of the highlights of the California History Room is the Historic Newspaper Clipping File, which contains clippings from local newspapers that are organized by subject. To access the Historic Newspaper Clipping File, visit the Information Desk inside the Library. Guests must fill out a short form and provide a current and valid Identification Card.

The California History Room’s collection of Monterey newspapers from 1846 – June 1964 is accessible online.
Visit our Historical Newspaper Page for more information.

History Programs

Curious about Monterey's history? Join local historian Tim Thomas each month on Zoom as he explores Monterey’s rich past. Every month Tim covers a new topic or invites occasional guests for conversation. Visit our Calendar for information on the next Magical History Tour.

Cannery Row Days is an annual celebration of author John Steinbeck and his lasting impact on Monterey. Each year the Library, in collaboration with local organizations, hosts a month-long series of lectures and programs for all ages, which use Steinbeck’s life and work as a way to spark interest in and curiosity about the community’s history, as well as art, literature and science.

Cannery Row Days 2024: Beyond Tortilla Flat: Discover the Stories Behind Steinbeck's 1935 NoveL

Tortilla Flat Flyer - Copy


In partnership with local organizations, the Library invites historians and history buffs alike to share their knowledge, insights and findings in short presentations. The event features 10-15 minute talks on the rich, hidden histories of Monterey. Hear about the porthole in Robinson Jeffers’ Hawk Tower; Joseph Campbell’s connection to Monterey and Star Wars; Ed Ricketts; the ecology of Monterey Bay; local artists--as well as fresh perspectives on Flora Woods, the legendary Cannery Row Madame; the Chinese Village at Point Alones; local Japanese American flower growers; and Tiburcio Vasquez: The Musical!

Watch past History Slams

FAQs about the California History Room

When is the California History Room open?

Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

The California History Room is closed during Library holidays and other closed days.

Do I need to make an appointment to use the California History Room?

No. The California History Room is accessible to visitors during the Library's hours of operation. Visitors of the California History Room must check in at the Library's Information Desk, fill out a short form and provide Identification.

For extensive research inquiries or to view archival materials (including photographs, maps, and rare books), please schedule an appointment by email at

How can I find out what is in your collection?
Use Advanced Search in the Library catalog:
  1. Enter your search criteria
  2. In the Shelving location tab, select any or all of the following locations:
    • California History Room
    • California History Room (Locked Case)
    • Colton Hall Museum
    • Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Library
    • MHO Library - Amelie Elkinton Collection
  3. Click the Search button
The catalog includes the books in the reading room and maps, photograph collections, text collections, clipping file folders, and other materials in the Archives. Images of sample photographs, maps and documents are linked to selected archival records.

A card catalog is also available in the California History Room. The card catalog provides a finding aid to the Historic Clipping File, Game & Gossip magazine, Monterey Life magazine, and Californiana (early California) sources.

The Library staff will be happy to answer questions regarding collections or holdings on a specific subject. Call (831) 646-3933  or email
Does the California History Room and Archives research for a fee?
No, staff members do not provide research services for a fee. Staff and volunteers can assist you in locating research materials in the California History Room. Staff can also provide limited reference and research services if you are unable to visit the California History Room. For more information, email
May I photograph or scan California History Room and Archives materials myself?
Archival materials are reproduced or scanned by Library staff or by professional services under the oversight of Library staff only. By special arrangement, video/motion picture filming may be scheduled with the Local History Librarian. Fees are charged for reproduction services.
What is available in the California History Room?
The California History Room Collection includes the Reading Room and Archive. The Reading Room contains books, pamphlets, periodicals and the historical clipping file. The Archives contain photographs, published local historical maps and unpublished materials created or received by a person, family, or organization and specially preserved because of their enduring historical value. The collection as a whole covers early California to 1850 and the Monterey area from 1850 to the present, with an emphasis on the City of Monterey.
Who may use the California History Room?
The California History Room is open to all readers and researchers of California history. We assist academic researchers, authors, history buffs and students.
How can I get photocopies of California History Room materials?
Researchers may photocopy materials that are located on the open shelves or in the clipping file using the photocopier in the California History Room.

Staff will photocopy or arrange for the reproduction of archival materials and rare books. Reproduction may be limited if the materials are too fragile. A fee is charged for staff reproduction of archival materials (See Fee Schedule for details). For more information, email
What should I bring to the California History Room?
You will need a Monterey or Pacific Grove Public Library card or a current photo ID when you register to use the California History Room.  Laptops, mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc.), paper and pencils are all permitted in the California History Room. Please keep the materials you take to the History Room to a minimum. Pens may not be used in the California History Room, and bags and cases are strongly discouraged. 
Can I get photocopies without visiting the California History Room?
Requests for copies of particular materials must be made by email ( or telephone ((831) 646-3933). Photocopy orders are limited to 50 pages and in some cases may be limited or restricted due to the condition of the material. Fees are charged for photocopy services.
Where is the California History Room located?
The California History Room is located on the second floor of the Monterey Public Library, which is located at 625 Pacific Street in Monterey. 
May I borrow from the California History Room?
Materials in the California History Room Collection do not check out to individuals or other libraries. These materials are part of a permanent and secured collection. Materials do not circulate to preserve the community's heritage for future residents and researchers.

There are books and other materials about Monterey and California history in the circulating collection. For more information, search the catalog or contact the Library Help Desk (
Would you be able to tell me how much a book or photograph or painting, etc., is worth?
No, we cannot provide appraisals or assign monetary values to books or other historical materials and artifacts. Here are some links to assist you in locating an appraiser: