California Digital Archives

Welcome to the California Digital Archives! Here you will find multiple digital resources (both collections and exhibits) and experience this dramatic step forward for the California State Archives. While just a portion of the State Archives' collection will be available online, our goal is to digitize more material and share it with the people of California and the world. Amazing photographs, colorful trademark specimens, and other original documents reveal past events. Some may shed an unflattering light on past actions but our goal is to present an accurate reflection of history. This will allow us to learn from the past and understand how it evolved into the realities of the present. We hope you enjoy these glimpses into California's history.

Making the Grade Exhibit Banner

Making the Grade: California and the Transcontinental Railroad

The completion of America’s first Transcontinental  Railroad 150 years ago in 1869 significantly reduced the amount of time it took for people and freight to travel between California and the rest of the United States. For almost the first two decades of statehood, immigrants had to spend months onboard ships or traveling overland to reach California. The railroad that was built across what is today the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska made travel across the continent possible in a matter of days.

The exhibit includes photographs, letters, maps and other documents that are available through the State Archives. Some of the photographs were provided by the California History Room, California State Library.

Judah Map Exhibit Banner

Judah Map: Proposed Alignment of the Transcontinental Railroad

This four-part exhibit travels along the initial proposed route of the First Transcontinental Railroad through the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. The map was hand-drawn by Theodore Judah in 1861, and was a successful answer to critics who claimed that a railroad route through the Sierra Nevada was impossible.

The original map, which is titled "Central Pacific Railroad: Proposed Alignment" and measures 66 feet in length, is housed at the California State Archives, and has been digitized with the assistance of Stanford University. Theodore Judah drew the map in four sections, reflected in the four parts of this exhibit. Interestingly, the four sections were not laid out in geographical order; the final section of the map actually falls between sections 1 and 2 when moving geographically from west to east along the route.

Select a link below to view a particular section of the map:

Section 1: Barmore Summit to Clipper Gap
Section 2: Rattlesnake Bluffs to Summit of Sierra Nevada
Section 3: Summit of Sierra Nevada to Truckee River
Section 4: Dutch Flat to Rattlesnake Bluffs

California Witch Hunt Banner

California Witch Hunt: Jack Tenney, Sam Yorty, and the Birth of the California Un-American Activities Committee

This three-part exhibit provides a narrative of Jack Tenney, the first chairman of the California Un-American Activities Committee (CUAC) and his rise and fall in state government. In 1941, Tenney sought and received authorization from the California legislature to chair the committee, which would go on to investigate thousands of Californians he believed to be subversive. Tenney served as chairman of the committee from 1941 to 1949. Tenney used staff, investigators, attaches, and an extensive network of individuals and organizations to build a massive file of index cards tracking the activities and questioning the loyalty of some of America's most famous directors, musicians, architects, labor leaders and actors of the day, including:

  • Lauren Bacall
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Ronald Reagan
  • John Steinbeck
  • Orson Welles

The exhibit includes scores of photographs, letters, reports and formerly secret documents that are now available through the State Archives. The State Archives collaborated with the Los Angeles Public Library and other sources to provide a more complete picture of the committee's activities.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

California Audio Visual Preservation Program (CAVPP)

In partnership with 108 libraries, archives and museums, the California Preservation Program provides digitization, preservation and access services for historic California audiovisual recordings. The "California Light and Sound" collection of recordings provides "glimpses and whispers" of our state's rich audiovisual heritage.  The Project gathers best archival practices for moving image and sound preservation and establishes low-cost, practical, standards to help collecting organizations move from the analog age to the digital age. Access is provided by the Internet Archive for teaching, research and study. Storage of files for long-term preservation is provided by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project.  Click on the link below to view the 118 items from the California State Archives’ collection that the California Preservation Program has digitized as part of the CAVPP.

Online Collections

Banner for Alfred Eichler Collection

Online Exhibits

March Fong Eu Exhibit Banner

Alfred Eichler Exhibit Button

Legislative Black Caucus Exhibit Button

California Road Trip Exhibit Button

Spanning the Bay Exhibit Button

Japanese Incarceration during WWll Exhibit Button

Allensworth Exhibit Banner

California Missions Exhibit Button

Pacific Shore Age of Lincoln Exhibit Button

California Secretary of State Exhibit Button

William McCarthy Photograph Collection Exhibit Button

Civil War image in red white and blue of a soldier holding the American flag.

California Memoirs Exhibit Button

Home Front Exhibit Button

California State Parks Exhibit Button

California Digital Archives Trademarks Exhibit Button

Civil War image in red white and blue of a soldier holding the American flag.

Unite the Nation Campaign Exhibit Button

California World War 1 Exhibit Button

Whitaker and Baxter Campaigns button