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Museum Collection


Historical Society of Long Beach
Photo Collection

The Historical Photograph Archives at the Historical Society of Long Beach contain over thirty thousand images. These images show Long Beach from the Pike and Pacific Electric red car lines to downtown and the beaches. Dating back to the 1870s, the collection tracks the expansion of our fine city from its original inception as Wilmore City to the metropolis it has become today. The collection also tracks various ethnic groups who have made their homes in the city, the geographical formations of the region and the connections between Long Beach and Southern California.

With 30,000 or more photographic images, the HSLB collection is an important regional archive. The collection allows the public access to Long Beach's past and offers clues as to why the city looks the way it does today. Decade after decade commercial, journalistic and family photographers in Long Beach have focused their work on neighborhoods, beaches, harbors, and buildings. Thus, this collection allows researchers glimpses of how the city has changed, the fashions of a particular decade, the development of the city and other visual clues to our past.

In addition to its obvious local connections, the Historical Society's photographs should be seen as a collection of regional, national and international significance. From a national perspective the collection documents what became of the Long Beach area as it was settled by immigrants from the east, the midwest and elsewhere. Issues relating to oil, technology, automobile transportation, suburbanization, agriculture, and recreation are addressed and presented through the work of many late nineteenth- and twentieth- century photographers. The collection also allows for an examination of our rapidly changing immigrant populations, cultural changes, political changes and changes in social mores.

For years the Historical Society's photographs have been used by researchers in need of illustrations, but the photographs have also lined the walls of businesses and public institutions. Researchers have used the images in books, films, television news and computer home pages. Property owners have used the collection to document the design changes in buildings or houses in the city.

This collection is also fun, intriguing and poignant. The opportunity to 'read' photographs which show Long Beach's past brings a greater understanding of the way the city has evolved.

Research Center:
4260 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach CA 90807
Phone 562.424.2220

Copyright © 2007 The Historical Society of Long Beach
Site Updated December, 2007