The California State Archives
California's first legislature, meeting in 1849–50, charged the Secretary of State to receive "…all public records, registered maps, books, papers, rolls, documents and other writings . . . which appertain to or are in any way connected with the political history and past administration of the government of California." The Act Concerning the Public Archives (Chapter 1, Statutes of 1850 (PDF)) was the first law signed by California's first governor on January 5, 1850. The California State Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State, continues to serve in the spirit of those early instructions, providing a repository for the state's permanent governmental records as well as other materials documenting California history. The California State Archives serves a wide variety of researchers whose interests range from legislative intent and public policy to genealogy and railroad history in California.
Archives staff continually organize and describe the records we receive to provide easier and faster access for researchers. Visit the Collections & Catalogs page for more information.
Records Management and Appraisal (RMA)
The Records Management and Appraisal (RMA) unit is composed of the California State Records and Information Management Program (CalRIM) and the State Records Appraisal Program (SRAP). RMA assists State entities in achieving these efficient records management programs. CalRIM reviews Records Retention Schedules (STD. 73); establishes guidelines, including those for the management of electronic records; provides consultation; evaluates the effectiveness of existing records management programs; and assists in the establishment of new records programs. SRAP reviews Records Retention Schedules for records with historical importance for the history of California; accepts records with administrative, fiscal, legal, and/or historical value into the State Archives; provides consultation with State entities on how to appraise their historical records.
The California State Archives is a public research facility and we encourage you to come in person to do your research. If, however, you are unable to visit, Reference Services will perform a limited amount of research for you. We do not have the staffing available to do in-depth research or to look for a specific document within a record series. Generally, this means that staff will identify the series most likely to contain the information requested.
Telephone, email, fax, and "snail mail" requests are worked on in the order in which they are received. We do not expedite requests or do "rush" orders. Generally, the research on these requests can be completed in 3-5 business days, but additional time may be required to photocopy and mail the records. Before submitting your research request or planning your visit, please read information provided on the linked pages below.
Research Room Hours
The Archives Research Room is open to the public Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and is closed on state holidays.
To contact the Reference Desk, call 916-653-2246 or send an email.
Collections & Catalogs
The California State Archives houses records that document the broad scope of California government and its impact on the people of the state. The collection consists of textual records by the millions (in boxes and bound volumes) and graphic records by the thousands (maps, architectural drawings, photographs). In addition to these paper-based records, the collection contains audio and visual materials, both analog and digital, and electronic records in a variety of formats. Records are continuously added to the Archives. Descriptions of the records can be found on Minerva, our online descriptive catalog, as well as the Online Archive of California.